Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tripping in Tahiti


I am a clumsy person. I know I am a clumsy person. my knees bear witness to over 60 years of trips, falls and scrapes. But this time is wasn’t my fault!!!

Sophie and I arrived in Papeete at about 6 am, but our room wasn’t ready. So we sat out on the patio, by the small pool, in the lovely garden. Sophie decided to go to town. I stayed behind to sketch and have a swim. When she returned, I went to town to pick up some information, go to the market and get some lunch for us. It was very very hot and humid, and as I left the market, I contemplated taking a taxi back to the pension. As I stepped up to a curb, both my legs were seized with cramps, and I crashed to the ground.

I have no idea what exactly happened but I had a huge tear on my right shin. I sat there in shock, as people gathered, a woman called an ambulance, and an English speaking man, who turned out to be a doctor, got me to lie down, and checked for broken bones. The ambulance came, took me to the hospital emergency room, where I only had to wait about ten minutes before being wheeled into a small surgery. An English speaking nurse and doctor appeared, told me I was going to get stitches and stayed by me through the worst, which was the needles for the freezing.

I had them call Sophie at the pension, and two hours later I was stitched up with 8 internal and 30 external stitches. The good news was that it wasn’t broken, and that since the freighter had a doctor on board, I was good to go… he could change the dressings every two days. So I was released with a prescription for antibiotics and painkillers and dressings for the wound.Poor Sophie had been sitting in Emergency, knowing nothing. They finally let her come in, we called a cab and returned to the pension, where our lovely poolside room was ready.

I was not in pain, and was walking comfortably, so I just took it easy that day and the next before boarding the boat. Sophie found a super marche and bought a roll of saran wrap and masking tape and plastic bags so I would be able to wrap up the bandage when I showered and we forged ahead..

This is merely a health update. Trip reports will follow. Despite the injury the trip on the Aranui was fantastic. So I couldn’t hike… big deal.. Instead I sat around and filled my sketchbook. The hardest thing to deal with was that I couldn’t swim, and it was so damned hot. The Marquesas are not known for their beaches. Like Dominica they are volcanic islands. Other island groups in French Polynesia are known for their idyllic lagoons, snorkeling, diving etc. but not the Marquesas, so I did not feel totally deprived.

The French medical system produces the best looking doctors and male nurses in the world. This I discovered in the hospital, and it was further affirmed when I met the doctor on the ship. While his English wasn’t the greatest, it was adequate for the job of changing the dressing every two days. After ten days, he took out every other stitch, but he was having some concerns about the state of the wound. The evening before I got off the boat he was supposed to take out the rest, but he didn’t, and he told me that the wound was necrotic (I now had Pierette, from Montreal accompanying me on my visits providing translation services) and he wanted me to see a surgeon at the hospital as soon as I got off the boat.

We got off the boat on Friday morning, checked back into the pension, and Pierette and I headed to the hospital. More good looking French doctors, and I finished my French medical experience with a consult from a nice surgeon who told me to pack it in and get right home. I would need some simple surgery to clean up the wound and probably a skin graft. The nurse phoned Air Tahiti, made reservations for us to leave that night. Sophie insisted on leaving with me. Pierette and I met her at the Air Tahiti office to pay for the changes, but they were unable to confirm an onward flight to Victoria. All Air Canada flights were booked and they couldn’t access Westjet… so we said we would chance it in LA to get a flight onward.

LAX is a piece of cake if you can navigate it with a wheelchair and a garrulous Venezuelan-American attendant! We eased through customs and security, changed buildings, and headed for the Westjet counter because I knew their one flight a day left in three hours;. We flashed our French medical emergency letters from the doctor (which of course they couldn’t read since the counter staff were Americans) and they really came through, getting me on a full flight, with an up front aisle seat. We flew to Calgary, another three hour layover, and then to Victoria, arriving at about ten pm. Patricia took me directly to the Royal Jubilee Hospital.

Saturday night is not a good time to land in emergency, but after they took care of all the drunken fight injuries, it only took two hours before I was seen, the wound cleaned, and i was admitted. They are waiting for the infection to go (I am on intravenous antibiotics) which may be a day or two more. Then surgery for the skin graft and then I will have to have my leg ‘suspended’ for about a week while the graft takes. I might have to stay in hospital, since my house might be too difficult to manage, and I haven’t really got anyone to take care of me…. AAAAARRRGGGHHHH …. And if I am stuck here, there will be no internet to amuse me!!!! No mail to read and answer!!! I will go stark raving mad. It was bad enough in the Marquesas…it is so isolated there that there just ISN”T any internet on most of the islands.

I ended staying in hosptial for about two weeks, before being sent home with a wheelchair and instructions to keep my leg suspended, and turn up for dressing changes twice a week.

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