Bag of Marbles
Bag of Marbles
8th, 12th and 22nd of November and finally, 17th of December
This blog, not easy to write, is purely in for historical purposes. Blogs are supposed to be about Beez Neez, life aboard, the tourist visits and the At-Venture we are so addicted to. I was never going to mention having a tropical ulcer but it can now be seen in the greater picture leading up to ‘My Bag of Marbles’.
History. I had a mosquito bite me on my outer left ankle bone and you all know I blister and it takes a bit longer to heal than a simple itchy lump that goes away in a day or two. My blister had got to the scab stage and was coming along nicely, so no need for a plaster as it was dry and well sealed – in hindsight silly me.
4th of November 2015. Erromango Island, Vanuatu. Ashore waiting for Donald to see to his son’s prospective new in-laws, I felt a really sharp nip, looked down to find a fly sitting on the edge of my scab, a smile on it’s dark face. Nothing could be done there and then – silly me, us sailors had all read that we must take wounds seriously in these parts, as they usually all turn nasty – but it was sealed, I cry plaintively in defence. We enjoyed our day and to be honest I forgot about the fly incident. I had dangled my left foot in Baby Beez wake on the way home, so once again in hindsight had thought the blasting of salt water would have cleaned about the area..........
Next day nothing of note, but that night things began to burn. I put antiseptic cream on the scab to soften for further checking, but in bed I began to freeze. Temperature outside thirty eight degrees Centigrade. Inside I was wearing two tee shirts, leggings, my hoodie and all wrapped up in my bath robe, thought I would chuck it all off as I got too hot during the night, no, the next morning I was still well parcelled. Antibiotics started as we felt things were not too good.
6th November. Area around bite a seriously deep shade of purple. Hole deepening. Pain mounting.
12th November. The nurse kicked in. Granuflex I say, a colloidal dressing would suck all the badness out, it has to be left for three days to do its job and sadly all the surrounding skin got very wet but at least things were clean. Salt washes, magic powder and big plaster twice a day. No sooner than the dressing done than the burning set off with determination. By the third picture above I was completely lame. I had a very tough passage to Noumea and very few minutes after getting into the marina, doing my turn-off jobs and a few words with next door, I took to my bed. I’m not a take to bed sort but the throbbing and acid burn was all too much. Just moving my foot a millimetre caused renewed heights in heat and pain. If I got any sleep it was fitful and short lived. To push my foot off the side of the bed en route to the floor was sheer, pulsing agony. I could not get from bed to the kitchen, how ridiculous, a fly bite laming me. I stayed put for four days. The worst pain I have ever been in, overtaking the appendix that had wrapped itself around a pre-cancerous cervix and adhering in a painful ball or the thyroid that had stag-horned and took eight hours to track and remove. My first venture out was to painfully hobble to the internet cafe, many stops and sobs and only a few hundred yards away.
15th of November 2015. A new irritation arrives. It has taken until now to identify a small fly as being responsible for my attacks. The pictures above are my first – the tiny chap simply walked and chewed. He or they never go for Bear, their preferred sites of chewing are hands, arms, neck and elbows. I wake to the lumps, the following day I want to slash my flesh off and the next day the itching stops. Fortunately, no scars.
In the ulcer department things carried on with no let up by the time we got to Newcastle. The final night at sea saw me soaking in hot water, cold water, kneeling, standing, moaning and distressed. I did manage to hobble to the Yacht Club for a celebratory meal the night we got in, but have to admit I was heavily hoping for the half bottle of rose wine and the singles of voddy to help in the anaesthetic area. Again bedbound, in pain and beginning to feel very miserable, fortunately the weather held us in Newcastle. I did manage our road trip to Sydney but the night in our little motel was terrible. A cold, wet towel did help and I wouldn’t let pain mar my joy at being in the Opera House to see Messiah.
Then came the next barrel of pain, what can best be described as a gunshot wound to the chest. Oh my, what now. I think we should delay going to Sydney until we get this checked out. Mentally, this would have been too crushing, so I admit to insisting we went. Overnight, I have to say the pain actually began to take over the ulcer pain - now a flame of nerves trying to jump into the synaptic abyss like so many lemmings.
Thursday the 10th of December. All I wanted was to be in Sydney, enjoy my first local call with Graham and us meet him tonight to have dinner and enjoy the Fatback Band, reminiscing and laughing. In reality I am laying in a hospital bed. I hand over to Bear.
I asked Bear to email his story, I have simply cut and pasted it:
Leaving New Caledonia the goal
was Sydney and for many years the entry past the opera house and under the
bridge - an iconic moment like sailing into New York. This was thwarted
initially by the weather, so we entered Australia at Newcastle, just 60 miles
north of our goal. The bulk of our Christmas shopping done there as easy access
and as we awaited the weather. After 5 days the window was there so we were off
for an easy overnighter. When the crew started to complain of stomach pains the
Captains suggestion to delay a day was met with a very frosty response, so we
were off at 18:00.
In the two bedded bay on Short Stay Surgical Unit
This nearly new public hospital was amazing and incredibly efficient. Within minutes IV Morphine and multiple antibiotic drips up and going, patient much more comfortable, but situation not really under control medically as yet.
By end of day, chest x-ray, scan and CT scan, MRI the following morning, pinned diagnosis and now on emergency surgery list! The problem being a badly infected gall bladder full of hundreds of small stones, a bile duct 50% dilated, probably due to passing some successfully, but fortunately none in the bile duct now. The four rotating bags of different antibiotics did not reduce the signs of infection so surgery was the only way.
Darth’s light stick ???
Technically this was not easy, but Justin, the registrar managed to achieve this laparoscopically. Very impressive skills indeed - it even surprised him I think.
So now she's on the mend, and we count our blessings, particularly being in the right place at the right time, how lucky were we! Home to Beez via kind marina watertaxi on day 2.5 with nurse captain in charge!
Every day now slow steady progress, but despite the patient's protests it will be at least a 6 week recuperation here and on our gentle Tasmania trip next month - good timing I think.
The other good news is that all the high dose antibiotics and enforced bed rest has dramatically improved Pepe's longer term tropical ulcer on her ankle - result. The final ulcer picture above, only purple because I changed to washing and treating with good old gentian violet. Now dry but stained, who cares about that.
My story. Thursday the 10th. The speed at which I found myself in casualty is enough to rock anyone. Being married to a retired GP who knows how to hide things - the look on his face showed things were very wrong. Ben my admitting nurse was fantastic, he assessed me in seconds and called Mark my admitting doctor, he asked pain out of ten to which I answered fourteen and before I could say another word, drip up and Mother Morphine was coursing in. Next came a lower GI doctor who knew he had to hand me to the upper GI’s. Rebecca was amazing. I was immediately in her very knowledgeable hands and things went swiftly. A myriad of faces, I’m sorry to say I cannot put names to followed. After bloods, chest x-ray, scan I was settled onto the ward. At some point during my stay I have met and been cared for by Binky, Rita, Siet, Sue, Kriti, Erica, Rose, Chantelle, Briony from pharmacy and many more. Sam was my first night nurse – quick, efficient, young and lovely. Hannah and Xana, two of the best student nurses I have ever met. You both have ‘the hands’ ladies and we wish you every success in your chosen careers.
The 11th went by is a haze of more tests and the hope to operate if a slot came up. A six hour emergency put me on the list for the next day. Now, most girls get flowers or chocolates in hospital, what did I get ??? A see- marine-life-observation-bucket. Okay then. It was immediately put into action as my cleaning bucket and all my smellies fitted a treat. Well, you couldn’t eat anything, so.................... I love it.
12th of December. What a day to remember Peter, my brother’s birthday by. Bear came in as usual at ten thirty and was with me until they came for me at three o’clock I lay in the waiting area of the theatres until five, apologies from the staff as they passed by. I was fine in the knowledge things were going to happen and had the chance to name each of the children and grand children in order and of course Beez and Bear, a peaceful time to reflect on my blessings.
At five I was rolled into the anaesthetic room and out cold. The operation began at five thirty and I woke in recovery at eight. Back on the ward at eight thirty and into the very capable hands of Katy. Any hospital stay will see someone stand head and shoulders above the others. This was Katy, towering Everest height above. I was so fortunate to have her care for me my first night post-op and for the following two nights. She found me weeping as I felt Bear was still nearby. He had been waiting patiently the other side of the locked public entrance to the ward for the day nurse who had promised he could see me when I got back. He had given up at a quarter to ten and had gone home deeply troubled. Katy at ten o’clock rummaged in my locker, found his number and got me the desk telephone so I could speak to him. Things felt so very good from then on.
Justin my talented surgeon had indeed managed to perform key-hole surgery, he had made me sign for an open but I knew his authoritative but very kindly manner would not be bested by the severely swollen internals that Pepe had offered. I came to to find the four small plasters of a successful job, seen in the diagram above. This man will make a brilliant consultant and I cannot be more thankful to him. Rebecca is amazing. Julian has a voice that I did say if ever he got fed up with being a surgeon the BBC would snap him up in a second. “I take that as a complement” rolled his velvet, deep voice – of the highest order Sir. Big, cuddly Wilson, also known as Willy, the gentle giant in boots, who loved Beds, all well in my book then. As a surgical team – top drawer.
Post op looking back was a comical night. I had washed and put clean pants on, I could hear my mum’s voice............ I woke to find them selotaped to the foot of the bed. From the toes up, I had each calf being squeezed alternately by a compression machine, four plasters over my tiny wounds, a drip going wild with fluids and antibiotics, regular blood pressure massages and oxygen going into each side of my beak via soft tubes. With the pulsing and the bleeping of the drip machine I didn’t expect a comfortable night, that is, until Katy enveloped me with a hot blanket straight out of the warming cupboard. Comfort and tranquillity took hold. I had a selection of yoghurts and puddings next to me if I fancied and I could have as many sips of water as I could manage. Wow. At three in the morning I took three spoons of chocolate mousse. Now, I have never had the orgasmic feeling some women mention when their chocolate sensors get quenched. Well, I have to admit, it happened. I have never tasted anything so delicious in my life. Well, you hadn’t eaten anything since Wednesday mornings Weetbix, still not sure why the Antipodeans don’t call them Weetabix..............
13th of December. First day post-op. Bear came in to find that I had had semolina for breakfast. Something not managed since 1967, it still tastes like wallpaper paste and the lumps were just as horrifically remembered but, with perseverence and swooshing the lumps back and forth through gritted teeth, I cleaned my plate, I had entered the world of ‘full fluid diet’. Another step forward. Bear showed me a picture of the hospital that I had not yet seen.
A lovely, modern building with 740 beds, a teaching hospital serving Sydney Medical School and Sydney University, it accommodates 5.7% of the Australian population or 17% of the New South Wales population.
Established in 1887, [thank you for the picture Wiki]. The RNSH began as a cottage hospital and the foundation stone was laid by Sir Henry Parkes on the 18th of June 1887, accommodating fourteen patients. A staff of four honorary doctors and five nurses. The old site is now a busy part of the commercial centre of Crows Nest.
Bear also showed me pictures of Big Bear Retail Mall, a place he now knows very well, including Coles the supermarket and all the various buses needed to shop and visit me. He made me laugh with stories of cockatoos going home over Beez and generally kept me happy the long day through. He did get the choice between me going home to his care or staying for a little longer, but, sweetheart that he is, snapped at the chance to becoming my full-time private nurse. At this point dear reader, I had to bleach my eyes as I pictured him, all but for a fleeting second - in a fancy dress nurses uniform...........
14th December. Bear walked in at ten thirty and I watched as the relief hit him like a ton of bricks. As usual nothing could stop us trying a game of backgammon but he actually nodded off as his die hit the board. I snuggled him against me for a deep and much needed sleep. I was to get distressed at this point as the mother of the lady next to me took a transatlantic call from her ex-husband and I could her both sides of the loud exchange. I eventually began to weep and the woman left the room but I could still hear the exchanges. This after hearing her book her cockroach elimination crew earlier on. I had been on good terms with said woman but not from then on.
Drain out, drip down and allowed proper food. Bear helped me to shower. The nurses laughed as we set up a real picnic, that cheese and tomato sandwich, crusts removed was the closet to culinary heaven anyone needs. The new antibiotic made my paracetamol look small. I saddled it up for a quick canter around the ward but it bit me later. A crashing wave of nausea at five o’clock and the nearest thing to a dash performed to get to the toilet for a rear end exit. Another long night with Sam watching over me, nice to go full circle with the staff, although she was surprised to see me. I keep forgetting I’m on SSSU. Mother Morphine via drip has been taken over by Sister Morphine via tablet.
Now allowed to explore, I was like a child taking in my surroundings. We saw pretty decorations.
Found out how huge the bays were at the other end of the unit and just how long the corridors are.
We found one of the hot blanket cupboards. Would love to meet the person who designed this beauty, just to give him or her a big kiss.
I attacked the stairs carrying my drain like a posh handbag.
Well colour me happy. The sharps disposal bins are in Beez Neez livery.
15th of December. Bear came in and helped me shower. I was going home. All packed, ‘TTO’s’ or To Take Out antibiotics and six oxycodone ready but no discharge letter. After lunch we settled ourselves in the day room as a next step. It was there that Hannah [on my right] and Kriti gave us the final ‘farewell’. What words can describe properly or be said after such a roller coaster - gratefulness tinged with relief. Thank you certainly doesn’t cover it. Big hugs, kisses and smiles then.
Bear led me around corridors, lifts all unfamiliar to me but well trodden to him, until we arrived on ground floor. I stared wide-eyed at the newness and architecturally stunning foyer.
Looking back into the foyer. Walking past the coffee shop, aromas divine to my sense deprived for what seems like ages.
The what-looked-to-me like a complex map, Bear now knows by heart and finally, out into the bright sunshine. The whole in the cafe now boarded up, caused by a car smashing into it last night, making a couple of the night girls to be late due to the mayhem. Luckily, a visitor waiting at the till had had the time to give up a warning shout and everyone leapt to safety. What a relief that no one was injured. Bear pointed over to the first taxi in the line. He refused to take us to Cammeray and I cried, I just couldn’t help it, I felt humiliated. So, with a tentative touch to the next chaps arm, I asked if he would take me home. He was so upset for me and let out a tirade of expletives [once he had helped settle me carefully in the back] about the first man and plenty of “don’t you worry darling, I have you now, you’ll be home soon.” En route Bear called for the watertaxi and Brett was just as gentle with me as he had been on my outbound journey. He backed the launch into the landing jetty so I could have the handle bar to use to pull myself out. We sat for a minute by the office for me to get my breath, then the walk down the pontoon that felt as if my dreams had all come true. Bear helped me onto the step and I climbed in. I was home. I laid down for a while but I was eager to sit at the dining room table just to feel ‘normal’, he even let me win at backgammon and take the game in the last round of Mexican Train dominoes. I enjoyed one of the auto-meals Bear had stocked up on and slid into bed. A week of antibiotics and then I begin the ‘get fit’ by trying a chunk of steps everyday. My target to meet the Enzor family [lovely Lesley being Bear’s niece] in Sydney on Christmas Eve. A target I have every wish to make.
Plan. Monday morning all antibiotics finished, forty steps and shower. Tuesday all of the steps and shower. Wednesday a trip on the bus if you’re good. Thursday slack day, shower and try to cook dinner. Friday Sydney. Yeeha.
ALL IN ALL – WHAT CAN I SAY ??? I’M HUMBLY SO VERY GRATEFUL
NOT STUBBORN BUT FOCUSSED – SO, AS IT HAPPENS, IN THE RIGHT PLACE FOR A GOOD OUTCOME