Doug’s feeling a little indigestion, but he’s ready to leave Isla Mujeres. So we bobble our way downwind along the coast of Quintana Roo, staying so close to the reef we can mostly see it break, because that’s where the two-knot-against-us current isn’t. Offshore we can also see the sportfishers working the big drop out from 100-meters, so it doesn’t really matter that the charts are minimally detailed. We know where we aren’t and it’s a good day to be doing exactly what we’re doing.
But Doug finally says, I think we’d better stop at Puerto Moreles. Yes, sir! We anchor, he sleeps, all curled up, takes the occasional charcoal pill, one of the half dozen over-the-counter remedies that constitute our ‘medical kit’, takes a shower, sleeps, and moans, and sleeps. Next morning springs to life, immediately wilts.
Ashore I located El Centro de Salud, open and not busy. Bad sign (and good) Doug, in substantial pain, is ready to go there right away. I’ve been parsing symptoms from a yard sale medical dictionary and believe we’re steaming towards appendectomy. The clinic doctora concurred.
Within the hour we were in a taxi bouncing towards a private hospital, Hospital Americano, in Cancun, recommended by a man we met on the street who spoke English and thought the public hospital would be too busy and other private hospitals too expensive. Isn’t that how you make all your decisions too?
It’s a job site, busted concrete in buckets and rebar sticking out of the walls, but the Urgencia door is open and we’re ushered into a reception room by a concerned woman who, with little formality, listens to our broken Spanish, orders a blood test and an ultrasound. Forces are marshalling around us, including English-speakers and a gastrointestinal surgeon (in Dockers!).
Yes, they say, the appendix. Doug collapses into a wheelchair which goes up the elevator into room 309, clean, plain, simple, clean. There’s protocol, first this, then this, which I find reassuring. Doug gets an IV, the surgical team gets phone calls, and there’s business protocol too, a swipe of my Visa card and a Hail-Mary phone call to Maryland’s Carefirst international Blue Card division, who offers translation service and ‘medical guidance’ but who knows what else?
Well, I’m exceeding my allotted page per view, so I’ll cut to the chase. The organ had ruptured, but by about 6 PM it was gone forever and Doug had been fitted with a gasket and a drainage bag, plus a couple of small ‘puncture wounds’. I didn’t even know removal would be laparascopic until it already was! We both slept to the comforting sound of the IV pump.
Next day I shanghaied a cruiser off the street (good thing we’re all so easy to spot!) for help moving the boat to a mooring behind a seawall in a marina – one less thing to worry about. The cruising community is wonderful in that, and many other, respects.
And I must say, this hospital was just right for us – a small family-style place, not corporate, B&B rather than resort. Records were handwritten, or typed, not a computer in sight (except in accounting!), but so what? The ultrasound was there, the IV drip machine (that half the nurses were too short to hang bags onto), the laparascopic whatever in the operating room. Carefulness and good intent was in the air, plus the surgeon had done hundreds of appendectomies. We didn’t know any of this in the beginning, and maybe should have found out, but how?
Eventually it became almost fun. The nurses trained Doug to report pee-pee and poo-poo. Soup and jello came from the cafeteria downstairs. Doug shuffled around on ‘paseo’ with his skinny wheeled ‘novia’ firmly clinging to his arm, watched TV (whole ‘nother story there, and not pretty!) and slept all he wanted.
Dealing with medical emergency is not a situation you can ever really prepare for, or, if you felt satisfactorily armed, you’d have so little liberty left, why bother? So I’m sticking to my general world view, which is that the orbit of Galivant and her crew intersects with many other unseen orbits and cycles, Halley and Hale-Bopp, shipwreck and disease, but also benevolence and good fortune, all distributed despite us (my inner Calvinist is overriding the Buddhist here).
We had a near miss from a perilous encounter, but maybe now we’ve paid our current ’bad luck tax’ and we’ll get back to normal life ASAP. Doug said that if he had actually died, it would have been doing something he wanted to do, sailing in Mexico.