Medical Emergency…Requisite BreakAway Bummer

Posted on: Saturday, December 27th, 2008
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Travelog, 1st Stop: St. John, Latest Trip | Leave a comment

When on Sabbatical, expect many surprises—not always good. You can BreakAway. But you can’t run away from the Bad Thing. Moreover, you may unknowingly step out of the comfort zone and into the danger zone. So remember this 5-word mantra: I knew this might happen. Repeat. Breathe deep.

Smashed FingerCurlyGirl has had two strikes already on this trip: a bee sting on the deck and fire ants in her pants in the parking lot of a restaurant. But today she struck out, got beaned, got ejected from the game, AND sent us all into extra innings in the ER. A smashed finger in a heavy door can do that. It can ruin your day—maybe more. Even if you’re a comeback kid.

When S*#@ hits the fan, I like to envision the WCS (worst case scenario). Deal with that first. In this case, death seems unlikely. Surgery? Possibly. But we might still make our plane to St. Vincent next Sunday. Guitar heroine-ism may be compromised, but there’s always piano.

Still, I hate emergency wards. Who doesn’t? The good news is that, so far, (as we say in Minnesota), it could be worse. Today’s long day—one that went according to no plan—went something like this.

  • 10:40.  I leave house to go pick up friends B&E, who arrived from NYC last night but are carless (thanks to car-rental overbookings and incompetence), in a house atop Bordeaux Mountain. We are all planning to go to Maho Bay beach for the day. Coolers and gear are packed. Snorkeling and Red Stripe await.
  • 10:45. As I pull out of the driveway, CurlyGirl screams and AllBoy comes rushing out the door. She has caught her hand in the heavy door. The winds are strong; her hand is small. Partner comes out to help. I leave post-haste as drama unfolds, convinced that this is just sibling stuff.
  • 10:55. Atop Bordeaux Mountain, I can’t get to B&E’s house, because construction vehicles are in my way. I negotiate with Guys who move heavy machinery. Then back down the steep hill to B&E’s house—a death-defying act in its own right. I’m loving it.
  • 10:58. Mom E is waving and yelling from their house as I try to get there. I wave back. I am calm. Navigating steep, pot-holey hills and fresh mud backward in 4WD. How cool is that?
  • 11:01. I arrive. B&E’s 2 daughters greet me, concerned. I am told by the Adults that there is a Medical Emergency. CurlyGirl’s finger is cut open. I call home. Girl caught her finger in the door a SECOND time—after I left—when the wind slammed it shut again. This time: Serious. “I think the end might fall off,” Partner tells me in a very shaky voice.
  • 11:05. Phones stop working. We try them all—landline, 2 cels. I must get home. I suggest that B&E and 2 daughters come with me, or they’re stuck atop the Mtn all day. They pile in.
  • 11:12. I drop the Family at the bottom. Head home, up the other side of the hill. Partner greets me, in near panic. Blood is everywhere. This is unusual. I take a look. Indeed, middle finger is “dangling at the tip; might fall off.” CurlyGirl’s shock symptoms on the couch (watching “Tinkerbell”) suggest this is serious. No movement. Pupils dilated. Shallow breathing. Even AllBoy looks shocked.
  • 11:15. Phones are working again and calls are made to the local medical practice. Dr. C (we go way back) explains that his clinic is closed (it is Saturday, after all) and the ER is probably the best option. Though they have no X-rays. Yet on-call doctor is credible and does mastery stitchery work, if needed. Good to know.
  • 11:18. Strap Self and Partner and Boy and Girl in car. Head back down the hill. Drop Boy with Family B&E, who get to beach via temporary use of Crusty Jeep.
  • 11:20. Girl and Partner ride in back seat. I put on music in vehicle. Children’s Pain Killer begins to take effect. Visions of St. Thomas surgery rooms dance in my head. “I knew this might happen…”
No BreakAway is complete without a visit (or 2) to the clinic.

No BreakAway is complete without a visit (or 2) to the clinic.

  • 11:40. Arrive at St. John’s Only Clinic. Nurse and doctor are awaiting, though it’s doctor’s day off. Impressive. They take us straight to a room, hand me paperwork. They schmooze the patient, who does NOT want them to remove the bandage. Much loud crying.
  • 11:45. They unwrap bandage. Girl screams bloody murder…for next 20 minutes or so. They gradually wash, dab, fondle, pick, probe, confab, and ponder.
  • 12:05. Dr. explains that the cut is severe, nearly through the finger. Straight through middle of the fingernail. They could remove fingernail, but that would hurt more—and nail may act to hold finger together. Don’t know if bone is broken or crushed. Don’t have X-rays. Can only wrap tight and hope it holds.
  • 12:10.   They rewrap the finger, to the sounds of Girl screaming and thrashing. It takes 2 parents to hold her down. I show her pictures of rock stars and bad ads in Rolling Stone magazine to try to distract. It works, at times. She likes Brad Pitt. Yells NONONO when I suggest I grow a mustache, beard, long hair.
  • 12:15. Dr. pulls me aside for a pep talk and discharge marching orders. Finger too small to do stitches, splint, surgery. Let’s just hope. (Smile, shrug of shoulders.) No swimming til at least Tuesday—no ocean, pools, water. Tap water here is NOT good. Wash with bottled water. Use disinfectant. Rewrap daily. Try “liquid band-aid” first times in water next week, but know that stuff stings. (I’ve never heard of it.)
  • 12:17. If fever or green pus, bring in immediately. Know that infections are more common and severe down here. Even the air has germs.
  • 12:20. More paperwork. Sign off; copy insurance card. No cost. Doctor leaves.
  • 12:22. We exit. Head to downtown Cruz Bay to buy medical supplies as suggested, pick up some seafood to cook for dinner, and find B&E a rental car using old contacts.
  • 2:30. Supplies are in hand. As is fresh tuna, salmon, London Broil, and prawns. Car procured after much drama with old ‘friends’ at local car rental joint (owner will rent his own jeep and drive his beater). I stay in Cruz Bay to wait for B, ensure closure on the rental car deal, and drive Crusty Jeep back to Coral Bay.
  • 4:00. Home. Start chopping vegetables and cooking. Good therapy. Never mind that the knives here are sharp and I cut my middle finger…
  • 5:55. CurlyGirl is strong. Her parents are spent. Dinner is served (the first course).
  • 10:55. Dinner is over. Children’s painkiller is served (again). Step outside to thank the stars and repeat: 

“I knew this might happen.”

  • 11:55. Retire.
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