|CrystalblueoceanSailing and Diving Around the World|
sailing and diving around the world
Ran into a bit of a bother, when we arrived in Jolly Harbor, coming from English Harbor. It was a beautiful day, and a spectacular sail, but I had no idea what lay ahead. I've posted some pics of my damaged toe, for the purposes of showing, clearly, what can happen when one gets distracted and has an anchor locker hatch fall on one's toe. Just a warning to those who are a bit squeamish. The pics are fairly graphic.
We arrived in the anchorage, at Jolly Harbor, early afternoon. I'm usually at the helm, but this time I was at the anchor. Martin usually handled the anchor because the electric anchor switch is a bit finicky, and he's accustomed to using it. But, this time I was up at the bow. We decided on a good spot, and, once in position, I began to lower the anchor. The anchor had hit bottom and I had let out about fifteen meters of chain, when the guy on the boat next to us started to yell at me. It was probably more like talking loud, but the wind was creating noise and he had to raise his voice quite a bit, so, to me, it just sounded like yelling and screaming. Now, I'm quite used to anchoring, and it doesn't matter where in the world you're anchoring, there will always be someone, on another boat, who will get really nervous/stressed, when another boat comes into the anchorage, looking for a spot to drop the hook. So, despite the fact that I couldn't hear what he was saying, I guessed that he was yelling that he thought we were too close. We weren't too close, and I was preparing to let out a lot more chain, to be sure that there would be no conflict.
I should have just ignored him and focused on what I was doing, but, being a typical Canadian (extremely polite), I turned to him to try to hear what he was saying, and to reassure him that all was fine. I had opened the anchor locker hatch, earlier, and it was leaning open against a stanchion, but not secured to anything. In that moment that I turned, to try to calm the other man down, a wave, or a gust of wind, not sure which, was enough to push the hatch off balance, and come down on my toe. I was in bare feet, as I always am on a boat. I've got thousands of sea miles under my belt, and I've been on many yachts, and I've anchored many times, but I just got unlucky. Had I not allowed myself to be distracted, the accident wouldn't have occurred. However, there are a few lessons to be learned here. Always wear deck shoes. If this accident could happen to a safety-conscious, experienced man like me, it can happen to anyone. It was an unusual convergence of circumstances, but it happened. Always have medical insurance. The first six or seven boats I was on, I always made it a point to have medical insurance. But, nothing ever went wrong, so I stopped purchasing the insurance. But..... the one day I didn't have it, was the day that I needed it.
As the hatch came down, I heard the crunch first, and then the excruciating pain. Had I not reacted as quickly as I did, and grabbed the hatch, it would have sliced my toe clean off. I sat down, and was horrified at the injury. Of course, blood was pouring out all over the place. I was immediately really pissed at the guy on the next boat because I knew that this wouldn't have happened if he hadn't been yelling at us. Martin brought me a roll of paper towel, and I wrapped the toe as best I could to stop the bleeding. We let out some more chain, and then dinghied ashore. Dalmatia, who works at Mayday Cafe, and one of the kindest women I've ever had the honor to know, went into action and, without my even asking for her help, came out with bandages, antibiotic spray, and began to clean the wound, and then dressed it. She then called ahead to the hospital, in St. Johns, to let them know that I was coming, and called me a cab. The cab driver showed up and I was on the way to the hospital. By the way, when I returned to the Marina, later that evening, after having received no medical attention, Dalmatia was horrified, and apologized profusely for the doctors. She left the Cafe and took me to the men's washroom and, once again, cleaned the wound, and dressed it as best she could. Thank you Dalmatia :):):) I look forward to seeing you again :) I need to be back in Antigua soon, anyway, to do the Yachtmaster practical, so I'll definitely go to see her and take her to dinner.
Once at the hospital, I was asked to pay a $2500 US deposit. There was no way that I was going to just turn over that kind of money, without even knowing the extent of the damage. I explained to the lady that I was sure all I needed was a couple of stitches. For those of you who can stand looking at the photos, you'll see that the only thing that could have been done would have been to stitch the broken skin down the side of the toe. Clearly, the toe nail was a done deal, so I wasn't worried about that. A couple of stitches, and measures to ensure that it wouldn't get infected, and I would have been right as rain. They didn't even bother to offer to at least look at the toe. I went back out to the parking lot and Trevor, the cab driver, was waiting for me. He offered to take me to another place he knew of, a 'clinic,' but told me that it was a private clinic, but maybe I could come to some agreeable financial arrangement.
Once at the private clinic, the nurse called one of the doctors, and gave me the phone. I explained to the doctor what had happened and he said he was on his way over. When the doctor showed up, I explained that I didn't have thousands of dollars to spend, and that I was certain I only needed a couple of stitches. In fact, that is all I wanted, anyway, no matter what the doctor would have suggested. I knew the toe wasn't broken, I could feel every part of the toe, and I know my own body, and how it heals. I happen to heal very quickly, and I've had other accidents over the years, that would have compelled any other person to see a doctor, but I simply allowed it heal on it's own and it healed quickly and perfectly. This was such a wound. Anyway, the doctor wouldn't even take the bandage off unless I paid a $300 US consultation fee. I refused and told him that all he had to do was look at the toe and see that I only required a couple of stitches.
He got huffy with me, and was clearly annoyed that I didn't understand that I would be expected to pay the consultation fee in a private clinic. I explained that this was an unusual situation, that I was a visitor in the country, and that, naturally, I would be reluctant to sign a piece of paper that stated that I accepted responsibility for any costs that might accrue, due to any work done by the doctor. I don't know of a single person that would sign such a thing. I reminded him that I only needed a couple of stitches, and that I was prepared to pay for that simple procedure. The doctor ended up leaving, in a huff, and I was still standing there, hours after the accident, and not one doctor even looking at the toe.
I walked next door to the pharmacy and got enough supplies to take care of the wound, including hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol. The HP and the RA, I purchased because I had heard over the years that they're great for disinfecting. I was told, at the hospital in Toronto, that those two things are the worst things you could put on a wound like that.
The bottom line is this, I had the money to pay for what needed to be done; a cleaning, some stitches, and a dressing. There was no problem there. But there was no way I was going to sign any papers, or simply turn over a few thousand dollars as a deposit. What was to stop them from doing a whole bunch of unnecessary things, so they could say, well, we did all of this stuff, and it amounts to exactly $2500? In my opinion, all the doctor would have had to do was look at the wound. He would have said, "we have do this, this and this," I would have said okay, or, just do this and this. We would have agreed on a price, and my wound would have been taken care of. Instead, it was about money first, for them. There was no consideration for the fact that I was a visitor to the country, that I was able to pay, but did not have travel medical insurance, or that I was simply a person in need. Was I looking for free medical service? Absolutely not. But I was surprised at the lack of humanity, and simple concern for a fellow human being. Ultimately, I was refused care because of the issue of money. I take full responsibility for not having travel medical insurance, but I would certainly never refuse help to another human being in need. As I said, they couldn't even bother to look at the wound, to see for themselves, that it would have been a rather simple thing to fix. As it is, nothing was done to the toe, even when I went to a hospital here in Toronto. Of course, by the time that I arrived at the hospital in Toronto, it was too late to do anything anyway. But the doctors here confirmed my initial assessment, that all that would have been required would have been a few stitches down the side of the toe. They did say that x-rays would have been needed, too, to make sure there were no breaks or fractures, but even if the doctors had taken x-rays, in Antigua, I would have been fine paying the cost for them.
Anyway. Always wear shoes on board, and always arrange to have medical travel insurance. I'm okay now, by the way, and I have my tickets for the BVIs, departing Toronto April 30, to re-join the vessel.