Wednesday morning we lucked out. Our dock neighbor Laura of Sunrise had a rental car for the day and offered to drive us to the hospital. She had propane tanks to take in for refill and so did we, so we worked out a plan. Laura dropped me off at the hospital and Jack went with Laura to help with the tanks, then they’d swing back to the hospital and if I was finished they’d pick me up, if not Jack would come wait with me and we’d taxi back and Laura could continue with her long list of errands.
At the hospital I quickly made contact with the doctor who’d seen me yesterday. “Didn’t my colleague see you?” she asked, puzzled. No, I told her. I’d waited six hours for the results and asked at the desk twice but never got results. She said she’d finished up my chart as her shift ended and the next doctor on duty was supposed to convey the results to me but somewhere the system failed.
“We were very busy,” she said. It’s ok, I told her, I just couldn’t stay any longer. She brought me a copy of the results of the scan (in French, of course) and a prescription for meds to treat the pain and inflammation.
The scan confirmed the quick diagnosis of doctor #1 in Bora Bora, the one Jack brought out to the boat when I couldn’t move out of bed. I have a herniated disc, putting pressure on the root nerve. No surprise there, as shooting pain in my lower back and down my legs has dominated my life for the past two weeks. Three additional discs are squeezed or bulging but aren’t putting pressure on the nerve. The good news is there’s no fracture, the vertebrae are fine, there’s no arthritis and no osteoporosis. I’m just pretty badly out of whack.
The prescription continued some of the meds I was already on, removed one, added another. And because this is an ER and not a spine specialist, this doctor’s only concern was to diagnose and send me on my way. My next step is to consult a specialist who can give me a treatment plan and a prognosis.
I thanked the doctor and the others who’d helped me and paid my bill. The fee for the doctor was $36 (compare that to what an uninsured visit to the ER cost in the States) and several hundred for the x-ray and CT. All in all, not too bad and at least I can now address a clearly described pathology intelligently.
I limped outside for what I assumed would be a long wait but no sooner did I get settled into a marginally comfortable perch on a fire escape than Laura and Jack appeared not five feet from me. Perfect timing! Laura ran us back to the marina and once again I collapsed into bed to recover from the stress and discomfort of the last four days. Jack ran out to the pharmacy for the new meds. My job for the next few days is to get back on top of the pain so I can make another foray to find help from a spine specialist and get the healing and rehab started.
As always, the cruisers rally around. It seems every other person I talk to has had a herniated disc at some point in their lives. I’m assured by one and all that it will heal and most likely I’ll be good as new eventually, but that unfortunately it takes a very long time. I know this from a rotator cuff injury that took a year before all was right with my shoulder. I thought it would never heal, but as Ken from Kia Ora put it, one day it dawns on you that the pain is gone and you can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened. I’m hoping for sooner rather than later.
If we were in a safe and quiet anchorage surrounded by crystal clear turquoise water and good friends with nothing to do all day but heal, swim a little and enjoy the view I wouldn’t worry one bit. But cyclone season is looming in the not too distant future. Escape Velocity needs to be in a safe place outside the statistically defined cyclone “box” and I can’t see how I’ll be able to do a passage any time soon. Our options are limited from where we are. Everyone heading for the safe havens of Australia and New Zealand is already 1200 miles west of us. The rest will be sailing either to Hawaii, 2000 miles away, or the Marquesas, 750 miles to windward. We’re gathering information from all quarters and evaluating our options. Neither of us likes the idea of me flying ahead and Jack sailing the boat with additional crew, not just because we’re a team and we work well together and we know our boat so well, but also because neither of us wants to have a momentous experience without the other one. We know plenty of couples who do this for various reasons and it’s ok. It was just never on our radar and we have to examine the idea and decide if that’s the right thing to do. Plus, with my limited movement, the thought of having to negotiate new territory on land and with luggage without help doesn’t sound like much fun for me either.
All of these worries are probably premature until I get some read on a treatment plan and how soon I can expect to see improvement. As it stands, we’re taking it one day at a time, putting one foot in front of the other.