A couple of days ago we woke up to the one thing we dread on Party of Five. What appeared to be a true medical emergency.
It all started when Daphnie came into our room and woke us up with the words “Jonah is in the bathroom and can’t get up!” We groaned a little bit and slowly crawled out of bed, thinking it wasn’t anything serious. Upon arriving at the head we quickly realized it may be more serious than we thought. Jonah was on the toilet and doubled over in pain. When we asked him what the problem was, he could only croak “My Stomach”. It was very clear from his face that he was in a lot of pain. We quickly brought him up to the settee so we could have a better look. We laid him out and began asking him questions. Point to where it hurts? Where does it hurt most? How long has it hurt? ect. I then began feeling and pressing on the location to see if I could feel anything wrong. At this point I was really thinking appendicitis so began the press and release test (which seemed positive). Rhonda and I then retreated to the galley to discuss what we thought. Of course this was our first BIG mistake. Jonah was only 6 feet away and could hear everything we were saying.
We both agreed that appendicitis was a possibility, but we wanted a second opinion. As fate would have it, our good friends on Fille De Joie were anchored next door and Helen is a nurse. We called over on the VHF but got no answer. Rhonda then used Facebook messenger and quickly got a hold of Helen who was on shore jogging. She promised to stop by after her jog. Helen arrived in about 15 minutes and quickly began an exam on Jonah. Here is where our first mistake reared its head. Jonah had heard us discussing symptoms and was now playing up the exact symptoms we described. This is where our second mistake also became a factor. We had allowed the battery in our thermometer to go dead and had no way to measure Jonah’s temperature other than by feel. All of us had a feel of Jonah’s forehead and agreed that it felt “warm”. The three of us had a quick discussion and decided we couldn’t risk not taking him to see someone.
Helen kindly offered to host Quincy and Daphnie on Fille De Joie while Rhonda and I took Jonah. We thanked her and said we would drop them off once we figured out what to do and how to get Jonah in. Unfortunately it was Sunday and the island pretty much shuts down on Sunday. We discovered we could not rent a car and the buses were on a skeleton schedule. There was a Dr. in Le Marin but it would be a very bumpy 2 mile ride in the dinghy (probably not good for someone’s inflamed appendix). However that appeared to be the only option.
We dropped the other kids off at Fille De Joie and began the bumpy ride. I tired my best to keep it smooth while Rhonda moved Jonah around to find the most comfortable spot. Unfortunately it was a very uncomfortable 20 minute ride for Jonah. However we arrived safely and I went in search of the Dr. office. It didn’t take me long to find it at the local hospital. However we discovered that although the Dr. office was open all the other parts of the hospital were closed. Rhonda and I had a quick discussion and decided that Jonah would probably need some tests and this Dr. wasn’t equipped to do them on Sunday. So we decided that Jonah would be best served at the big university hospital in Fort De France. I quickly found a local business that was opened and had them call us a cab.
Being Sunday, we had a 45 minute wait for the cab. On top of that, it seems that cabs in Martinique charge more on Sunday. Even with the driver discount for waiting the 45 minutes, the ride to the hospital was $100 euro ($150CAD). Keep in mind we still had to get back. Sigh… That was painful knowing I could rent a car on Monday for $42. Our cab costs for the day were over $325CAD!
After some confusion at the admittance desk as they were trying to tell us we needed to go to the children’s ward in French – “salle des enfants”, we were pointed in the right direction. We walked up to the window and the clerk took both Jonah’s and my passports and then pointed us to the waiting room. We now sat in the waiting room trying to work out what would happen next. After about 45 minutes we were called into triage where a nurse did a quick examination of Jonah and gave him an arm band. Luckily she spoke good English and informed us we would need to wait for the Dr., but it would be a long wait as it was very busy. Back to the waiting room we went. I took this time to have a serious conversation with Jonah and that he needed to forget what we said and just be VERY honest with the Doctor. I think it sunk in when I told him that if they even suspected appendicitis he would need surgery and that would mean no swimming or playing with friends for a long time.
It was another hour wait before we got called into the Doctor’s examination room. The Doctor was fantastic and spoke passable English. She quickly did an examination of Jonah and decided to do a quick blood and urine test. Jonah did fantastic and had definitely understood what I said. The Doctor said she was pretty certain it was not serious and everything would come back normal but it would take 20 minutes for the results. We were shown to another waiting room within the actual hospital ward and told to wait for the results. Since we were now actually in the emergency ward, I took the opportunity to look around. It looked just like an emergency ward in a Canadian hospital. It was modern and clean, if a little more beat up than a Canadian one. One odd thing I noticed was the lack of lights turned on in many spots. I’m guessing that since electricity costs are very high here, the locals are trained to turn the lights off whenever they leave a room. I just found it strange as even the hallways were dark.
Back to the story…. After about 30 minutes the Doctor came to get us and informed us “There is a problem!”. She took us into an examination room and told us that the blood test came back positive for inflammation. Although she still thought it was nothing, she wanted a specialist to examine Jonah and give his opinion. She told us to wait in the room and the specialist would be right by (ya right). True to her word, he arrived in about 10 minutes. He was another fantastic Doctor with a great bed side manner and really good English. He did another thorough exam of Jonah and then sat for a few minutes thinking. After that, he told us he was sure it wasn’t appendicitis but it was something, maybe viral. He though the best course of action was to monitor Jonah for the next few days to see if things improved. He asked that we don’t leave Martinique for 6-7 days and to bring him back if anything got worse. Finally he said that Jonah would be given a suppository laxative before we left. We would need to wait at the hospital for the laxative to “do its work” and then were free to go. I will spare you those details though.
On our way out of the hospital we ran into our first Doctor and asked if it would be possible for someone to call us a cab. We were expecting her to ask someone at the admittance desk, but instead she went out of her way to call us a cab herself. I’m not sure if something like that would have ever happened in Canada!
Now I can hear a few of you asking, “What did it cost?”. Unfortunately I can’t answer that question as no one gave me a bill or asked me to pay. I’m assuming that a bill will show up at our resident address in Canada, but who knows. Based on information from other cruisers we guess that if a bill does arrive it will be around $100 euro. However if he had required the surgery it would have been VERY expensive. Based on the tariff sheet on the way we guessed it would have cost between $6000-$10,000 euro for that surgery. Sure, expensive on a cruisers budget, but on the world stage that’s pretty affordable. Vive La France.
So we learned a few things from this. First, there are some things on Party of Five we need to do to be better prepared. Second, that hospitals and staff in Martinique are fantastic. Finally, if you can help it, don’t have an emergency on Sunday in Martinique as its very inconvenient.
To end this post… I ‘m glad to report that Jonah has gotten better each day. Today he seems to be back to his old self and reports “just a tiny amount of pain”. Pretty sure we will never know what happened, but are glad he is OK!