In Stitches

Wednesday July 10, 2013

  7.10.13 (3)

I can’t believe I was actually worried that we’d get here to the Rio Dulce to spend four months with the boat, and that I’d be bored out of my mind.  That there would be nothing to do everyday, and I’d be sitting there, twiddling my thumbs, watching the seconds on the clock tick by.  But if there has been one thing to describe our time here now, it is busy.  My whole day is spend in front of the computer, trying to catch up on my two months of backlogged posts, planning our upcoming backpacking trip to South America, and on top of that, learning Spanish so I can actually get us around.  Matt keeps his days busy as well, but all of his attention is focused on the boat.  We had a list of things we wanted to tackle once we got to a spot that we’d be sitting at for awhile, and what better place then when you’re at a marina.  There’s no tipping back and forth while you’re trying to concentrate, although that hardly ever bothers Matt, extra electricity is just a few short feet away, and a decent sized town with a lot of the supplies you could need is only a five minute lancha ride away.

So this day had been passing pretty regularly.  I’d gotten up about two hours before Matt to begin my day on my laptop, sitting squished up in the v-berth with my fan pointed directly at me.  When he finally got up we did our routine of breakfast before he started disassembling the salon and moving all parts and cushions up to the v-berth, which forced me on to one of the picnic tables at the ranchito next to us.  Doing our separate work for a few hours, we took a break to make our way into town when our friend Luis offered us a ride since he was going in anyway.  About 7 liters of Pepsi were stocked up along with a couple bags of nacho queso chips, one trip to the concrete mall for hardware supplies, and we were on our way back to the marina.  As usual, Luis asked if we’d need the lancha any more that day, and after not being able to think of any other reasons we would need to go into town again, we told him to secure it for the night.  Rain was threatening, so I moved the tower of cushions around in the v-berth to make a spot for me to sit once more.  Matt, waiting for his latest coat of varnish on the starboard side salon to dry, took to his other project of making a sliding board to fit over our stove and give us more counter space.

Concentrating as best I could, I tried to drown out the banging and clanking and drilling sounds that were coming from the aft cabin.  Then I heard a big clatter, followed by a painful groan and then “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit”.  Craning my neck back, I could see him holding his hand up in the air, and it didn’t even take me two seconds to grab the medical bag that had been conveniently replaced right next to me for the day, and throw it on the settee while unzipping it.  Taking a look at Matt’s hand, I found out that while holding down a stainless steel tube that he had been drilling, the bit broke and the end still attached to the drill went right into his index finger.  It wasn’t gushing blood at the moment, which was nice, but I still had no idea what to do.  I grabbed him a paper towel to keep pressure on the wound, and then raced to the head where I sent bottles from our medicine cabinet flying, trying to search for the hydrogen peroxide.  When I finally got to a bottle, I splashed a healthy amount on the wound as he winced in pain.  Ok, so we have it disinfected.  Now what?  Is it going to need stitches?  Will a butterfly bandage be enough to make it heal?  The cut looked fairly deep, and living and working in the environment we do, infection was my number one concern.  There just looked to be too much of an open area for things to make their way in if we only tried to remedy it with a bandage.  Time for the skin stapler maybe?  Matt had always been looking for an excuse to break it out.

The other good thing about being in a marina at the moment as opposed to out at anchor, is there were other people close by to consult on the matter.  Jumping off the boat and on to the dock, I ran in search of any sign of Luki or Luis to give a second opinion.  Coming up on Skebenga, I didn’t see anyone aboard, and then turning around I saw Luis making his way onto the dock at the same time Matt was.  He took one look at Matt’s finger and said, “It’s fine, just put a bandage on it for a few days”.  Ummm, I’m not sure that a simple Bandaid is going to cure that flap of skin that’s hanging off his finger.  I really wished Luki was around, him and his wife Elmari seem to have a good knowledge about medical training, but since they weren’t, I wanted a trip to the clinica in town.  Matt looked to be on the same page as me, and as Luis went about untying the lancha and getting it ready to go, I flew down the steps of the companionway to grab both our shoes, cash, and the ATM card.  Before I knew it, we were headed towards Fronteras, and all in less than five minutes after Matt had drilled into his finger.

It was another lucky thing that we had Luis with us, since not only did we have no clue where the clinica was, but there probably wouldn’t have been enough Spanish between the two of us to find it, explain what we needed (although I’m sure just pointing to his finger would have done the trick), or most importantly, understood what they were telling us in return.  I guess we were kind of over dramatizing the situation back at the marina, we must have given Luis the impression that there were no extra seconds to spare, and as soon as we stepped foot onto the main road he hailed a tuk tuk to drive us the half mile up to the clinica.  As he paid the $2 fare,  we walked inside, or through the open garage style door I should say, to find a nurse/assistant standing behind the pharmacy counter.  Luis explained the situation, and she took down very basic information such as Matt’s name, age, and nationality on a blank sheet of paper.  Very official.  She said it would be 200Q ($25) just to see the doctor, and then whatever the extra cost would be for what else needed to be done.  We agreed, and were then told to wait until the doctor could see us.

The only place to sit was a bench outside, but assuming the doctor would be right out, we began flipping through the local newspaper sitting on the counter.  Which, on the first few pages at least, were filled with images of bodies covered in white sheets due to murders, auto accidents, or whatever else might leave a dead body behind.  I’m pretty sure images like these would not fly back in the States.  It took about 30 minutes, but we were finally led into the doctor’s office with Luis in tow to translate.  After giving a two second look at Matt’s hand, the doctor explained that he could give him a shot of novocaine and fix him up with a few stitches.  We agreed once more, and just as I was pulling out my camera to get a front row seat to the show, both Luis and I were ushered out to the ‘waiting room’ (i.e. the bench sitting outside in the gravel lot) while they went to work on Matt.  I think the doctor spoke just a little bit of English, which made me feel a lot better about leaving him alone in there, because both of us have found that when someone begins asking us something, even if we have no clue what they’re talking about, we just bob our heads up and down and respond “Si, Si”.

“I don’t like the way this finger is looking, I’m going to have to take it off”.

“Si.”

“As long as we’re hacking you open, I’ve always wanted to try and put a goat heart in human. Would you be willing to try this?”

“Si.”

“I’m just going to need you to sign this legal document saying I am not at all liable for anything I do to you.”

“Si, Si.”

But 20 minutes later, after Luis and I had gone through a few bags of Cheetos and two bags of water (Yes, I said that right.  The water is drunk out of plastic bags.), Matt was returned to us with four stitches and a nice little bandage taped between his fingers.  He was given a prescription for antibiotics which he was told to take twice a day for a week, and to pull out the stitches one week later.  After paying 300 more Q ($39) and being told to come back if the whole area turns yellowish-red, let’s hope not, we were on our way home.  For having an accident happen in a small town of a third world country where we don’t speak the language, I actually think it went pretty well.  But just so we don’t have any repeats, I think all drill bits should be kept away from Matt until at least this wound heals.

7.10.13 (1)

 Our ambulance driver.

7.10.13 (2)

Getting ready for surgery.

7.10.13 (4)

May as well enjoy a bag of water while I wait.

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3 thoughts on “In Stitches

  1. Great post! I’ve been following you guys for a while now and really enjoy reading your blog. Please keep the adventures coming!
    Paul.
    Ps: Glad to hear that Matt’s finger is going to be okay.

  2. Thanks Paul, we’re glad to have you along for the ride.! Yes, Matt’s finger is healing well. Still a nasty scar there, but it’s functioning.

  3. The back of water reminds me of deployments to Colombia. Good times 😉

    I had forgotten all about it. Also reminds me of yogurt in bottles that taste more like thick milkshakes with a different consistency. They were good to carry around to drink for breakfast.

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