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  #1  
Old 01-14-2013
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Getting to enjoy the benefits of the South African healthcare system

Forget about pirates or running into containers, the biggest danger while cruising is getting sick or injured. I am typing this from my hospital bed in Mossel Bay. It can all chage very quickly indeed.

We've been tied up to a fishing dock since the small yacht club here didn't have a spare dock for us. The tidal current and surge with any version of easterly winds here is quite violent pushing the boat around too much rubbing the big tires on the dock that finally damaged the rub rail and tore out lots of screws on the metal piece that protects the teak

Saturday night, the situation was extremely bad with strong south westerly and very low tide so that our fenders and fender board were getting caught below the tire. in trying to get things under control my left hand got caught between the rub rail and the rubber tire.

The ambulance first took us to the public hospital when hearing that we don't have travel insurance. However the hospital doesn't have right facilities (24 hour xray and specialists on call) to treat me accordingly, so we decided to try the private hospital which is very fancy and well-equipped and pricey, but not by US standards, more by cruiser standards.

After suffering a painful (even with Morphine - that stuff is not as good as the movies suggest), sleepless night, I finally got operated on by an orthopedic surgeon who apparently is well -known for his work on hands Sunday morning. I have afracture on the bone near where the little finge joins the hand. This is not a big deal, according to the surgeon. The major issue is that much soft tissue and skin on both side of the palm was torn badly, and the skin was peeled back (it is technically called "de-gloving" in the orthopedics trade. Not a nice limage). The surgeon cleaned the wound thoroughly (it was very dirty, think of the black tyre) and sutured everything back (he said he lost count of the stitches after 50). Will be in the hospital for 4 or 5 days. The concern now is whether the skin will survive. The parts that peeled were put back in place and the quesion is whether that are viable. If not then skin grafts would be needed. Miraculously this messy injury didn't hurt the nerves and ligaments, a full function recovery is expected.

As for the sailing part, we don't know when we can start again and we can't plan ahead for now since we don't know how his recovery is going to be. I've been trying my best to get his mind off worry stuff like that at the moment. We have crew arranged from Cape Town to the Caribbean so as long as my hand has stabilized it should be fine since we will have five hands on board. I can stand watches and make decisions. I can also reef the main, the jib would be hard. If the skin grafts are needed we will likely haul here, get the graphs done in Canada and come back next year.

Lots of lessons about being extra careful even when you are safety-conscious and the idea that you can cruise on $xxx a month, but you better have an emergency fund when you need it. So far we have paid $4000+, but have not paid the doctors yet.
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Old 01-14-2013
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Re: Getting to enjoy the benefits of the South African healthcare system

Ouch!

Take care. Be careful about going offshore with a medical issue. Have you seen my our videos of our evacuation north of Hawaii last summer? I also have the text of an article that I wrote for Pacific Yachting.
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Old 01-14-2013
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Getting to enjoy the benefits of the South African healthcare system

Thank you very much for posting this. These are the things that can easily be overlooked when trying to calculate the cost of cruising. I will be leaving in approx 4 yrs with insurance (hopefully). But, I'm sure, it will only be good in the US. I'll have to look into what I can do to be covered outside the US. My guess is nothing. What do others do? By the way, very sorry for your injury. Really hope you get back on your feet soon. But, in the meantime, let your crew do the work for a while......have a margarita!!
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Old 01-14-2013
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Re: Getting to enjoy the benefits of the South African healthcare system

Very sorry to hear that and I wish you a speedy recovery.

Infection would be my biggest concern, particularly for heading offshore any time soon.
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Old 01-14-2013
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Re: Getting to enjoy the benefits of the South African healthcare system

Quote:
Originally Posted by killarney_sailor View Post
Forget about pirates or running into containers, the biggest danger while cruising is getting sick or injured.

The ambulance first took us to the public hospital when hearing that we don't have travel insurance. However the hospital doesn't have right facilities (24 hour xray and specialists on call) to treat me accordingly, so we decided to try the private hospital which is very fancy and well-equipped and pricey, but not by US standards, more by cruiser standards.
Really sorry to hear of your injury - that's the variable that can make a huge difference to everything on a cruising boat. I hope it all works out well.

Having grown up and spent most of my life in South Africa and having seen the changes that have happened there, heard reports from friends and family (I've been gone for ten years), the lack of facilities in the public hospitals is the least of the problems. Those hospitals are really not the best in medical care and the surgery is just a part of that. The standards of hygiene, nursing standards and so on are frightfully low.

I chopped a finger off two years ago and it was put back together (in New Zealand) and it is now functioning 95% so you will hopefully also make a decent recovery. Surgery today is really rather good.

Good luck with the repairs
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Old 01-14-2013
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Re: Getting to enjoy the benefits of the South African healthcare system

Wow... Sorry about your injuries.

Tell em you want Dilaudid... it works much better than Morphine.

Not to be a kill joy, but by your descriptions of your injuries my opinion is that you should mentally prepare yourself for having to haul out there and fly back to Canada.
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Old 01-14-2013
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Re: Getting to enjoy the benefits of the South African healthcare system

Ouch..... Sorry to hear about this. Hope it is just money and a little pain, but a speedy and full recovery on the way.

Morphine is good. It is most likely your doctor did not give you high enough dose. Studies after studies, we found that most doctors prescribe sub-therapeutic dose to their patients. Go back and ask for a higher dose and use around the clock, don't take it as needed. BTW, make sure he gives you stool softener too. Morphine will plug you up real well. LOL.

My nephew is the best hand surgeon in NYC. He practices in Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. I have seen many of his work which is magic and an art form. If you are back to the States and need follow up, let me know. He does lot of pro-Bono work when a patient has no insurance. He is a good kid.
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Old 01-14-2013
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Re: Getting to enjoy the benefits of the South African healthcare system

Sorry to hear of your mishap. Thank goodness you were in a country area which could give you good care, You are strong and wil recover to continue your journies and travels.
Heal well and stay safe. God bless.

Dave
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Old 01-14-2013
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Re: Getting to enjoy the benefits of the South African healthcare system

Ouch.... Ouch.... and ouch again!

Hope all heals well, and soon... but this kind of injury can have a very variable recovery time, esp for full function.. often one of those things that, even if functional doesn't 'feel' right for a long long time.

Thanks for letting us know.. at least you were able to get prompt treatment.
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Re: Getting to enjoy the benefits of the South African healthcare system

Yikes, that hurts just to read it... really sorry to hear of this, my best wishes for the best possible outcome...

Consider yourself to be at the forefront of a new paradigm for cruisers: Namely, the use of cruising boats for Medical Tourism, which I am afraid will become increasingly more common for us Americans... (grin)

Your story is also a sobering reminder of the dangers that can occur when dockside, especially on boats the size of yours... Some of the forces that can be involved, one can get hurt very easily...

Best of luck, take it easy down there...
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