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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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  #1  
Old 11-15-2009
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Seizures at Sea?

Age 56 and had a surprise seizure (on land). I'm coming to terms with this, but looking for advice on how this should affect my sailing.

Obviously that's single-handing out for the time being, if not forever. Fortunately I can always sail with crew competent enough, and need not take the helm. We always don life jackets when underway (it's simplest that way).

So, should I not sail at all (modern 36 foot sloop)? Sail (not now until April 2010 season anyway), but always hooked on?

Should a seizure at sea be Panpan'd?

Any experience / advice welcome.
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  #2  
Old 11-15-2009
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I have posted about this before based on an event that happened to me. At home on the way to the bathroom I got dizzy, lost some motor control and slumped against the wall. I did not fall and was OK in a couple of minutes. A week in the hospital found nothing wrong and it has not happed since. It got me to thinking what would happed if I was single handing.

But then I could have been driving, working on my roof, on a ladder or looking over the edge of a canyon.

My choice based on my risk it to continue to do what I want to do. Having another person on board certainly increases the odds in your favor however and that is the way I usually sail at this time.

If you are going to sail and you want to helm even if you have a seizure it is unlikely that your steering would be worse than mine when I trying to helm, eat and drink and adjust the GPS all at the same time.

Last edited by davidpm; 11-15-2009 at 12:45 PM.
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Old 11-15-2009
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A very personal decision to make. I'd agree with you that single handing is out for the time being and perhaps forever. Give up sailing? I wouldn't. What I would do is make certain that the person(s) I sail with are competent to take over command of the vessel. That includes your wife if you have one. I am constantly amazed at the husbands that do not permit their wives to handle the boat. At a minimum, she should be able to call for help on the VHF, start the engine, navigate safely avoiding obstacles and other vessels... and hopefully...ideally... be able to drop the sails and get to port. If she can't get into your slip, she should at least be able to land on a T-head or bulkhead. Anyone sailing with a wife that can't handle the boat may as well be sailing singlehanded.

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Old 11-15-2009
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Originally Posted by mgmhead View Post
A very personal decision to make. I'd agree with you that single handing is out for the time being and perhaps forever. Give up sailing? I wouldn't. What I would do is make certain that the person(s) I sail with are competent to take over command of the vessel. That includes your wife if you have one. I am constantly amazed at the husbands that do not permit their wives to handle the boat. At a minimum, she should be able to call for help on the VHF, start the engine, navigate safely avoiding obstacles and other vessels... and hopefully...ideally... be able to drop the sails and get to port. If she can't get into your slip, she should at least be able to land on a T-head or bulkhead. Anyone sailing with a wife that can't handle the boat may as well be sailing singlehanded.

MGM
I could not agree more. I was diagnosed with a heart condition last January. It's not going to stop me. But if you find me drifting, cold and slumped over the wheel, just know I died where I wanted to be.
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Old 11-15-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TiggerToo View Post
Age 56 and had a surprise seizure (on land). I'm coming to terms with this, but looking for advice on how this should affect my sailing.

Obviously that's single-handing out for the time being, if not forever. Fortunately I can always sail with crew competent enough, and need not take the helm. We always don life jackets when underway (it's simplest that way).

So, should I not sail at all (modern 36 foot sloop)? Sail (not now until April 2010 season anyway), but always hooked on?

Should a seizure at sea be Panpan'd?

Any experience / advice welcome.
You have made the first important decision by being honest with yourself and those around you. I had a client who indicated that he had once had a spell. He had two grand mal severe seizures in a row.

I would suggest always being tethered is a good move. A comfortable inflatable harness makes life quite enjoyable. Taking the helm is not a huge issue, unless docking presents hazards. You and your sailing partner(s) might want to learn single-handed docking methods.

Anytime someone loses consciousness a Mayday is in order unless you are close by a hospital. In my case I called 911 and the ambulance met us at the dock. My client spent the night in the hospital.

I was somewhat fortunate as I had worked in a hospital and seen / dealt with scores of seizures, including a status epilepticus. I am also an adventure medic.

You should teach people how to deal with a seizure. As you know there are many misconceptions about what to do.

Can you predict an onset? Do you get an aura? If so, you can just let everyone know and then get yourself into a safe secure place.

Enjoy the great outdooors.

Jack
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Old 11-15-2009
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I don't think I would stop single handing. It is easy to ponder all of the horrible situations you could be in when something like this happens, standing on deck changing a sail, up on the mast changing a light, etc, but how much time do you actually spend doing those things, and how likely is it that you'll have a seizure at that exact moment ? Maybe a good thought experiment is to put a watch in your pocket and set the alarm(s) on it to go off at different times during the day, then when the alarm goes off consider - how likely is it that you would have died if you had a seizure at the exact time that alarm goes off ? I bet the answer is, not very likely, except for one situation, and that situation is driving an automobile. I think the chances of that alarm going off when you're making some critical life and death decision on a boat, or standing on the edge of the boat taking a pee without a harness, are probably pretty unlikely. No, the alarm probably goes off when you're sitting there drinking a cold beverage considering nothing important at all, and if you were to pass out at that moment chances are you'd wake up sitting in the same place covered in cold beverage.
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Last edited by wind_magic; 11-15-2009 at 04:31 PM. Reason: sp
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Old 11-15-2009
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Old 11-15-2009
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seizure

Unforttunaetly the answer is uncertain. The highest risk for recurrence is in the first six months after the initial event( a lot depends on findings during the workup particuarly the EEG.
The longer ones go on treatment the risk is reduced but never 0. Sleep deprivation, alcohol, certain meds, illness, fever all lower the threshold and make seizure more likely.
The safest is to never sail alone and use life jacket.
drpc
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Old 11-15-2009
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do you tend towards seizures under stress or when relaxed?
are you stressed or relaxed at sea??
what are your triggers and are there such at sea--if not---prolly wouldnt be a problem...but if there is no rhyme nor reason to them --you would be s bit closer to statistic than otherwise--and take others with you ----be safe and make sure they are under control before sailing.....is not just your life....
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Old 11-15-2009
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i was sailing with a friend on his 40ft steel ketch. we were rolling & i was leaning back and watching the sails for a long time. when i got home & got out of the car i took a half dozen steps & fell flat on my face. i called my doctor and he examined me. it was caused by sediment in the semicircular ear canals & not a heart attack which caused me to lose my balance. they did some head positioning exercises which eliminated the problem. this was about 10 years ago.
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