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Discussion Starter #1
I would like to start a thread where sailor's can recount stories of health issues they have had to address while at sea, or in ports other than at home.

I just begun recounting my own malaria, which I don't know where I contracted it, but which the symptoms showed up in Eritrea. The story is coming in six parts, at Sailing Faith: The Long Way Home beginning today, but here's a condensed version.

Sailing into Massawa, Eritrea, from Aden, Yemen, I was overcome with fever. Over 40 degrees in most parts, but over 104 degrees in our superior American system of weights and measures.

After two days, I was looked at by a doctor aboard a cruise ship that docked there, who suggested I get to a hospital. The first test results came back negative, but when I did make it the the UN Hospital in Asmarra, Eritrea's capital, their tests showed positive. The UN doctors were good, the hospital was run by the Jordanian Military. Eritrea didn't have a very good drug inventory, so after three days, they told my wife I should evacuate to Cairo, where life-support equipment was available, if I needed it.

It was in Cairo that I was treated with good drugs, and after three days they let me out of the hospital, weakened substantially, to work on getting a visa to reenter Eritrea. It took a week for the visa, but I was able to join my family again for our journey up the Red Sea.

By the way, the UN charged US$125 per day, including everything, x rays, drugs, food, etc. The hospital in Cairo was for profit, and since I wasn't Egyptian, I had to pay full price. The bill for three days, x-rays, drugs, blood work, ultrasound, and everything else came to US$475, and they made money on me.
 

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Aquaholic
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This looks to be an interesting topic, if we can keep it on topic :hothead

PLEASE ;) Can we NOT let this one turn into a political discussion? :D

As someone planning on sailing away in a few years to parts unknown; I'd like to hear some things about what the OP asked about.
 

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Aquaholic
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LOL, Original Poster that would be you. ;-)
 

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Aquaholic
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Awesome BLOG, by the way
 

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While fishing in the Bering Sea, with the crew, I've had to deal with broken arms, a bad concussion, Diabites, rusty metal sliver imbeded in the eye, and a bleeding kidney for a start. Plus a few cuts deep & shallow. A Doctor I do not want to be, but am a fair med tech.
Myself? A heart episode or two or was it three? Now have two stents, and been roto rootered about three times. The first one was when We were in Fourchon LA. during stormy weather. Had to go by Ambulance, It was too windy for life flight. And I swear that those Ambuance drivers hit every single pot hole and bump in the road during the forty-five mile trip to the Hospital...then transferred to another hospital in New Orleans and it was a seventy mile trip and must have been the same driver.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Boasun, ouch on the potholes.
I had opportunity to ride a ferry two hours through 2 meter seas to get to a clinic with my four (or more) broken ribs, and one broken shoulder blade. I was getting from Langkawi Malaysia to Kedah Medical Center on the Malaysia mainland. It was one of those all too common fits of stupidity, in which I crashed the scooter I was riding.
I'll blog that one sometime in the future.
Gregg
Sailing Faith: Home Page
Gregg
 

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Wife fell off a horse in Barbados.
Hospital check-out, xrays, medication and everything came to about 40$. And they wouldn't let me pay on the spot - they sent me a bill! I couldn't decide whether it was for 40 US or 40 Barbados, so I just made the check out for 40$. Someone figured it out, I guess.

The medication they gave her was so good that we carried her into the hospital and were dancing on our hotel room balcony that night........whatta memory!:laugher
 

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Got a 1/2 inch drill bit a little too close to my finger while trying to tinker with the mount for my GPS antenna. Needless to say, it chewed it up pretty good. Took myself to the hospital in St Thomas which is an experience in of itself. The doctor who was stitching me up had to leave once to tend to a gunshot wound that had just been drug by my room by a family member. When the doctor finally came back she sent the nurse after a drug to numb my hand. The nurse soon returned with "We're out of that doctor, what's your next choice?" All of this was after sitting in the waiting room of the ER for an hour and a half with my hand bleeding considerably. Oh well..I survived and still have all my fingers.
 

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Malaria eh? I had that, but I know where I got it: SE Asia in '68.

Back on topic - We believe in preventive practices when it comes to health so we both exercise and eat as healthy as possible. We practice good personal hygiene to avoid contracting or spreading disease and drink immune boosting herbal teas. So far it has paid off. At 58 my doctor said that "For a thirty year old you are in excellent health".

Accident avoidance is the second component of preventive health practices. We always use appropriate safety gear, eye protection, hearing protection, helmets, harnesses, tethers etc. We plan and take our time and have inviolable safety rules at sea. For example:
  • no one goes to the foredeck without a tether
  • no one leaves the cockpit unless two are on deck
  • always tethered at night except in the cabin.
  • PFD worn always when leaving or arriving at a dock or when anchoring
One thing I missed was sun avoidance. (Well, I did live in Hawaii for thirty years) I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma last year. Luckily, two surgical procedures later, I am fine but I will have to keep an eye on the old hide. If left untreated it is a killer and is unresponsive to chemo and radiation. If not removed surgically before it metastasizes into the lymphatic system you're toast.

I admit to being a "Health nut" because if you don't have your health, you have nothing.
 

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Aquaholic
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Faith, did you use anti-malarial prophylaxis when in malaria areas?

I ask because I just this afternoon got confirmation that I will be traveling to equatorial Africa late next month for business.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Regarding anti-malarials

We crossed the Pacific, and used doxyciclin (?) where the World Health Organization's guide told us we ought to. Doxy wreaks havoc on the stomach, and causes strong reactions to exposure to the sun. We were supposed to take it one week before, all the time there, and two weeks following our departure. The trouble we encountered was that by the time we got to those areas, Vanuatu specifically, and took it as prescribed, we were also running out of ozone. During the time after we left Vanuatu, through New Caledonia, and into Australia, we were in an area where there is practically no ozone, and five minutes of sun exposure turned us beet red. We weren't inclined to want to do that again. I'm not sure I would do it any differently if we had it to do over.

It was there, after completing that regimen, that we decided that we'd try to avoid mossies rather than go through that again.

I am currently posting a blog on our trials during my time with malaria at http://faithofholland.com/wordpress/

One bit of advice is that we had the meds on board, but didn't actually know I had malaria until we got to the UN Hospital. If you're going to areas where malaria is present, I'd have some sort of antibiotic, Vibramycin is what they treated me with, for any other things that might develop in my weakened state, and Fansider, once a week. Most pharmacies in Indonesia sell it over the counter. I think it's available in the US by perscription. It would be good to have on board, and even better, to know when to use it.

I've heard there's an even better drug than Fansider, but is not available in the US.

Another tidbit: tell Western doctors to look for it specifically. We had a friend who developed his symptoms in Australia, and mentioned he'd been to Vanuatu several times, but after several days, he finally forced the issue to be tested when his symptoms were present, and they discovered it. Western doctors don't see it much, if ever, and often don't even think to look for it.

Gregg
Sailing Faith: Home Page
 

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I guess I could do several spin offs from this thread or write a book or something. Im am preparing to cut loose from Mass as soon as possible. But one problem I have is my health insurance. its Harvard Pilgrim, its great in Mass. but thats the only place Im covered. They cover emergencies out of area(dont know about out of country) but not primary care things. Im keeping it because it doesn't cost anything for me to have it.

How do you handle daily things like colds and flu, or emergency room visits. Also what countries that are potential southern destinations have the best free or heavily subsidized -good- health care.

or to make it simpler - What country outside of the US that would be the best to have a heart attack that need an angioplasty or bypass in? or a broken leg or an abscess tooth.

There was another thread I was reading about making money underway and that there was a need for tech workers in place like the Caymans - what kind of insurance can you get there or is it socialized medicine there?

I guess a list of countries with health care ratings, procedures, and costs would be kind of a necessity.

Medical expenses when I get older is one of the key reason Im looking to leave the US. One good heart attack here and youre in the hole 30k or more and that's with insurance. Im not too keen on moving to canada or france either.

Also does anyone carry a heartstart on board?
 

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Just a coupe of small things

When we went to te US to fetch our bat two years ago we took out med insurance. It was broken down into 3 rates. One for the US, one for the trip while at sea and one for the assorted South Pacific Islands. The rate for while we wer in the US was double the next lower rate.

Back to injuries. Chopped off fingers happen more often than one would expect. The most common one thought I think is broken ribs. I have had that twice at sea. The solution is actally simple in both these instances because the doc will do the same as what you would do. Strap it up and look after it.

One thing that I suffer from at sea is psoriasis which I got the first time years ago from having my feet constantly wet for long periods without being able to dry them (don't ask). It first appeared on my feet and then spread to around my knees. When treated (easily done) it appears to go away and for long periods you will think it has gone but it comes back with amazing regularity. I have been told that once you have had it you will always have it. Not dangerous but can be really uncomfortable. Its itchy (often confused with athletes foot) but the real discomfort comes from thickening of the skin which can reach alarming proportions. On one voyge I had it so bad on my feet that when I went ashore I couldn't walk.
 

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And up til now, my major nightmare experience has been dental.

Rough sea passage, shorthanded and a screamingly painful tooth that had split right down the middle to the root...Oh yeah.

Enough pain that you suddenly become prone to sea-sickness, the runs and a whole bunch of other stuff that had never bothered you before.

Alex.
 

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We were in Honduras waiting (and waiting and WAITING) for a weather window. Dan was taking a newer anti-malarial drug - he couldn't take the ordinary quinine-based (?) drug that everyone uses due to potential problems with a recent surgery. We had brought enough for the trip plus 2 weeks extra supply as buffer ... and given our looooong wait for weather, we would be cutting it close.

So we tried to buy more of the drug in LaCeiba while we were waiting for weather. You don't need a prescription for the generic antimalarial in Honduras, a 30-day supply costs about $5 - guess their gov't is more interested in keeping the population healthy. But our designer American antimalarial? Nowhere to be found. I speak basic Spanish, and the people in Honduras were wonderful - we found a taxi driver who took us to a pharmacy where they had a catalog to convert drug names English-Spanish, but no luck. Then a bigger pharmacy, then the local hospital, all in vain.

Moral of the story? People were great and really tried to help. Maybe it would have been different if we'd had the Spanish name for this drug before we left the US, maybe not. Next time we'll figure out how much drug we need for a trip, add a couple week buffer, pack a little more, then double it.
 

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I know I'm resurrecting an old thread but it isn't a year old so maybe it will be okay.

I suffer from chronic low back pain due to mild scholiosis. Having a desk job (sitting all the time) really aggravates it. Does anyone have chronic pain such as this? I am wondering if the exercise of sailing and swimming might help. I'm not on daily pain medication or anything like that. It just "goes out" very easily and so we're hoping that strengthening it would keep that from happening so much. I do see a chiropractor regularly and will talk to him about all this before we commit to anything more definite.
 
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