Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sept 30 - Oct 5th, 2010 - a Surprise Encounter and Medical Treatment in Noumea

Fate dealt us a sweet surprise as we were sailing into the pass at Baie du Prony; we literally met Ivory Quays approaching from the east. They had made an overnight passage from Beautemps Beaupres. They followed us in and joined us at a small island called Casy, which offers free moorings. It is a beautiful little marine preserve, as are many of these areas in NC. There is a defunct resort there and some quaint walking trails. We spent two nights with them there enjoying the little island. It was quite hot after our walks so Frank and the others enjoyed a nice swim and snorkel in the pretty little bay. I had been advised to stay out of the water until my condition had been assessed, and besides there was no way I could get a mask on my face without suffering. We had emailed the Port Moselle Marina office a few days ago asking for a medical referral but had received no response from anyone, so on Friday I used the Sat Phone to call them. They explained to me that I would have to go to the hospital for an examination because it would actually be less expensive and more efficient than to try to get in to see a doctor who would undoubtedly refer me to the hospital for tests. My best bet was to just go there when we arrived in Noumea. So that is what we did. We arrived on Sunday afternoon and anchored in Baie del'Orphelinat along with Ivory Quays. There was some pretty high wind and chop in the bay, so we settled in, had a late lunch, packed our backpacks with books to read (for the waiting room) and then at 3:30 PM went in search of the hospital.

Noumea's hospital is interesting to say the least. We think it might be post-WWII. Everything is painted white. On approach it reminded me of the asylums I have seen in old movies. Parts of the buildings looked dilapidated and abandoned, yet other areas appeared to be operational. In several nooks and doorways locals seemed to be just loitering about as if on a downtown street corner. Don't know what that was about. As we entered the ER, I had difficulty trying to figure out where to go and to whom I should speak. There were lots of people milling about and they all wore white. I had that flash again in my head that maybe I was in a nut ward! I couldn't find anyone to speak to who could understand what we needed. NO ONE SPOKE ENGLISH. Finally a lady who was checking in for back surgery turned to me and said that she would interpret for me. I wanted to throw my arms around her and never let her go. She spoke good English, and after explaining "me" in French to several members of the medical staff, I was directed to a window for registration. I was asked for my Passport. I didn't have it on me. So a woman slid me a piece of paper and told me to write my name and home address and email address on it, then I was told to sit. We sat and read our books for 3 hours, while seriously injured and infirm patients were escorted and rolled past. I knew I had a long wait ahead of me so just took it in stride and tried not to stare at some of the really strange injuries that were coming in the door. As I mentioned, everything is white. But there was a lot of red. Blood. Smeared on floors, walls, and chairs. People came in bleeding but no one cleaned up after them. I decided if I had to use the toilet I'd rather pee myself rather than use their facility.

After a couple of hours a nurse came for me, she was Portuguese French but spoke much better English than my attempted French. She took me to an examination room where she ripped a dirty cloth off the vinyl covered table, scrubbed it with something wet, covered it with another cloth and directed me to lie down. I felt dampness down my backside and had a very difficult time feeling at ease. She got the preliminaries out of the way: questions about my accident and injuries, how much pain was I in, took my temp and BP and then left me there for an indeterminate amount of time. She returned, giving me something fizzy to drink, for pain. She raised the bed to let me sit up and then she left again. I wished I had my book it was a really good book and I had much more waiting ahead.

Finally in came the doctor. He was so good looking that I nearly stuttered when he spoke to me. I sat there thinking I should have worn makeup and fixed my hair. How stupid am I? I was beginning to feel ditzy from the fizzy drink but finally, after a week of knife-sharp pain in my left temple there was relief. I found later it was 1000mg of paracetamol, which I am told is the equivalent of our Tylenol. The doctor poked and prodded my head and face, confirming that my nose had broken but that it was healing and if I wanted anything done about that I'd need a plastic surgeon. I took a pass on that. He then ran some other tests, and told me that I definitely have an infection in my sinuses but that he wanted me to have a CT Scan to rule out internal injuries. At this point I asked if Frank could come in with me. The doctor nodded,saying it was no problem and left .

A few minutes later Frank bopped into the room. As always, Frank made himself completely at home and spent the waiting time browsing the various items in bins and on the shelves in case he saw something interesting he might feel warranted further inspection. Eventually a giant of a man dressed in scrubs that were at least 2 sizes too small came for me with a wheelchair that looked like one my great grandmother may have used. I began to worry about the state of the radiology department. He wheeled me at warp speed down a corridor, zipping around corners, out into the night, across a cobblestone road, down a sidewalk, across another road and into a building. Frank had to quick step it to keep up. I was really dizzy after that ride, and when they asked me to stand up to get onto the table in Radiology, I did a little spin nearly falling down. They didn't muck about. I was immediately strapped in, told not to move and the scan began. Before I even got back into the wheelchair and out of the room, Frank was given the OK sign by the technician. Thank God! Shortly, a more humane intern arrived to transport me back to the ER treatment area to await my physician's report. I was parked there with several very sick and injured looking patients on gurneys. I actually felt guilty for even being there. We eventually got word from the doc that, thank goodness, my CT scan was good and I just needed to be treated for an infection that had lodged in my sinuses. He then passed me a handful of prescriptions for antibiotics, a steroidal anti-inflammatory and the pain medication. He assured me that within 3 days I would be feeling much better. He said that we should return the next day to pick up the CT scan results. We then waited at the window to pay and were told the computers had been turned off so we could just come back the next day to pay. Would this EVER happen in the USA? I think not. In fact regardless of appearances, Frank and I were quite impressed with the staff and their efficiency once they got me into the treatment room. We arrived back on Destiny at 9:30 PM. It was a little late for dinner so we just went to bed.

We returned to the hospital the next day to pick up my CT report and pay the bill. Unfortunately, we were not prepared to have to wait this time and spent 2 ½ hours waiting for someone to even talk to us. No one seemed to be able to understand what we wanted. This time there was no angel of mercy there to interpret for me. Frank was getting annoyed that he couldn't even pay the bill. Again, this would NEVER happen in the US. To shorten a very long story, we eventually got the films and the report and then they happily took our Visa card. What is more amazing is that the bill for all of the services came to less than $800 (USD).

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

No comments: