The Caribbean cooking post that wasn’t

The Caribbean cooking post that never got off the ground

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I was all prepared to write a colorful Caribbean, cooking in a miniature kitchen with fresh local produce while living on a sailboat post, but instead you must hear about my two days in the hospital. And no I do not expect you to feel sorry for me because that is not the point. I promise I will get to the point eventually. I was all packed with my kitchen essentials for cooking in a galley (minuscule) kitchen; think camp stove, a 2 inch counter top, ice box, dull knives, a small charcoal grill off the stern, hard tack and rum.
Classic camping on water scenario

How to pack for a sailing and cooking adventure

I threw in a few bathing suits, shorts, T-shirts and a passport, but that’s not the important stuff. For cooking I packed a small cutting board, a couple of homemade spice mixes and a TSA approved corkscrew (in case of pirates). I was forced to leave my favorite chef’s knife at home because we were traveling light with carry on baggage only. The possibility of seeing a checked baggage arriving after 5 flights, 3 countries and 2 airlines seemed remote. I had preordered a box of local tropical seasonal produce and a selection of whatever fish was available. I dreamed of creating a tropical salsa and grilled fish rubbed with a perfectly piquant jerk seasoning while watching my sons frolic in a sea kayak under a peach colored tropical sunset. Please take a moment to savor the photos that you will never see. I’ll wait. Nice, right? You’re welcome for that tropical moment.

Now the real story

Two days before my scheduled departure for the sailing/cooking adventure, I was awaken at zero dark thirty with excruciating abdominal pain. Because I thought I was dying, which is the only reason to go to an ER in my opinion; I waited 6 more hours and then went to the emergency department, with the shortest wait time. Who knew you could check wait times on your smart phone? In theory it’s a great idea, but that might not be the wisest criteria to use when picking a hospital but I was sick and sick people make stupid decisions. Never listen to a sick person making irrational decisions. Just put them in the car and drive them to the best ER on their insurance.

I may not be a great patient

I confess that I am not the best patient but I did patiently tell my story over and over again to 4 nurses and 4 physicians. I followed everyone’s orders like a good girl until the last day in the hospital when a new phlebotomist tried to draw blood out of a nerve (and yes it does hurt as much as you would guess) at which point I politely threw her out of my room. I was sick and sleep deprived. Ok, yes and I’m a bad patient. IV fluids, antibiotics and sleep deprivation apparently cured me or at least entertained me until I got better on my own. I am home now and I think I know what was wrong with me and I think I understand my discharge instructions. I’m also alive with all of my body parts intact so that’s good.

Lessons learned

1) Go to the best hospital that is preferred by your insurance. You should know that before you get sick. Go check it out now.
2) Be prepared to tell your story. Why, when, how long, what is your immediate concern?
3) Be polite and ask what the plan is and what to expect. Several times if needed until you understand.
4) Be prepared to see several different doctors and nurses and to tell you story again and again. I actually don’t mind re-telling my story because someone might hear the part that let’s them solve the diagnostic mystery.
5) Ask questions! Who are you and what are you giving me or where are you taking me? I always introduce myself to patients so I was quite surprised that there were people wandering around the hospital doing things to and for you without introducing themselves first. Weird, right? I was actually astounded by this when it happened to me more than once. “Uh, hello who are you?”
6) If your family wants to stay by your side and watch you sleep then let them. Just be sick and let them help you. Everyone needs an advocate and a second set of ears when they are sick, even doctors.
7) The RN is your new best friend. She is the eyes, ears and hands of your physician. She also has the sharp objects and the keys to get the best drugs. I repeat. She is your best friend and ally. Thank her every chance you get. The medical assistant is your second best friend. She is the eyes and ears of your RN and controls the water pitcher, ice chips and the stuff a hospital calls food.
8) Don’t think for a minute that you can heal in a hospital. It’s a great place to get diagnosed and saved from imminent death but you will go home to heal. You will not rest. The staff will wake you up every time you get to sleep for another vital sign check, blood test, medication, etc. Be nice and they might let you sleep an extra hour without disturbing you. Be a jerk and … let’s just say you can’t win a battle with the night shift. Repeat after me, “I will sleep and heal when I get home. The hospital staff is trying to help me get home alive.”
9) Make sure you understand your discharge instructions because it will be your job to make the appointments for follow up with the specialist or primary care physician. I don’t think anyone actually cares what you do after you leave the hospital. Just saying. Be assertive. “I was just discharged from the hospital and I was told that I needed to be seen this week, this month, etc.” Unfortunately this only works if you have a relationship with an established practice. GET ESTABLISHED! Don’t wait until you’re sick and need that emergency follow up.

My take home lessons and perhaps the point of this rant are:

Always buy trip insurance for expensive trips. Period. I did not plan to get sick but luckily I had purchased travel insurance. The other advantage of travel insurance is that you are insuring that you can get transported back to the U.S. if needed for treatment. I am extremely grateful that this illness did not occur in the middle of the Caribbean on a sailboat with only a corkscrew and rum available for emergency surgery. Write this down. The RN is your new best friend. Do everything in your power to stay healthy so you can avoid hospitals and painful medical procedures.
What’s a habit you can change to stay healthy?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Sorry to hear you’ve been through all this. Hope you’ll have a short recovery. Thanks for all the tips. You’re right, we don’t think enough of such things when all goes well….

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    1. Tracey says:

      Thank you for your well wishes. I did not like being in the bed vs. beside the bed.

      Like

  2. Blain says:

    I’m very glad you are on your way to better. As writers say, nothing bad ever happens, just material… Good advice dispensed with humor is always the best. Thank you. Sorry about the trip, though. I, too was looking forward to your thoughts on Caribbean food.

    Like

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