A nightmare = getting injured in remote places. A blessing = a community coming together. Do you remember how the United States pulled together and stood as “one” a truly “united” country after 911? Where you were proud to help your neighbor and proud to be an American? I had that same feeling again (on a much smaller scale) with our local community here in Gambier.
Several boats were anchored near a small uninhabited motu called Tauna (pronounced Towna) which is about 7-8 miles from the main village of Rikitea. It takes a sail boat about 2-2.5 hours to get from Tauna to Rikitea.
A father of two girls was up early to foil board (kite boarding on a foil). He fell near his boat and was stung by a jelly fish. The father, now patient, had a severe allergic reaction. His friends brought him on his sail boat where he was ferociously vomiting and in extreme pain.
Sugar Shack was located in Rikitea. We first heard about the incident on our hand-held VHF radio. However, we only heard bits of the conversation because our handheld was not strong enough to receive the transmission. We turning on the ship VHF because it has a larger antenna and we could hear better. Not expecting to be able to do anything – just being curiously nosey.
Eve from “Auntie” was visiting us on Sugar Shack during this time which was around 0830. Nathan, a 14-year old boy on a neighboring yacht in Tauna, hailed us on the VHF (thank goodness we switched to the ship VHF). He asked if the physician was in at the clinic. Their plan was to bring the patient to Rikitea on their sail boat, which would take 2-2.5 hours. That’s a long time to be in severe pain. As I am communicating with them, Eve flags down a panga with 75hp outboard (super-fast). The men on the panga are part of the pearl farm community, we did not know them.
We were able to communicate the medical emergency using broken French. The panga had a dozen empty water jugs and a cooler in their panga. These items had to be removed and were quickly unloaded onto Sugar Shack. Matt jumped in with them to take them to take them to the patient at Tauna. The plan was to load the patient and bring him back to Rikitea in the panga. The panga can make this route in 15-minutes vs the 2-2.5 hours in a sail boat. Of course, this is in the midst of a rain storm and the arrival of the supply ship. But our community did not waiver.
With Matt on the way to the patient, I convey to Nathan (who is on a boat near the patient’s boat), that they should not head this way in their sail boat. I told him that a panga was on the way and will transport the patient and his family to the hospital.
The community jumps into action. I call my friend Stephan (local) and ask him to help me secure to take the patient from the dock to the hospital. He calls his friend at the gendarmerie (local police) and tells me they are on standby to help.
Another cruiser went to the hospital to tell the doctor a patient with a severe allergic reaction to a jelly fish sting was coming in and to be on standby.
And yet another cruiser went to the dock to wait for the panga to arrive to help load the patient into the vehicle.
In the meantime, it is still raining, the dock is getting more and more crowded in anticipation of the supply ship and we have no way to reach the panga to tell them we made transport arrangements on shore.
The VHF and the SSB are constantly in use as Sugar Shack becomes the central hub for all communications. We end up using the SSB radio to communicate with the boats in Tauna and use the VHF to communicate with shore. The community was calling me on three different VHF channels and the SSB trying to solidify arrangements.
About an 45 minutes after they left, I see the panga on the horizon and call everyone into action. It worked seamlessly. The transport and gendarmerie met them at the dock and rushed him to the waiting physician who was able to treat him and get him stable. He was released and feeling much better within 5 hours.
Once the patient was onboard his boat, he would not stop vomiting. He was in extreme pain. The patient’s wet clothes were removed just before the panga arrived. He was laying on the floor of his boat as they helped change him. This caused tremendous pain and his breathing became labored. His breathing was so bad that he almost stopped breathing. They gave him an epi pen injection which helped tremendously.
As the patient and his family were coming to Rikitea, one of his friend’s was hanging his swim trunks. He found a 3’-4’ barb / tentacle inside the patient’s shorts. They called me to tell the physician and family. Yikes!
The patient had massive welts all across his belly. The same panga brought him back to his boat and he was resting by evening.
The rain finally stopped and the community was able to retrieve packages, water, propane, and fuel from the supply ship with no delay.
The local community and the sailing community reacted quickly, efficiently, and professionally. It was one team coming together to provide aid and care for this human. It was so fulfilling to be a part of this community.
I did not have an opportunity to whip out my phone to take any photos which is why there are none for this blog. Imagine that?
Events from this blog post occurred on 9 February 2021. Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.