14 November 2016 | St Anne, Martinique
It was strange. Sitting in the boat one evening, looking at my tablet, when I realised that I seemed to have floaters in my vision. On top of that, when I went to a less illuminated part of the boat, I had streaks of light in the periphery of my vision. This was very unsettling, so I did what most people do, and looked it up on Google.
My symptoms were pointing towards a retinal detachment, which was stated, in no uncertain terms, as an emergency situation. Shit. It was already about 8:30 at night, and I knew that the local hospital at Le Marin had pretty limited services. An in-call opthalmologist was probably not one if the available 24/7 services there.
We decided to get up early and seek help in the morning. This wasn't so bad, as we were in a mooring in Le Marin, rather than anchored out in St. Anne, so it wasn't a long dinghy trip at all.
Well, the hospital in Le Marin was certainly to the point when they said "we don't do eyes." Okay, so where do we go? We were told to go to the large general hospital closer to Fort de France, roughly 40 km away. All well and good, but how were we to get there? We realised that a rental car was far and away the most cost efficient method, but none of them would be open until 8:00 at the earliest.
We killed time with a coffee at the Boulangerie (we skipped it on the boat, wanting to expedite my getting help), and also by playing with one of the semi-feral kittens by the Marina office. We were both feeling stressed, but did a good job of playing it cool. The Marina office was great for information of where to go, but the car rental lady was late for work, so I wandered to find another option that was more sensitive to time. We found a place close by, open, and for about €16 less for the same class of car. Buh-bye Avis, you won't see us again.
I drove. Ken paid close attention to the route, as we thought I would be getting emergency eye surgery. I kept thinking that this may be the last time that I might drive, because if I lost my sight in one eye, I would lose the depth perception to drive. My vision was not compromised for driving, I promise that, but the floaters were certainly more pronounced and more numerous.
We found the exit off of the highway, and then missed the signs to the main campus of the hospital. We did find the Women's and Paediatric hospital, and I went in for directions. "We don't do eyes, you need the main campus." Yes, I had already ascertained that, so how do we get there?
We soon found it, and I went in to Urgences while Ken found a place to park the car. I have been to Emergency rooms quite a bit, both for myself and athletes that I worked with, and I was very surprised that there was no type of triage at all! You registered first, then waited to be seen on a first come, first served situation. If you arrived by ambulance, you had a faster track in.
Ken found me in he waiting room, and we kept our ears open. A nurse would poke her nose out from the inner sanctum and call a name. If you weren't paying attention, or weren't there, too bad.
We finally got in to see the triage nurse. This is where a little foresight on my part came in handy, pun not intended. My French is enough for the basics, but when it comes to medical stuff, the fine nuances of the signs and symptoms, as well as onset, are important. I had brought my tablet that has Google translate, which allows you to download the vocabulary of one language so you can use it off line. I typed in my signs and symptoms, with time of onset and also speed of progression, and handed it to the nurse. She read it, took it with her, and came back saying I would be going to see an opthalmologist shortly. I used this with the opthalmologist as well; he spoke English passably well, but this made it much easier to get to the meat of the matter.
So we were lead up to the Opthalmology department by a pleasant orderly. And then we waited. This was becoming increasingly disconcerting for me as I could see the progression. After another wait for the first come, first served clinic, we finally saw a very nice doctor. After a discussion of the history, and a look, he sent me out again to put drops into my eyes to dilate my pupil (so I only looked half stoned, or that I had a serious head trauma). He saw me again and started taking another good look, and when he said "it isn't the retina, it isn't serious" I was incredibly relieved.
It ends up it is a vitreous detachment. Same signs and symptoms, but not eyesight threatening. So I just have to put with more floaters until it finishes detaching.
But besides the car rental, it didn't cost us a thing.