Tuesday, January 25, 2005

January 25, 2005 - Pat Henry, the first American Woman to Circumnavigate the World Solo via the Canals

Author: Scott and Pam

It seems we meet interesting people almost every day, but today we had the thrill of meeting and sharing stories with Pat Henry, the first American Woman to Circumnavigate the World Solo via the Canals. She left Acapulco, Mexico in 1989 and spent eight plus years traveling the world. She has been living in Puerto Vallarta since she returned seven and a half years ago with ten dollars to her name. After her return she spent four and a half years writing her book By the Grace of the Sea, which we are looking forward to reading. She told us completing her book project left as big a gap in her life to fill as the circumnavigation. We talked a bit about what do you do after you complete the biggest challenge and adventure of your life. I have given this question some thought, but I am not even close to an answer. I am pretty sure it will fall into the cross that bridge when you get to category. For now, I am enjoying living in the moment. Last November Pat started a sailing school for women here in PV. She is sharing her experience and skills with the hope of creating an environment that is comfortable for woman and the opportunity to default to the males on board doesn’t exist. She is teaching the classes on her 31’ cutter Southern Cross. She is a dynamic, engaging and fun person and we look forward to the next opportunity to learn more about her voyage. Check out Pat’s websites at www.pat-henry.com and www.coming-about.com.

Monday, January 24, 2005

January 24, 2005 – Scott’s Gallbladder

Author: Pam

A side note to Scott’s account of his experience in the hospital. At San Javier Hospital if you are waiting for a patient in surgery you can wait in their room. It was a new experience for me to be in the room when Scott was wheeled in after surgery, both times. While I was waiting for him to come rolling in after his gallbladderectomy, Dr. Lujan (his surgeon) came in to let me know everything went fine and that if he was feeling well enough he could be discharged that evening. He then proceeded to show me a small jar and with a straight face and very seriously said “Scott’s Gallbladder.” Now what do you say to that, especially when it catches you completely off guard, you don’t speak Spanish and Dr. Lujan speaks very little English? My response was something like, “ewew” and knowing me I probably made a face. I was so taken aback I honestly didn’t get a good look, but as I sat there thinking about what just happened I thought for sure Scott must have asked him to put it in a jar for him (he had mentioned it several times), so I thought I would get another chance. After Dr. Lujan left the room I sat there by myself for ten minutes laughing almost in hysterics. I had to get a grip, I was sure someone would walk by and see this woman sitting by herself laughing with tears streaming down her face and think she had lost her mind completely. Well, as it turned out Scott had not asked for his gallbladder to be put in a jar and it did not materialize again. I am now not sure if Dr. Lujan’s intention was to give it to me, but since he got less than a positive response he changed his mind or if he was just sharing. It is making me want to giggle right now just recalling this very serious Dr. standing beside me presenting me with something I am not likely to ever see again in my life. Scott is very sad because he never got to see it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

January 19, 2005 – Toro!

Author: Scott

Today leaves me with a slew of mixed emotions. I knew before embarking on this voyage that we would encounter cultural differences that would challenge my belief systems that have largely developed from my experiences living in San Francisco. Though I like to believe that I judge each new experience with clear objectivity, it is also safe to say that over time I have drifted to a fairly liberal viewpoint. So, today’s experience was quite a step away from my comfort zone.

A few weeks back as Abe, Amy, Pam and I rode in a PV taxi past the Plaza de Toros (bullfight ring) a discussion on the ethics of bullfighting ensued. Before any of us could climb up on our soapbox and pontificate endlessly on the cruelty of bullfighting, Abe was quick to point out the history and tradition of bullfighting in Spain and Mexico. We all held our tongues as Abe explained to us a little about the sport and his experiences attending bullfights as a child living in Mexico City. I decided that before I could condemn any aspect of a foreign culture I should experience things firsthand, and so it was decided that Abe and I would take in a bullfight.

First, bullfighting is not an inexpensive spectators sport. Abe and I each had to plunk down 300 pesos (about $30). The bullring itself was smaller than I had imagined with searing for about one thousand surrounding an outer fence that separates the crowd from the inner ring. There were venders selling everything from beer to cotton candy. We found our seats and as we settling in an American woman who looked as if she would be comfortable at a monster truck show or any WWF match told us that we were in the “blood and guts section”. With excitement in her voice she also let us k now that she had waited years to come to the bullfights. We looked around and we were surprised to see that the crowed consisted almost completely of Americans and Canadians. We arrived a few minutes late and the first bullfight was already underway. Abe told me that the fight was in the second phase. There are four phases to a bullfight. In phase one the bull emerges into the ring and the Matador and his helpers use red capes to provoke the bull to charge and display the spirit of the bull. We could feel the stands shutter beneath us as the bulls waited to enter the ring. In phase two, riders on horseback come into the ring and prod the back of the bull with spears to weaken the bull for the final face off. In phase three the Matador or his helpers pierce the back of the bull with banderillas (sticks with a sharp metal point) to further tire and weaken the bull. Finally in phase four the Matador faces the bull one-on-one. During the final phase the Matador lures the bull for a number of close passes that displays the Matador’s bravery to the crowd. After these passes the Matador brandishes his sword from behind his cape and ideally delivers a well placed killing blow. On rare occasions the bull is quicker than the Matador and emerges victorious, and even more rarely the bull will be spared because it displays an uncommon degree of ferocious will.

As Abe and I sat though four bullfights the crowd became more animated probably correlating with the more cervezas consumed. The Matadors skill level varied greatly. Only one of the four Matadors displayed what I considered to be skill and bravery, while the least skilled Matador was so untrained that I was greatly bothered with the excruciatingly slow and clumsy final kill.

After witnessing the bullfights and having some time to reflect on our experience I have come to some conclusions. First, I can appreciate the tradition and bravery of trained Matadors. Our experience gave us a glimmer of the valor and ceremony we may have witnessed in Mexico City or Spain, but my impression of the bullfights presented to us in Puerto Vallarta was that of a cheapened second rate tourist trap profiting off the curiosity and zest for violence and blood that is too often present in us all. I further think that the history of bullfighting should be preserved in museums and that this is a tradition that’s time should come to an end. I am thankful that I had Abe with me to educate me, I am sure that my experience was much more complete than the others in the audience around me.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Journal Entry – January 17, 2005 – My gizzards want out, or the alien that exploded in my stomach!

Author: Scott

Wow, what an amazing experience these past ten days have been! Just ten days ago we were out on a day sail in Bandaras Bay with Mike, Randy, and Patti who were all visiting PV, and I was climbing the mast like a monkey and hanging upside-down from the wind steering gear like a bat, and then wham just a day and a half later I ended up flat on my ass in a foreign hospital with a ruptured appendix, peritonitis, and a liver infection!

After sailing on Saturday December 15 we all went to dinner at Fajita Republic and feasted on fajitas and mango margaritas. When the meal was finished I noted that I felt unusually filled to the brim, but I just chalked this up to my voracious appetite, since I can often eat like a hog. As we headed back to the condo this sensation of a full stomach increased to a bursting point and I started to feel a little off, so I was looking forward to finding my bed for a long night’s sleep.

I woke around four in the morning feeling quite ill, with a terrible stomach ache. As I lay there wondering if I had come down with some kind of travelers flu I was hit out of nowhere with a terrible chill. I started to shake uncontrollably and then I broke out in a cold sweat. A few minutes later I became violently sick to my stomach and yet I still thought that I had flu. Eventually the chills subsided and I fell back into a fitful sleep.

All the next day I laid around in bed sure that my flu would pass, I was certain it was the twenty-four hour variety, and that soon I would be back to my frisky old self. I was also trying to get my energy back so that I could be part of Pam’s birthday celebration. We had decided to celebrate on Sunday since Mike, Randy, and Patti were in town and Dwayne was flying in and would arrive in tine for the birthday bash. Imagine that, here we are in Puerto Vallarta and we had four friends visiting simultaneously and they could all help Pam celebrate her birthday.

Well, I made it to the party, though I did leave early from the disco just as the evening was heating up (Pam’s birthday night will be covered in another journal entry). Once I was back at the condo I feel into a deep sleep until the party animals arrived home sometime after 3:00 in the morning. I got a few of the details and everyone settled in for the remainder of the night. My sleep was restless until I woke at around five with a piercing pain in my stomach. I continued to be optimistic and believe it would pass, but eventually I hit the point where there was no putting it off any longer, this old dog needed the hospital ASAP.

I roused Pam and Patti who were a little freaked out to find me agonizing in pain and asking for pain medicine and to be taken to the hospital. I was insisting to take some pain medicine prior to going to the hospital (I was not thinking too clearly). They dodged my requests for pain meds and helped me down to the lobby to catch a taxi.

I remember feeling every bump in my stomach during our ride over to the hospital. By chance we were taken to San Javier Marian Hospital, which I would later learn was a stroke of luck. When the taxi arrived I didn’t stop to pay or wait for my friends. I just walked in, slumped over holding my stomach. When the medical staff saw me come through the doors they pointed to a bed in an adjacent room, and the medical wheels started to turn without even a hint of bureaucracy. Within minutes I was changed into a sexy hospital gown, had blood drawn, and an IV inserted. Still there was no pain medication! I guess they needed to determine my problem prior to giving me any relief from the pain, something I was not thinking about back at the condo when I was insisting to take some Vicodin. Time seemed to slow down while I waited to find out what was going on with me, but thankfully a medic came in and told me that I probably had a ruptured appendix and that I would need immediate surgery, but the good news was that they could finally give me something for the pain. I was thinking who cares what’s wrong as long as I could get a fix! Thankfully the next few minutes brought a dulling of the pain in my stomach, but in no way was it completely effective. I was then asked to sign a stack of forms in Spanish, and told that I would be going to surgery in the next hour. My hospital outfit was enhanced with big blue surgical booties and a white surgical hat that reminded me of the shower cap my mom would wear when I was a kid. I’m sure I looked marvelous. Soon I was off to surgery feeling a little woozy, and I was starting to think about the fact that I was about to be dissected in Mexico.

Surgery was so weird. I should mention that I had never been put to sleep with anesthesia or spent the night in any hospital. One of my last memories before being rolled into surgery was that I could hear a manual typewriter off in the distance busily filling out forms. I was about to have surgery in a hospital that uses typewriters instead of computers, yikes! Once in the operating room I remember trying to count the number of medical staff and then a voice said “I am the anesthesiologist”, and poof – out went the lights!

I woke up and I had the feeling that someone was scrubbing the inside of my stomach on the other side of a sheet that hung vertically shielding me from all the action taking place on the lower half of Scott’s body. I wasn’t in pain though I had the feeling that people were playing around with my intestines, I found the whole thing a little strange and funny. I remember asking if my appendix had burst, but I did not get a clear answer. They closed up shop and soon I was wheeled in the hallway to await the bed buggy up to my room. I was surprised at how completely awake I felt. I always heard that you were groggy after surgery and I was wide awake. When they came to take me up to my room, I had my first clue that this was not going to be a few days of relaxing recuperation, the nurse pointed at the other bed and motioned for me to move my post-surgery behind onto the other bed. Once I arrived in my hospital room I got to replay my gurney to hospital bed slither for Pam and the other nurses. These guys were serious about physical therapy, or they simply had a tendency for torture.

That wasn’t so bad I thought, anesthesia no problem, surgery no sweat. Soon the doctor came in and confirmed in broken English that my appendix had ruptured and that I had additional infections. As the day wore on and the pain meds wore off I realized that my recovery was not going to be quite the walk in the park I was planning for. I learned that just about every movement involves the use of your stomach and I felt like I had that creature from the alien movies trying to claw its way out of my stomach. There was also a conflict in opinions on my readiness to have a drink of water, I would ask for water and the nurses would say later. It turned out that later meant fourteen hours later, when the risk of causing vomiting had past. So, my first day was spent laying in bed staring at the ceiling, thirsty, understanding about twenty percent of the information the nurses were trying to communicate to me. However, I did have Pam, Abe, Amy and our friends from San Francisco to keep my spirits up and they would not for a second let me sink into feeling down.

Tuesday brought many exciting things. Dr. Lujan, my doctor and the surgeon who fixed me up, came to visit with another doctor who spoke English. I learned that my appendix had indeed ruptured, I had peritonitis, and my liver enzymes were irregular indicating that I had a liver infection. I was told that I would need to stay at the hospital until all of the infection was cleansed from my system and my white blood cell count returned to normal levels. The news wasn’t great, but at least I knew where things stood, and I had a growing comfort in the skill of my doctor and the quality level of care I was receiving, even if they still used typewriters… Tuesday also brought my first food after surgery and I am here to tell you that Jell-O is seriously underrated. I feasted on grape Jell-o, juice and apple (manzana) tea, it doesn’t sound like much but I was in heaven. My ever supportive friends took videos of me trying to eat my Jell-o with my left hand (in the video section of the website), since my right hand was tied to the IV drip. Another key event on Tuesday was the directive from my doctor to get up and start walking around to jumpstart my digestive system. This is when it really hit home just how quickly anyone can go from hanging on the mast like a monkey to hanging on the hallway rails thinking about each new step while dragging my friend the IV pole. Just who’s body was I living in anyway? My other memory of Tuesday came late in the evening after all of my visitors had left and I needed to get out of bed. Once on my feet I was mostly okay, but getting vertical was the hard part. I had wiggled down the bed and managed to get my feet on the floor, but I was struggling with sitting up. Just then the nurse walked in to find me floundering on my back, I told her in broken Spanish that I was like a tortuga (turtle) stock on my back, she just smiled and left, boy these folks are tough. I managed to get to my feet over the next half hour, but I will always remember my time as a turtle in the hospital.

Wednesday came with my first solid food, and it was not well received. I was in no way hungry and the thought of solid food made my stomach turn. With encouragement from Pam I managed to eat and I am sure this helped speed my recover. On Wednesday night Abe, Amy and Dwayne came by for a visit and got me laughing so hard that I had to plead with them to stop because it was killing my stomach. They got it in their head that I needed a better story to explain my hospital stay because a ruptured appendix just wasn’t interesting enough. The fact Abe and I were going to the bullfights after my recovery (see separate journal entry) came up and the story for my “real” injuries was born. They decided I should state in the journal I was injured in Mexico when I attended the bullfights and jumped into the ring replacing the Matador, and although my skill was magnificent, I managed to get a slight goring from the bull. But know this was not a solid story because who would believe that a visually impaired person could fend off a gigantic bull for very long, so they decided I would have to face only a “baby bull”. As they continued to weave the details of my imaginary accident in Mexico, they acted out the events in my hospital room, complete with demonstrations of me fighting baby bulls in my hospital gown while someone else acted out the part of the baby bull. The final injury scene was dramatized when the person acting as me turned their back on the baby bull (because they could not see the bull) and got gored in the butt. We made so much noise laughing and carrying on I was sure we were all (including me) going to be asked to leave the hospital

Thursday – day four in the hospital was a real turn around. It was Pam’s birthday and I had got her a day at the spa for a birthday present, so Dwayne came over to visit. I had asked Dwayne the day before if he would cut my hair since I was in serious need of a cut and all the fever in hospital left me feeling like a clammy sweaty mess. Dwayne brought along the clippers and buzzed me in the bathroom, and it felt great! My new military hairdo combined with a little pain medicine left me feeling ready to take on the world. We walked the hospital floor at least twelve times and when lunch came I was ready to eat, I actually had a bit of an appetite. I think Thursday was my first real turn around towards recovery and my eventual release from the hospital.

On Friday morning Dr. Lujan came to visit and he explained my white blood cells were still elevated and although I was showing good progress, I would most likely be staying in the hospital until Monday. The thought of spending the entire weekend in the hospital was a real let down. Pam spent most of the day at the hospital and I made my first field trip out of my hospital room, we played cribbage in the cafeteria. I also turned my television on for the first time on Friday and I was reminded of just how little good programming there is on the old tube these days, even the news seemed to just spiral around and around back to the same tired stories. After a few up close and personal interviews with famous celebrities, I reverted back to my no television seclusion. Dwayne was leaving on Saturday so Pam, Abe and Amy took Dwayne out on the town and I eagerly awaited all the details.

The rest of the weekend crawled by. I got all the details of Dwayne’s last night out, apparently they all went to a heavy metal bar and engaged in some lively people watching… On Saturday night I got a delivery of pizza and ice cream! I will always remember how good that ice cream tasted after days of being on a bland diet!

At last Monday morning came. First thing in the morning the vampire came to draw blood, and then I was wheeled downstairs to get a final ultrasound. I had an audience of medical students watching as I was given the ultrasound while Dr. Lujan pointed out my guts in Spanish. They spent a lot of time on one area of my stomach and I had a strange premonition something was up or they discovered that I was pregnant. Back in my room Dr. Lujan explained I was fit to go home, but also while giving me the ultrasound they had noticed my gallbladder had a large stone in its neck and that this would eventually be an issue, and could be a big potential problem at sea. “Take it out and take out any other non-essential things you can find in there” I said. I couldn’t believe it, eight days in the hospital after never spending even a single night in a hospital, and here they were booking my next reservation, “Mr. Duncan we have reserved your favorite bed, will you be having the grape Jell-O today?”. Dr. Lujan wanted me to have some recovery time, so my next operation was scheduled for the following Monday. At least I was free! I could not sail for another four to five weeks, but I was free!