Talulah Ruby II - being our own supermarket, hairdresser, launderette and doctors surgery!
One of the things that is intimidating about crossing oceans is the isolation, you are required to be your own supermarket, hairdresser, launderette and even sometimes, doctors surgery. It was with this in mind that I invested heavily in both my own medical training and the ships medical kit. Little did I realise that I would be my own first patient!
On Sunday night I developed a slightly sore ear, by Monday morning it was considerably more painful and after consulting the Ship Captains Medical book I decided to start a course of antibiotic ear drops. By lunchtime Monday I was in a lot more pain and my ear was swollen and hot to touch with a lot of pressure, after consulting the Medical book again I decided that this was more than an outer ear infection and stronger antibiotics were required. Under the section " middle ear infection" the book clearly states that the first course of action should be to inject penicillin intramuscularly to prevent fluid building up behind the eardrum and rupturing it. I admit that the thought of mixing and injecting myself for the first time in real life was just too intimidating, so I started oral antibiotics instead. However, this was not the end to the saga, as the pressure on my ear gave me seasickness and after throwing up two doses of antibiotics I knew that what I was trying to do wasn't working and I was going to have to do the injection.
The medical book also promises that maximum effect of the injection will occur 15 mins after the dose, which considering how miserable I was feeling made it seem like the better choice than a ruptured eardrum. Sophie overcame her needle phobia to be my nurse for the deed and using the medical book and my list of medical supplies I directed her to collect all the required equipment like a gruesome treasure hunt. I then laid it all out and mixed up the dose, got her to check I had done it right then, with a deep breath, in it went. I'm not sure which of us felt more faint afterwards. I'm a great believer that you can teach yourself anything from a book, but having had the medical training first meant that the book was mostly just for reassurance that I was getting it right. Not that injecting an orange really compares to pressing it into your own skin on a moving boat.
The injection came just in time as not an hour later I spiked a fever and was put to bed in the saloon with the crew covering my shifts through the night. I have to say that through it all the scariest thing was not actually doing the injection but after the fever set in, having to talk my crew through how to run the boat without me, and what to do if I didn't get better. As a skipper I take my responsibility for the safety of the crew and the boat very seriously and to feel like I couldn't look after them or help in any way was hard. I kept trying to "backseat skipper" from my sickbed in the saloon, but ultimately to their credit they coped amazingly and continued with all our normal routines and we all emerged on Tuesday morning a little frazzled but in good spirits.
Medical kit on board is a subject that I feel particularly passionate about because if you are going to invest in expensive safety kit, medical kits should factor into that. I see crew as the most important thing on a boat, aside from maybe the mars bar supplies! and therefore being able to fix them in the same way you have to fix most things on boats is essential. However before this even I had started to doubt my own slight medical obsession. Lots of other skippers seemed to be shocked when I told them how much I spent on my medical kit, but it really is no more expensive than some of the other routine safety equipment we carry. It made a tough day so much easier to have an amazing medical kit that had everything I needed and the training to do so.