I could sense the doctor was afraid. I suppose I got a glimpse into the psychic sense that dogs have. Our four legged friends feel or smell fear – don’t they? The doctor looked and acted confident but I knew he wished he wasn’t standing above me. He wished someone else was in his place.
After saying that he needed to act fast, the Doctor proceeded to put a drug into the needle port placed on the top of my hand. At the last minute he pulled back and said, ‘let me check something.’ The doctor started checking my pulse on my legs, under my knees, on my wrist. He then said, hold on and walked out.
I could see the drug on the counter. I was in so much discomfort that I just wanted him to inject it. Without knowing what was going on I Knew (with a capital K) that that drug was going to either help me or perhaps kill me.
After having my heart beat at 233 beats per minute for two hours I was getting ready to give up.
My heart felt as if it was being squeezed and my back and neck felt like they were twisted into a knot that was going to explode.
But lets back up 2 1/2 hours.
Or – watch Simon’s take on things first and then read my thoughts below…
I was on our boat attached to a mooring ball off the beautiful deserted Sandy Island in Cariaccou. The sun was shining, the sea was a deep beautiful blue and the air was warm yet fresh. My husband, daughter, friend and I were going to go snorkeling. Just before we left I wanted to mend our Bimini – the sun cover that goes over the cockpit. It had recently come apart at the seems and was an easy fix.
After hand-sewing part of the Bimini I used the sewing machine to finish it off. We were videoing the task for a future YouTube video. Half way through the task my heart started to race. I sat back, took a couple deep breaths and told our friend, Andrew, ‘Wow – my heart just started racing. That’s weird.’
As soon as it started it was over. I went back to sewing the Bimini and finished it up. Before getting out of my chair, my heart once again started racing. I told Andrew and my husband that I had to lay down.
Our daughter came back with me and kissed my forehead.
After a few minutes I realized that there was a problem. In my mind I started my emergency plan that I would do if I had to take care of a casualty. I told Simon to make a note of when it started. I then told him exactly what I had eaten and when (Three slices of banana bread with cream cheese an hour previously and a big glass of water). I also explained that I’ve had no drugs – no Advil or any aspirin or anything. Having an inclination that I might not be able to talk at some point I felt it necessary to get out as many relevant details as possible.
You can’t get more type A than I am – eh?!
Anyhoo, I asked Simon to call emergency services and told him where the number was located. I knew I was going to have to muster my strength, of which it was all gone, to get up on deck and into the dinghy.
I thought that I couldn’t be having an heart attach – I’m still conscious. I just seemed to have a racing heart and it was getting more and more uncomfortable. I felt the need to get help immediately.
Simon called the hospital and told them that we needed an ambulance to pick me up at Paradise Beach – the closest beach to the boat.
Dragging myself up the stairs, across the cockpit and to the back of our boat I fell into the dinghy. Simon, Andrew and Sienna held me up and we raced over to the beach. By the time we got to the beach my legs and arms stopped working. They curled up as if I was having a fit. I did my best not to let Sienna see them. Andrew and Simon carried me to a bench were I laid down on a bench with my feet up.
I kept thinking that as soon as the ambulance arrived they’d be able to do something – they must have some sort of drug to stop my heart from racing. I just had to hold on for a little bit longer.
When we got to the beach the ambulance was not there. My daughter was holding my head, Andrew was holding my hand and Simon was searching for the Ambulance. With a smile on my face I told Sienna that I’d be just fine and then said, ‘let’s think of things that make us happy.’ I then said let me tell you all the people I love as that makes me happy – I started reeling off the names of everyone that came into my head.
We waited around 10 minutes and the ambulance hadn’t made it yet.
One of the local fellows got me into his jeep to take me to the hospital. The driver seat was laid back down into the backseat – many guys drive that way in the Caribbean. I remember making the decision that I’d put my head on the other side and rest my feet under the driver side seat. Otherwise, I would have had my head next to the driver’s head! Everyone around was amazingly helpful. I remember that I kept thanking people.
On the Island of Carriacou there’s only a few roads and none of them are very smooth. We bumped around as he beeped his way through the minor traffic. As soon as we saw the ambulance he beeped and yelled out. We all pulled over and they transferred me over.
Andrew kept Sienna back wth him and they returned to the boat. Simon was with me.
Once in the ambulance I realized that there wasn’t going to be any drugs to help me. It was a hollow-ed out ambulance. It looked like an ambulance but it was empty. They did have oxygen and gave that to me.
I didn’t really need any drugs at that point. I was distracted by the fact that I had to use all my might to hold onto the bed so to not get thrown off over all the bumps in the road. I actually thought it was quite funny. Here I am in a situation where I might be dyeing and I’m laughing about my ambulance ride.
When I wasn’t bumping around, to keep my mind positive I thought of my daughter, my family and all my friends. I just cycled through them all imagining them smile at me. I felt no urge to tell anyone anything other than, ‘I love you.’ Simon tried to tell me to stop talking as if I was dying but I eventually told him to shut-up and listen. All I had to say was to tell everyone ‘I love them’.
That was it. There was no other message to give.
I then thought, If I live how will I change my life. I cycled through various options – we could stop sailing, move to Florida, I could learn to be a Yoga Guru…and I eventually realized that I didn’t feel the desire to change anything.
I felt the need to say to God, ‘If you let me live I’ll do XYZ…but I couldn’t think of anything I’d do.’ I’ve been in storms before thinking, ‘God, if you let me get to the harbor safely I’ll be a kinder person.’ This situation was different.
My life is fine the way it is. I am fine the way I am. If it was time to go, I was okay with that. I wasn’t scared.
Knowing we were climbing higher and higher I knew that the hospital was close. One month previous we did a tour of Cariaccou and the hospital was on the tour. Can you believe that I said, ‘If I ever get sick I want to come here because it has the most lovely view of St Vincent & The Grenadines.’? Can you believe that? Yeah – be careful of what you ask for!
And then I felt my heart squeezing and thought…just hold out for a few more minutes.
The hospital will have some way of slowing my heart down.
The paramedics pulled me out of the ambulance and put me in a wheel chair. I saw the view. I smiled and thought – perhaps that’s my last beautiful view on planet earth. If it is – what a great view. I cried a bit but I can’t say if it was because the view was so amazing or if I was sad to leave.
Eventually, I was put on a bed in a room with one other bed and curtain separating the two. The nurses had to kick someone out and I said sorry to him as he was wheeled out of the ER (if it was the ER). The hospital probably has room for a total of 10 beds and there’s probably not a proper ER room… The island of Carriacou has the population of around 10,000 people – that’s it.
As I laid on the table the first the nurse did was to hook up to the EKG. I wanted to tell them to just listen to my heart race and give me something, but I was patient. Everything seemed to take forever. The doctor came in and read the EKG and said, ‘This may seem crazy but you might be having a heart attack.’
I assumed that heart attacks happened fast and you either lived or died.
I didn’t think they carried on for hours. The doctor had to call a higher doctor to discuss what to do. Meanwhile the nurses gave me some pills and put a needle port into my hand.
The doctor asked Simon, ‘Do you have health insurance’ and he said, ‘no.’ And then added, but we have money to cover whatever this costs.
I looked up at the ceiling and watched two spiders walk across the whole length of it. My mind was relatively blank.
Simon and I had quite a bit of time just sitting there. My whole body was pulsing up and down at such a rapid rate. I tried my best to take deep breaths but I was panting – It’s not that I couldn’t breath…it’s that my chest hurt so bad it felt better not to breathe at all.
I asked Simon if he had a phone as I wanted to call my mom, step-dad, dad and brother.
My plan was to not tell them what was happening but to just say, ‘Hey – I love you guys.’ We didn’t have a phone. Instead of getting upset I thought – ‘just go with the flow. Things are the way they’re suppose to be.’
I also had a sense of a group of people all in a circle looking down on me. They didn’t say anything – they were very peaceful and I felt that they were there just for support. I’m not sure if I believe in spirt guides or whatever you want to call them but I felt very calm and I felt as if there was some sort of kind and loving presence looking over me.
The doctor wanted me to go down to the town to get an X-ray to eliminate a blockage. Depending on the results he would be able to give me one drug or another. Come to find out the x-ray office was shut. I was somewhat thankful – I didn’t want to take another ride in the ambulance. I just wanted my heart to slow down.
Time was running out – he had to give me a drug.
I knew it was hard for him to make the decision – he didn’t want to get it wrong. I resisted my desire to say anything. I just kept thinking, whatever happens is suppose to happen.
Unbeknown to me the doctor and Simon had a conversation outside. They agreed that I had to have the drug even if it was the wrong decision. By making no decision I wasn’t going to last… If I had a blockage or internal bleeding this drug would quite possibly kill me. Otherwise, it would slow my heart rate down.
As a side, a plane was being lined up to take me from the island of Carriacou down to Grenada where a larger hospital was located. But before I could get on the plane I need to be stable.
I told Simon I loved him and said that I had the best life anyone could ever ask for.
The nurse started putting the drug into the port. She said, ‘tell me if you feel any pain.’ It burned as it went in but it was okay. I think she thought that she could just stop if something started going wrong… It was a scary moment for all of us.
My heart slowed down and I fell asleep.
While I was sleeping someone took Simon to town to get the money to pay for my treatment at the hospital and ambulance ride ($100 USD – to the hospital and then to the airport) and the private plane down to Grenada (including a nurse to be with me he whole way and her flight back) and Simon ($600 USD).
I was wheeled back into the Ambulance and prepared myself for a bumpy ride. I think I must have slept. I remember waking up and seeing Sienna. She was in the Ambulance saying, ‘Hey mummy – you’re going to be just fine!’
And then I heard a woman yelling at the top of her lungs at Simon and Andrew.
Apparently Andrew and Sienna couldn’t figure out how to get into the airport so they hopped the fence and ran down the runway as the plane was landing to pick me up. Simon explained to the woman the severity of the situation and she calmed down a bit. I was so pleased to see Sienna. She told me that I was going to be just fine. Sienna then bent over and gave me a kiss on the forehead.
I then wondered what would happen to Sienna, Andrew and the boat?!
A paramedic started lifting me up and I got into the plane without really seeing it. The ambulance backed right up to the door. It was wide enough just for the bed for me to lay in. I remember a guy with a very long pinky fingernail buckling me in – one strap on my legs, one for my waist and another for my chest.
Just before the door shut I looked out to see the doctor standing next to the plane waving at me. I thought, ‘what is the doctor doing here?!’ Simon later explained to me that he wanted to come with me to the airplane to be on hand just in case something happened.
I then looked up to see a man sitting in front of my head. I was a bit startled. To my amazement it was the pilot. He looked down and me and said, ‘Hello, welcome aboard.’ I think he was shocked when I answered him back. I was shocked at just how small the plane was!
Simon and my nurse got in where my feet were and just kept smiling at me.
I wanted to jump up and look outside to see the view but I couldn’t. I just looked at the clouds and thought how beautiful they were. I also felt so grateful that my heart had stopped pounding. Within 25 minutes we landed and once again I moved into another ambulance. I didn’t see a thing – the ambulance just drove out of the airport with the sirens going. Eventually I noticed my surroundings. I saw Port Louis Marina and knew we were close to the hospital.
Once we arrived I was wheeled into what I think was the ER.
It definitely didn’t look like the type of ER’s you see on TV. It was more like a room with rooms off it. Everything looked old. I laid down on a bed and my nurse from Carriacou was with me every step of the way. I had an EKG and the results were normal. I then had an x-ray and they came up perfect. When all the preliminaries were done the Carriacou nurse gave me a hug and said, ‘Please stop back at the hospital in Carriacou when you’re next around to let us know how you got on.’ I felt so grateful for her help – I told Simon that we must get everyone’s names.
I need to go back and thank everyone.
Thereafter I was wheeled up to the woman’s ward and placed in a bay with five other women. Some helpers put a bottom sheet on the bed for me but I quickly realized that you’re suppose to bring your own sheets. I then discovered that you need to bring your own toilet paper and soap too. The hospital is old and very basic but it’s functional.
I settled into the bed and started getting shots, pills, blood taken, blood pressure, pulse and so forth. The women all around me were speaking English but I couldn’t really understand them. I could pick up a few words here and there and I could get an idea of what they were talking about but I couldn’t really join in.
I didn’t feel bad. I was tired. I didn’t want to talk.
Just being with the other woman, however, was quite a treat. From time to time one of them would put on a gospel song and they’d all sing together. They had conversations often and all laughed despite the pain they were in. I felt surrounded by good people and it was a nice feeling. The energy in the room was light despite the pain and suffering surrounding us all.
So…I was given a bottom sheet and Simon found a top sheet for me. For a pillow I used two t-shirts and a skirt that Andrew packed for me. The next day Simon borrowed a pillow from the hotel he was staying at. He also borrowed some toilet paper but he didn’t need to do so…
On my second day a group of people from a church came in to hold my hand and pray for me. They also gave me a black bag with gifts inside. I got two rolls of toilet paper and some soap. A lovely woman asked me if I knew who Jesus Christ was and I said ‘yes’. She asked me my religion and I responded that I am a Christian. She then told me how loved I am and that Jesus wants me to heel. I felt quite honored to be prayed for.
Before I went to bed on the first night the doctor on call came to see me. She explained that the diagnosis was Atrioventricular Modal Reentry Tachycardia. In layman’s terms – the electrics of my heart malfunctioned. The plan was to do some tests and rule out everything they possible could and make a plan. She was concerned that I could slide into having a heart attack so I wasn’t allowed to leave my bed.
That evening Simon went out and got me KFC so I could have something to eat. I figure that if I was going to die at least I would have a full belly! Around 8pm the lights went off.
The girls chatted a bit, played music and then slowly drifted off.
One woman really went to town with farting. She didn’t hold back at all…nor did she say excuse me. At first I was a bit shocked but then I heard others let one go. I thought perhaps it’s a cultural thing? And then I wondered if I could build up the confidence to let one go in public. How freeing would that be – to just let a fart out. Hehehehe. I couldn’t do it.
Aside from the lovely woman that farted often my neighbor cried and whimpered all the time. Everyone ignored her so I couldn’t figure out what was going on. During a visiting hour she really laid it on think yelling, ‘nurse, nurse…I need pain relief.’ Later I learned that she was a drug addict and she was trying to get pain killers for a fix.
Around 10pm the nurses went around to take blood pressure, give out pills and so forth. It took me forever to fall asleep but the fresh sea breeze flowed in through the windows. I felt relaxed and comfortable.
Then, at 3am, lights went on.
Those that were bed ridden were washed, vitals were taken and pills were giving out. I wanted to say, ‘Is it normal to wake up everyone at 3am,’ but I kept quiet. The lights never went back off. For some reason the hospital gets up in the morning at 3am every morning.
And it’s not a quiet awakening. The lights go on, the nurse yells ‘Good Morning Ladies,’ and then proceeds to hand out medication. One nurse walks around playing Garth Brooks county music from her phone. Another walks around sliding her feet rather than picking them up. And the carts they use to transport the wash bowls and medicine table are beyond loud.
The hospital is basic – as I already mentioned. I was told that there’s no button to push if you have a problem. If you need a nurse, you have to yell out ‘Nurse.’ There’s no screens on the windows – just slats that you can open and close. If you leave a sweet drink on your bedside table you’ll have ants all over the place. Last night it rained and we all got a bit wet. I thought it was funny. I’m in the middle of the room – the poor woman closer to the window really got a bit wet. No one is hooked up to any monitors. The showers do not have hot water. Heck – you have to bring your own toilet paper so that says it all.
Stating that, the hospital works. People come and go.
Problems are solved and people recover. They make due with what they have… (OMG, as I’m typing I just saw something large out of the corner of my eye down by my bed. It’s a bird! I hope the little fella can find his way back out!)
After the 3am wake up on my first night, I managed to get a couple more hours of sleep before the doctor arrived at 8am. He came with three interns/medical students and they all discussed my case. He asked me where I was from and when I said NY he said, ‘that’s good news – you need to get up there ASAP and see an Electrophysciologyst’
He explained that my issue could be solved but I need a specialist to force my heart to beat quickly again to discover precisely where it’s going wrong. Once they do that they can go through my leg vein and up to my heart to correct the malfunction.
So…he indicated that I had to get an all-clear to be able to get on a plane.
Once I get that I can go straight to a hospital to get my heart fixed.
In the meantime, Andrew and Sienna sailed the boat from Sandy Island back to St Georges in Grenada. It was Andrew’s first time sailing a sailboat alone. He’s always been with Simon and I. Andrew had a blast and Sienna was a great help. They anchored right in front of my window in the hospital so I could see them.
I thought I was going to have a quiet Christmas in Grenada on the boat with friends and family? I’m feeling a bit lost now and I’m sure that’s normal. It’s ironic because we decided to stay in Grenada with the boat, rather than head west, because I wanted to slow down. I wanted to chill out for a while and reduce the constant unknowns that life on a boat throws up…
Now I’m making plans to fly to London in a couple days to get my heart fixed. Crazy – isn’t it?!
One of the biggest questions I get (especially from Americans) is what we do for health insurance. I often explain that medical care is nowhere near as expensive as it is in America. No – it might not be as good but in most cases it’s adequate. So – what was the cost of my stay in the Grenada hospital? Nothing – it was free. Cost of the one month supply of beta blockers (heart medicine) – less than $2 USD.
Any questions, comments or thoughts? Please leave them below 🙂