When my new romantic interest asked if I liked sailing my response was “NO!”
Little did I know it was his passion and worse, he owned a sailboat. As a result our relationship developed slowly. In the end the good seriously outweighed the bad so I said “I Do” to the man and his boat. Some days sailing was magical . . . some days it simply sucked.
THIS WAS A VERY LONG DAY
It was a perfect day. The sun was out in all its glory while a gentle breeze kept the temperature comfortable. My husband and I had slipped quickly into vacation mode and were feeling very relaxed as we anticipated a month of easy sailing and beautiful scenery. Our plans included a rendezvous with several other boats. We had charted a route through the North Channel to Sault Ste. Marie but now we were motoring through a narrow channel on the east side of Georgian Bay. Another keel boat was just ahead of us and my eyes roamed from their stern to the hundreds of rock islands on both sides.
Suddenly – it was as if someone flicked a switch. The lights went out.
When they came back on I was looking up at my husband who was staring down at me from behind the wheel. I closed my eyes.
My last recollection was of standing in front of him, in the cockpit, with my left arm up and my hand resting on the boom. Simon, our four-legged best friend was asleep on the stern bench.
Now I was on the floor … of the salon. How did I get there? It took a minute to connect the sensation of an abrupt stop with my present position but somehow I knew … we’d hit something …we were in trouble.
John’s first question stopped me from thinking any further. “Can you move?”
I responded quickly with just a hint of rebellion, “How should I know? Give me a minute.”
What to do first? Instinct told me my biggest concern was my neck and back. Oh God, what if…..
Slowly I twisted my back and tilted my head side to side. No pain or cracks so okay if I move slowly. My legs seemed to be in one piece although there was a stinging sensation from the left one. Gently I lifted myself up on my right side to get a look at the wrist buried under my chest. It didn’t require a medical specialist to see it was done. Damn!
John’s voice came through again.
“Can you get up …..I need you to get the chart, it went with you – in the galley?”
“The chart – you want me to get the chart?” I couldn’t believe it.
Didn’t he know I was hurt. I took a deep breath….and another deep breath.
The chart .. he needs the chart .. of course .. we’re in the middle of 30,000 rocks and there’s a stiff breeze out there. He can’t leave the wheel. Oh God!
Time to try … gently and slowly. Somehow it made sense to lift my wrist up and place it against my shoulder for support. Next step – test the legs, back and neck again … one move at a time.
When I took my first step I saw two teeth on the floor ahead of me. Holy Shit!
My tongue made a quick circle and discovered a significant gap in the upper front of my mouth. Bend the knees, keep the back straight and head upright. When I was down far enough I put my good hand out and drew them into my palm. They’ll be okay in the sink for now.
A familiar voice broke through my concentration. It was the radio;
“Chalet de Mer, Chalet de Mer, this is Tailwind.”
It was my brother-in-law John A. On a marine radio you always call one another by boat name. They were just ahead of us on a power boat. Another step and I grabbed the microphone.
“Tailwind, this is Chalet de Mer … we have a bit of trouble here.”
John yelled a prompt from up top “tell them to meet us at the fishing camp”.
“Tailwind, could you turn around and meet us at the fishing camp – this is Chalet de Mer OUT”.
I couldn’t handle a long conversation or explanations.
Two seconds later I heard my sister’s voice,
“Chalet de Mer, this is Tailwind – we’re turning around now.” She knew something was wrong.
Back to my task – the chart. I edged around the corner of the galley and sure enough there it was on the floor. Bend the knees, keep the back straight and head upright. I got it … now over to the steps. With my good arm I threw it towards the wheel. “There’s the chart – can you get it?”
I could see him reach around the wheel; “I’ve got it ………… now can you get up here?”
Was he out of his mind? “You want me to climb these steps?”
“You can do it. I need you up here. You have to take the wheel while I handle the lines.”
“You gotta be kidding. You want me to take the wheel?”
It was a mindless question. I knew he wasn’t kidding. In an emergency there was no-one in this whole world better equipped to deal with it. John had the ability and training. His knowledge of first aid was current, he’d had survival training in the Air Force and he could maneuver our boat on a dime. I grabbed the right handhold, pushed my back against the left wall of the companionway and edged my way up the steps.
The fishing camp was almost in front of us. It was noon so people were on the dock wandering in for lunch. As I took the wheel with my right hand and positioned my feet for balance John moved quickly to prepare lines at the bow and stern. He didn’t say anything. We were moving for a port (left) side tie-up to another boat. There was no other room. I leaned on the wheel to hold it secure while using my good hand to reduce power so we were drifting in slowly. John, with both lines in hand, jumped for the other boat and yelled back, “cut the engine”. Quickly we were secured and he was back aboard to help me. My legs seemed wobbly.
“We have a medical emergency here – can some of you come on board and give me a hand”. John spoke with urgency but his quiet confidence was reassuring to me.
People were scurrying about. They got me over the railings, across the deck of the boat beside us, over more railings and down to the dock. A nurse’s aid came running and took my arm. She guided me down the dock to a seat before asking questions about where it hurt, having me turn my head and move it side to side, doing some finger movement in front of my eyes and asking me to respond. I remember her leaving, then coming back with a sling for my arm and a tylenol to give me some relief from pain. I guessed she didn’t hear me say there was no pain.
I could hear someone running down the dock towards us. Suddenly my sister, Joanne, swung around into my line of vision. She was tense and the colour had drained from her face but when she spoke it was with a quiet, gentle concern:
“You never do anything halfway, do you Sis … can you tell me where you hurt or is it too difficult to talk?” She had seen the hole when I smiled.
“No, I’m okay. It’s mostly my wrist but it doesn’t hurt right now. Honestly I’m okay.”
As a nurse Joanne knew what vitals she had to check and how to interpret what she was discovering, although dealing with me had to be very stressful. Both my sisters were nurses but I had always avoided hospitals and illness like the plague.
I heard the nurse’s aid say “I think she’s going into shock.”
I wondered what that meant since I could still hear them talking and I was aware of everything going on around me. Joanne put a blanket around my shoulders.
“Bev, can you hear me? They’re getting a boat ready to take us up-river. It came in with tanks of diesel so they have to remove them before we can board. I’m going with you. It’ll only be a few minutes. John has to stay with your boat because there’s water getting in and he’s got to find the problem. We have to get you to the hospital.”
“Okay. Do you think I’ll have to stay?”
“I’d say there’s a good possibility. Do you want me to get some personal stuff from the boat?”
“Please, and don’t forget my cigarettes.”
When Joanne came back she had a bag packed for me, including my cigarettes.
“Bev, I thought we’d better bring these. Maybe the doctors will want them.” She unwrapped a tissue and showed me my two missing teeth. They were total teeth which I’d never seen before except in a Dentist’s office. Each was a perfectly formed root and tooth, unmarked.
John was suddenly in front of me. He looked so sad, almost on the verge of tears. I could sense the feelings rushing through him. Frustration, worry, fear and the impact of a deep personal assault. How could this happen? We were known for our skill and safe boating practices on the water. He wanted to touch me but he was afraid.
“Simon’s okay. His Uncle is looking after him.” It was like a secret funny message. John A. was not Simon’s biggest fan and I smiled at the thought of him in the caretaker role.
“I’m so sorry….about everything”. John dropped to his knees in front of me and put his hand on mine. I knew the wheel had protected him. “I was hard on you and I’m very sorry but I couldn’t let you go into shock. Joanne will look after you and she’s taking the cell phone. John A. will help me. It’ll be okay.”
The fishing boat was cleaned and ready. John and Joanne each had an arm as they lifted me to my feet and led me aboard. I watched my husband standing on the dock until we were out of sight.
In my mind the ride was very quick although I learned later it took almost fourty minutes. As we arrived at the dock a Police patrol car was just pulling in. The ambulance would be another few minutes. Two burly Policemen helped Joanne get me off the fishing boat and unto the dock. While they were trying to decide where to put me I saw an opportunity.
“Pardon me, but would you mind putting me in the back of your car where I might enjoy one cigarette before they get me in the ambulance? Once in, I know there’s no chance.”
They all laughed and after Joanne verified their car wasn’t “non smoking” they moved me off the dock.
A siren from the ambulance broke the silence just as I was finishing my smoke. Within minutes they’d strapped me unto a stretcher with a neck brace fastened in place and lifted me inside. Joanne followed along with the paramedic and they each took a side seat to watch over me. Again I learned later it was another fourty-minute ride. The neck brace was very uncomfortable. The paramedic said it was mandatory even though I complained bitterly and assured her my neck was okay. Me the expert.
I remember waking, still in the brace on a stretcher and asking Joanne what time it was. She didn’t answer but said we’d been in Emergency for hours. After an initial once-over they had given me something, morphine I think, and it knocked me out. This hospital was a Trauma Center for all of Northern Ontario and it was like ER. Critical patients were arriving by ambulance, by helicopter and by plane. People were rushing about and the pager provided a constant background drone. To them I was only one more casualty and near-death cases got priority. After complaining again about the neck brace I went back to sleep.
There is a blank period of time before I realized the neck brace was gone and I was casted. My left leg was apparently broken and in a cast up to my thigh. My left wrist was broken, which I knew, and in a cast up to my shoulder. Joanne said an Oral Surgeon had checked my mouth and would build a temporary guard for me in a couple of days so that I could eat. My mouth had to settle first. I couldn’t believe I had totally missed x-rays and the casting process.
Someone from Administration arrived and asked where I would be staying after leaving the hospital. I thought about it, for probably a long time. The casts were going to be a definite handicap but everything else seemed to work. We were just starting our holidays, why shouldn’t we go on?
“I suppose we’ll go back to the boat. It looks as if I won’t be doing anything for awhile so why not do nothing on the boat? John can help me and we’ll just take it easy.”
Joanne was the first one to respond. She looked around and spotted her ally. He was a big male nurse. She grabbed his arm and brought him beside the bed.
“Would you please lift my sister and place her on her feet?”
He hesitated, taking a long slow look over my casted body. “Are you sure?”
Joanne was firm and he moved to do as she asked. First he lifted me to a sitting position, then around so he could grab me under the arms. Next he lifted me onto my feet as requested. My body instantly crumbled. It was hard to believe I was that weak. The nurse quickly put me back on the bed.
Joanne came in close. “Beverley you have had major trauma to your body in three different places. You won’t be going back to the boat. You won’t be going home.”
The Orthopedic Specialist arrived just at the end of her speech. “You needn’t worry, the ambulance is here to transport her to my hospital. She’ll be at least a week. Reservations are made.” He didn’t try to talk to me and left as quickly as he’d arrived.
Things were out of control. People were making decisions around me.
Didn’t they know I could handle this. It was only a couple of bones.
The teeth were something else but that would take time. Even I knew that. Obviously there wasn’t much point in trying to convince them I was okay – nobody was listening.
It had been such a very long day.
Mother always said “if you want to get someplace in a hurry, go to sleep.”
I remember thinking … maybe if I just go back to sleep this day will end.