I hope everyone had a great holiday season and a happy and safe New Year celebration! I’m making a New Year’s resolution for myself for me to update my blog at least once each month. I did this because I have been a major slacker at updating it and keeping everyone informed as to where my recovery process stands…so this blog posting is titled Throwback Thursday for three reasons. The first reason being that I’m actually updating my blog after about five months, the second being that my brother, his family, aunt, cousin, mom and I all went on the second cruise I’ve ever gone on October 11-18 and the third reason you will learn about as you continue reading.
This throwback Thursday actually started on a Saturday, 10/10/15, as my mom, dad and I drove down to Merritt Island where my Aunt Toni lives that is just a stones throw away from Port Canaveral, where the boat departed from the next day. The boat was to depart port at 4pm that Sunday and go on a Caribbean tour to Haiti, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and then return home all within one week.
Our first visit was to Haiti which I figured was going to be quite sketchy seeing as it’s an 80% 3rd world country, but it turned out that Royal Caribbean apparently purchased a portion of the island that is completely annexed from the rest of the population. At first I wasn’t too happy about having fun on this underprivileged population’s land, but after soaking in some rays, seeing all of my family having fun and a few Coronas later I began to enjoy myself!
The second stop was in Jamaica. The rest of the family booked an excursion to explore the Jamaican waterfalls. Seeing as that wasn’t a handicap friendly outing for my wheelchair my mom and I scoped out other excursions and found an accessible van tour around Kingston. We saw pretty cool landmarks throughout, learned some fun facts and ended up at a restaurant where I was able to enjoy some jerk chicken and a Red Stripe!
For our third stop, on Thursday 10/15/15, we stopped in the port of Grand Cayman. The island’s port is too small for any one cruise ship to dock on land, so we had to take taxi boats, or tenders, to the island’s downtown port district. My family was going out on a catamaran to swim with the stingrays, so my mom and I just lolly gagged around the downtown area. We went in and out of various stores just killing the time we had by exploring the islands culture, much like we had learned to do from our driver in Jamaica. At one point we asked two law enforcement officials where the best place to eat was and they pointed the way to the Guy Harvey’s restaurant. When we sat down on their upstairs patio area, we were told about their restaurant month menu with some pretty awesome deals and then looked at our watches and we figured it was perfect timing for the rest of the family’s excursion to be coming to an end. Upon seeing this my mom and I decided to call my Aunt Toni to see if all of them would like to meet us for a bite to eat before getting back onboard. She answers her phone and upon my mom proposing that they all come to Guy Harvey’s she reminds her that the boat’s schedule is still running on EST and that our phones had automatically changed to an hour behind because that’s the time Grand Cayman runs on. Upon hearing this fact my mom’s laid-back mood turns to a frantically urgent one seeing as we were going to need to pass through customs, check-in with our boarding passes and then catch a tender back to the boat. When we were just about to get up from our table my aunt and my 17 year old nephew come onto Guy Harvey’s porch telling us that they wanted to help us back to the boat and assure that we get to the tender on time.
When we were all walking out of the restaurant with my mom pushing my wheelchair I could sense her frustration and worry that we could possibly not make it to the tender dock on time, so I asked her to let my nephew push me to relieve whatever tension I could. He had been pushing me all around the ship on the vacation thus far, so none of us had any problem of him doing so. Picking up on my mom’s anxiety of boarding the ship in a timely manner he gets a little pep in his step and then spots a shortcut between Grand Cayman’s shipping container dock to their tender dock and begins to change directions. All this time I’m reaching into my right-hand pocket to pull out my boarding pass for our ship’s tender. When I realized he was taking a turn off the beaten path I looked up to see an incredibly large holed drainage grate I knew would not be compatible with my chair’s front wheels. I attempted to yell, “STOP, DON’T GO THIS WAY,” but was unfortunately cut short while vocalizing “STOP”. The wheelchair’s front wheels had become lodged in the grate, which due to the forward momentum caused me to be flipped out of the wheelchair and propelled forward onto the left side of my head. As fate would have it, I was unfortunately unable to brace myself from full impact due to reaching for my boarding pass with my one good hand/arm!
My mom and aunt came running up behind us and if I thought my mom’s emotions were in turmoil about catching the tender before I was very mistaken. I couldn’t see her face, but I could without a doubt hear that her emotion bucket was flipped upside down! Of course she was scared to see the horrifying event of her TBI surviving son hit his head in heavy impact yet again, but I could also tell that she was attempting to hold her emotions back in order to not make my nephew feel bad for his mistake. Upon the two of them frantically making their way to me, a port guard who was on duty in the nearby port check-in booth followed close behind them with a towel to apply to my newly acquired wound. When I got up and back in my chair the port guard then continued to be gracious and led us to the tender dock where she got the three of us pushed to the front of the line to get back on the boat to discuss with the ship’s doctor what had happened and what we could to assure it wasn’t another TBI.
Here’s the long story short on the ship’s medical staff…they didn’t have the best attitudes nor medical backgrounds. Not to mention our Royal Caribbean ship definitely didn’t have the proper medical equipment on board the ship, so my aunt, mom and I ended up debarking the ship on yet another tender with all of our baggage and a medical assistant to escort us to the ambulance the ship had called for us.
When we landed back in the tender port and the assistant informed us that the ambulance was scheduled to be there in 5 minutes to take us to the newest hospital on Grand Cayman, Health City Hospital, which had a Neurologist on-staff that the ship’s doctor had contacted. After 5 minutes the ambulance did in fact arrive, but when the paramedics got there they had to deliver us some bad news…They informed us that they were not going to be able to take us to the hospital that was expecting us for a couple reasons. The first being that the hospital was 45 minutes away and they were on duty on the port side of the island for the day, so they didn’t feel comfortable driving that distance from their post. The second message they delivered was that they could legally (since they were government employees) only take me to the island’s other hospital which was a government hospital. The last thing they said really sent shivers down my spine because they also informed us that the government hospital didn’t have an onsite Neuro Surgeon and if a CT scan showed anything negative then and only then could they legally transport me to the hospital we were scheduled to go to 45 minutes away…
A second ambulance was called and it arrived just 5 minutes after the other one, but it seriously felt like at least 30 minutes. When EMS techs stepped out of their vehicle they immediately went into a pow wow with the other EMS crew and then came to my mom and me while my aunt was busy running our baggage through Customs. The EMS guy that came to speak to us told us that they were with the government too, but that they were in charge of the side of the island with the hospital we needed and just happened to have dropped someone off at the government hospital near the port. With the luck of that ambulance being near us at the time of the ship’s call and a couple of government ambulance attendees, one from the US originally, that were gracious enough to take us to the planned hospital, we all got in their ambulance.
While on the ride to the hospital the US citizen EMS attendant rode in the back with my totally awesome mom and me while my totally awesome aunt rode up front with the driver. As we left the downtown area the driver turned the lights and siren on, but turned the siren off when we left the busy downtown district. While riding in the back I continued to have shivers running down my spine while thinking about how my first TBI was a Subdural Hematoma and that I had an hour and a half lucid period until the slow bleed within the brain took full effect. The attendant riding with my mom and I didn’t help my case of the shivers by telling us he was not sure that Health City Hospital would accept me and if they didn’t then we would all be required to take another 45 minute ride to the government hospital back on the port side of the island. The good side of the ride there was that all off my vitals appeared to be normal. When we FINALLY approached Health City Hospital they in fact appeared ready as could be for my arrival with a welcoming crew of different medical professionals standing outside the Emergency Department entrance waiting for us to arrive. Seeing all of them ready with open arms to help “a stranger in a strange land” really helped ease my case of the shivers!
My next update, #ThrowbackThursday2, will include my visit at Health City, the rest of our stay on Grand Cayman and how we got back home.