Thursday, September 4, 2014

Getting Medical Assistance

When you live on a boat, you bring your whole house with you wherever you go. In general, this makes life pretty easy. You don't have to pack clothes for a weekend away. You always have that kitchen gadget that someone else forgot. You have plenty of Band-Aids for the scrapes and bruises in life.

What do you don't have is an easy way to get help for a dislocated shoulder.

We were anchored in Fairlee Creek with three other boats for Labor Day weekend. On Sunday, Doug decided to go visit friends elsewhere in the basin. He borrowed the standup paddle board and off he went. As he approached their boat he reached out for the bow railing so he could stand and talk to them. Unfortunately, a gust of wind had other ideas. The paddle board went out from under him and he fell. I actually saw the fall. It didn't look like anything serious. We've all fallen off the paddle board. A couple minutes later I found out how wrong I had been. Our friends called to say that Doug had dislocated his shoulder while falling into the water.

LESSON NUMBER 1 -- Always sit or kneel down when approaching a boat while using a standup paddle board.

Doug had the good sense to get out of the water before the pain got too bad. By the time I got to our friends' boat Doug was in pain but "safe." 911 was called with a request for a medical team to come help. If you've been to Fairlee Creek on a holiday weekend you know that there are a lot of boats anchored in the basin. Identifying this boat from shore and getting another boat out to help was going to take too long. So we started the process of pulling up the anchor to bring Doug to shore.

LESSON NUMBER 2 -- If feasible get the injured person to shore as soon as possible. Don't wait for help to come to you.

The ambulance crew met us at the fuel dock at Mears Great Oak Marina. Doug's arm was secured and he was transferred to the ambulance for a ride to the hospital. Before getting into the front seat of the ambulance to go with him, I asked a marina staff member about shuttle or taxi service in the area. I knew we were in a small town, we were a couple hours from our vehicles, and we would need to find a way back later that evening. The marina did not have a shuttle and taxis don't run on Sundays in that town but he suggested I ask at the hospital. While on the way to the hospital, I asked the ambulance driver for transportation advice. He also suggested asking at the hospital.

LESSON NUMBER 3 - When in a small town ask everyone you can find for assistance.

We spent a couple hours at the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown. It was a small emergency room but everyone was kind. Doug's shoulder was stubborn but two doctors and a nurse worked diligently to get it back in place. If you've ever dislocated a shoulder you know that the immense relief felt when everything is back in place is akin to heaven (at least that's what Doug tells me).

This is where Lesson Number 3 comes into play. Knowing he would soon be discharged I asked the nurse about transportation options. Doug's room was near her desk so we heard the many phone calls she made trying to help us out. The taxi service was closed. The hospital bus didn't have anyone on call. The marina couldn't help us. The sheriff's office couldn't help us. The Uber app wasn't even registering our location. Finally, she found some good Samaritans willing to lend us a hand. I cannot even express how grateful Doug and I are to her dedication to helping us.

When we got back to the marina, one of the boats in our raftup pulled off to pick us back up at the fuel dock. Three-and-a-half hours after the initial fall, we were back on board. A storm was approaching so the raftup crew had zipped our canvas and isinglass back in place. They had dinner ready and waiting for us. They immediately handed me a glass of wine saying I deserved it. (Doug also deserved a drink but alcohol does not go well with pain killers.) They also explained that they had come up with an entire plan for helping me get the boat back to Baltimore if Doug had to stay in the hospital.

LESSON NUMBER 4 - Always be sure to surround yourself with amazing people.

So, there's our story. It probably raises more questions than provides answers but perhaps it will get people thinking.

LESSON NUMBER 5 - Know where you are. Know how to use the VHF radio to get help. You never know when you'll need that information.


  1. So sorry to hear about that, but great lessons!

    1. Thanks Carolyn. Some lessons are learned the hard way. :)

  2. Hi Julie! So sorry to hear this news about Doug! Thankful for all the people in your path that were so helpful!

    1. Thanks Ruth Anne. We were so touched by the kindness of friends and strangers.