Friday, March 18, 2016

A Day in Marsh Harbour Clinic

Marlene, Michele and John enjoying sundowners after John's
healing hands made life bearable for awhile.
   Recently, I had my first a licensed massage therapist within the confines of Simple Life's cockpit! It may sound self-indulgent, but it was actually for therapeutic reasons after waking up aboard with a debilitating back spasm.

     Joe and I had planned a provisioning trip to Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island where groceries and other necessities like beer and wine tend to be cheaper than in Hopetown on Elbow Cay. The main island is where the large freighters from Nassau offload goods due to its deeper entrance channel.

     Simple Life's engine was running and we were about to drop the mooring lines when my upper back went into a spasm. It was clear that there was no possibility of leaving. I spent the rest of the day crawling about the boat on my hands & knees. After awhile I was able to crawl out to the cockpit to sit in a straight chair (not jacket) although some might think that would have been the more appropriate choice.

    A few hours later a dinghy came up to Simple Life. It was friends John and Marlene from Four Aces. John is known among the boating crowd as a fine bluegrass mandolinist. To my surprise he's also a licensed massage therapist. I excused myself for not getting up when they came aboard due to excruciating pain. He asked about the problem. I described the issue which has occurred only once before where I was treated at Rhode Island Hospital emergency room where two shots of morphine was administered along with a couple of Valium. I said, " My doctor recommended deep tissue massage, but I'm never home to follow through." He rubbed his hands together and asked if we had any coconut oil told me to lie down in the cockpit on my stomach and instructed Joe to pull my
T-shirt up to my neck. He proceeded to work his magic. After therapy I was able to sit up and walk relatively pain free. He returned the following morning for another session.

     My plan was to see the nurse at the Hopetown clinic on Monday. Joe went to the site and discovered the clinic had been closed for quite awhile since the nurse "hadn't been coming on the mail boat from Marsh Harbour" according to a local.  Clearly, we would have to sail on Monday from Hopetown to Marsh Harbour where a government clinic was opened. Don't die on a weekend in the Bahamas. No muscle relaxants for me until Monday.

Lynn & Walt from Iolar after delivering much
needed pain medication.
     On Sunday, my friend and "harbour pharmacist" Lynn aboard Iolar borrowed muscle relaxants from her friend on another boat who had a back problem last year. The drug methocarbamol can be purchased over the counter in Canada but apparently is not approved in the US. It seemed a better choice than Valium since it doesn't cause as much drowsiness.


      On Monday morning, we sailed to Marsh Harbour where we dinghied ashore to walk more than a mile to the government clinic on the outskirts of town. The realization of third world country is easy to understand after experiencing a clinic in the Bahamas. First of all there's no hospital anywhere in Abaco. If a person has a heart attack or serious injury that person either expires or if lucky hangs on for a rescue helicopter to airlift them to the hospital in Nassau on New Providence.

The Marsh Harbour Government Clinic
where I was treated well
    When we arrived at the clinic it appeared abandoned. There was no clinic sign just the remains of a rusted metal frame that had long ago rotted away. The signature Bahamian government pink exterior had peeled away in several spots. Shuttered windows made it difficult to see whether the clinic was opened. After trying two doors we found a side door unlocked. The atmosphere was chaotic with staff walking back and forth from room to room. We were received at a registration window where I was asked for my ID. "I Forgot to bring it." No do you spell the name. "It's inoculation day for all new babies!" I was told to expect a long wait.

Filing paperwork at the Marsh Harbour Government Clinic
     I reasoned that inoculations wouldn't take too long and figured we'd be seen within an hour or so. We were quite the curiosity at the clinic since we were obviously visitors in the Bahamas. A few women with infants in the waiting room were Haitian. Most were Bahamians who knew each other and seemed to delight in admiring each other's new babies.
While waiting one young Bahamian man behind us waited to register his two month old daughter for her inoculation. His wife was sitting in the waiting room with the infant on her lap and a three year old by her side. He was friendly and asked lots of questions about the States and about how far we had traveled in a sailboat.

A young Bahamian boy leaving the
Government Clinic at Marsh Harbour
    Within an hour I was examined by Dr. Keith Rivers, a youthful, friendly Bahamian doctor who gave me a good examination. He prescribed muscle relaxers, Motrin and a salve for the burn on my back from the hot water bottle I'd used in desperate times. He also asked his nurse dress the burn. All for $30.00.

     On the walk back to the boat which was over a mile our new Bahamian friend Jean from the clinic stopped his car with his wife Princess and new baby offering a ride to the pharmacy! He was so kind and would have been disappointed if we turned him down.


     So many people have helped us during this minor ordeal in the Bahamas. We are so thankful for our close community of friends. Those whom we know and those whom we have recently met. It warms my heart knowing so many folks are kind and caring.

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