Saturday, March 19, 2011

And yes, Heather is feeling much better...

I really hated to include my health problems in this upbeat blog but many people have asked and it instructive to know what happens when you have problems while cruising. So last spring I had two emergency room visits and  scheduled appointments and procedures while in the Caribbean.
The first occasion was in St. Lucia at the Rodney Bay Marina. At 10PM I felt waves of pain centered in my center back but radiating some forward. I called our emergency help number at our HMO in Boston and talked to a nurse. She suggested I go to the hospital as it could be a heart attack. A taxi called by the security guard brought us to the Tapion Hospital in Castries (in about 40 minutes). I was immediately seen by an emergency room doctor and nurse and given a EKG. Lab tests were done and a CAT scan. This later was done to check for a spinal aneuryism and turned up something quite different. I ended up spending the night in the ER and the next morning saw a cardiologist. He did not think it was my heart but probably a muscular problem, however he informed me that I had a cloudy spot on my lung. He felt I should see someone when I returned to the States.
The next attack occurred while at anchor in St. Martin at night. The half mile trip into the nearest marina wasn't pleasant but we managed to catch a taxi to their nearest hospital, the St. Maarten General Hospital. They had to go through the same tests for my heart but again ruled it out. This time the doctor suggested it might be gastroenteritis of some form and I should see a gastroenterologist.
Now price ruled it's ugly head! The visit in St. Lucia was covered by my pension health insurance but I had a few days before changed to Medicare a few weeks before my 65th birthday. This visit to St. Maarten Hospital was not covered. Medicare only covers care received in the U.S. (or it's territorys). We made immediate plans to head for the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our friends Bill and Suzanne Osbourne found a doctor in St. Thomas and I was able to make an appointment with him in two  weeks. Meanwhile at his suggestion I went on a strict diet of bland and non fat foods (and no caffeine or alcohol). The thought of another attack kept me on the straight and narrow. Our son and room mate Courtney were arriving in a day or so to spend their vacation or we would have left immediately.
The diet worked luckily. Dr. Lawrence Goldman at the Paragon Medical Bldg next to the Schneider Regional Medical Center was excellent and had great credentials. I had a endoscopy only days later and left for Puerto Rico with a two week supply of tons of antibiotics and anti acid medication. 
I stayed on the diet until I returned to the States a month later. I needed to lose weight anyway and Dr. Goldman thought it might be spasms of my esophogus from acid reflux (and my own doctor thinks it's gall stones even though I had my gall bladder out) so who wanted to take a chance on finding a ER in the Dominican Republic or the Bahamas! 
Long story and no final outcome on this. But the real clicker was the "shadow" on my lung! Once home it was diagnosed as a B.A.C. type lung cancer. After several CAT scans months apart happily it hadn't changed in nine months from the St. Lucia scan (which they sent to my own doctor). I saw a pulmonologist and then two thorasic surgeons before choosing Dr. Steven Mentzer at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass. I had surgery on 1/10/11 and he removed one lobe of my right lung and all the cancer. I don't need chemo or radiation and will have twice yearly CAT scan follow ups to check for reoccurence. 
Three weeks after the surgery we flew back to Scott Free and three days later were underway for the Keys.  The recovery has been long for me but considered very quick by others. Long story but in summary, I feel I got very good care in all three islands. I still don't know what exactly caused those attacks but I'm taking care of my stomach and have a variety of medications to help. But I did get diagnosed early for lung cancer!!!

1 comment:

Judy and Bill aboard S/V BeBe said...

Very glad to hear you beat the lung cancer and are doing well now. Enjoy the cruising again.