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Mico Verde
Call 911

Port Resolution, Tanna, Vanuatu
September 4-7, 2006

(Steph) Port Resolution Bay is home to a bunch of fresh water hot springs. The water is just under boiling temperature as it emerges from the rock. Some of the springs are used for cooking, some are used for laundry, and some mingle with the sea water in which you can swim around, enjoying a natural hot tub.

I bet our Seattle friends Alissa and Ian just flinched involuntarily at reading the phrase "hot tub." And now we have even more reason for that.

We enjoyed the hot springs, for the second time, one morning at low tide. We were having so much fun that we got reeeeeallly stupid and decided to get close to the source (Wojo -- my idea) so we could hear the water boiling from the earth. About that time, a tiny little surge of sea water came in, pushing the hot water toward our feet that were perched precariously on top of slimy, mossy rocks. The hot water sent us slipping off the rocks into the extremely hot pools of water. Woj's reflexes are wonderful, and he leapt far enough away that he only felt the effects of boiling water but didn't get a souvenir of the event. I, on the other hand, fell onto my butt and had to do a quick maneuver where I perched each hand and foot onto a separate rock surrounding the pool, ending up in that position you'll remember from childhood when you'd do the crab walk. I had moved pretty quickly, but not quickly enough -- when I looked down at my right foot, my first thought was Ack! Melted foot!

Yep -- our first medical emergency in two years of cruising. And it was a doozy. I had second degree burns all over the top of my right foot, and some had broken and were bleeding. We rushed back to the boat and rinsed in fresh water and then went through our big first aid kit to find the necessary supplies. Luckily, we were all set up with the right stuff, and Woj dressed my foot up nicely. But the pain was excruciating. I have never felt such prolonged pain over such a large surface area in my life. Both my feet and my legs up to about mid-calf were just killing me. Woj poured over all our medical books and decided to try aloe vera (Wojo -- yes, aloe vera, for I'm a medical genius). Once he spread some of that on, it took away the pain almost immediately, as long as we kept applying it. That stuff is incredible.

So -- immediate danger over. The nearest doctor was a two-hour drive away, so we decided to just stick with our original plan and head for Port Vila (the main city and port in Vanuatu, on the island of Efate) the next day, where I could see a doctor.

The next morning, however, Woj woke up after a kava bender and felt too wiped out to leave. The pain in my foot had completely abated, and I felt like another day before seeing the doctor wouldn't be a problem, so we decided to wait. The next day, Woj woke up feeling like he had a cold. So we decided we'd wait one more day. That afternoon, Woj developed a fever. That's when I started worrying.

Burned foot in Tanna Vanuatu

Neither of us have just picked up colds or the flu while out cruising, mostly because stuff like that just doesn't make it around to these remote places. So it seemed weird that Woj would have picked up something, especially since we didn't know anyone else who was sick. But as soon as I started doing a little research, the first thing I came across said, "Fever in a traveler, who has returned from a malaria endemic area, should be attributed to malaria until proven otherwise." Guess what? Vanuatu is a malaria endemic area. Our second medical emergency in two years, and just within a couple days of our first. Incredible.

Despite the fact that the malarial mosquitoes only come out at night, and we'd been obsessive about long sleeves and pants and bug spray, and we'd been told that only three cases of malaria had been reported on Tanna in the last year, and we'd only been in Vanuatu a week, I was extremely worried that Woj had managed to pick up malaria.

Woj wasn't helping my state of worry. He was coming up with all these different scenarios for me to prepare for. "If I slip into a coma tonight, go over to so-and-so for help." "If I have to get airlifted to Port Vila, get Larry the Peace Corps volunteer to help you sail the boat to Port Vila so you can meet me there."

The next morning I was up at dawn to try to arrange a ride to Lenakal, the location of the only doctor on Tanna. I ran into Larry who was a big help in rousting out the locals to find a ride. Unfortunately, none of the taxi trucks had come to the village that morning, so getting a ride to Lenakal wasn't possible until mid-day. Ronnie, the chief of the village, also administers the health clinic, so he offered to look at Woj and give him some chloroquinine, an antibiotic you can use as a first offense against malaria. He gave us a few different drugs, but didn't know if they contained penicillin, which Woj is allergic to. I didn't want him to take anything until I'd checked that the drugs were free of penicillin, so I tried calling the doctor in Lenakal to see if he could help.

You gotta love these remote places. From the one phone the village shares and that is sheltered underneath a thatch roof, I called the number Larry had rustled up for me. When someone answered, I asked, "Can I speak to the doctor?"

"One moment." "Hello?"

"Uh, yes ... is this the doctor?"

"Yep."

"Oh! Okay, well, my husband has come down with a fever ..."

How sad is it that getting a doctor on the phone on my first try is so amazing? Anyway, when the doctor started speaking, I realized that I was speaking to a Canadian. Wonders will never cease. I relayed Woj's symptoms to him, and he assured me that Woj didn't have malaria and would probably get over his fever without antibiotics. Phew!! A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.

We decided to leave for Port Vila the next day, as it sounded like there would be light winds and I could easily motor sail without Woj having to exert himself too much. We actually sailed most of the way, with some of the flattest seas we've ever experienced. Finally a lucky break! We made it to Port Vila in 24 hours and went to the hospital, finally, to have my foot looked at. They dressed my foot for me exactly as I had been doing it for the past five days, gave me some antibiotics, and charged me $2 for the trouble.

Larry from US Peace Corps at his house in Pt Resolution Village. (photo 2006 Cap'n Fatty Goodlander)

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