KWAI  Blog  –  23 July 2017

En route to Pukapuka….

I always wanted to be a doctor.  Imagine how lucky I felt when first meeting up with KWAI in Honolulu a couple winters ago and Ben, aka Bengineer, asked me to stitch up the 5-inch long cut along his shin. Having completed my EMT training just months before, I hopped to it.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Go on. I get to do this all the time. You need to practice,” was his reply.
“Suture self.”
Well, now our roles are reversed and it’s Ben who is helping my leg heal.

During our first stop at Teraina Island things were busy as usual and I somehow managed to scrape the outside of my right leg on one of the many totes stacked in the hold. It seemed a mere scratch at the time so I did little to care for it. In fact, I did nothing at all to care for it. And when the area around the cut began to redden, it caught the notice of Captain Brad. I have learned to respect his wisdom on countless occasions but when he described a treatment strategy out of the US Civil War Medical Handbook, I stalled. Thinking more on it I decided that I’d best toe the line so he’d stop kneedling me. Nobody wants the captain to get out of joint and I didn’t want to foot the bill for health care ashore. So I was going to have to let him scrub it out. He brought the medical kit and I brought “Ride of the Valkyries.” It wasn’t so painful a process after all and the cut looked noticeably better the next day.

It’s been a few more days now and the cut hasn’t quite shown any more improvement so Ben offered to share a special poultice of his very own. Some time ago Ben learned about a healing plant on Tabuera Atoll which has leaves that, when soaked in coconut oil – itself a natural anti-bacterial agent – speeds recovery.  I was optimistic. His medical expertise had just recently become evident when he masterfully extracted a splinter lodged deep in the nail bed of my finger. So today he applied one coconut oil-marinated leaf to a sterile pad and taped it in place. Stay tuned for an update on the next leg of the trip.

It’s been great learning new approaches to patient care here on KWAI. As medical officer on other ships I often had the opportunity to phone shore side doctors via satellite for treatment protocols. But on this trip I’ve been more of a care recipient than care giver. It seems that I’m forever bumping my way along as I learn how the ship moves and where her sharp corners are. To date I’ve  hit my head on the cargo boom so many times that I’m two inches shorter than when this voyage began!

Despite the bumps and such it’s nice to know that KWAI can take care of her own, and we sometimes need  to be reminded that getting patched up by a shipmate is just one of those things which strengthens us all.