Week of hell in Coomera

Friday, apart from doing the laundry, we had a lazy day reading and chilling. In the evening we had to fight a mosquito invasion – hadn’t really suffered much from them here before so was a bit strange – but thankfully we won the battle.

Saturday we went for a walk through the marina to the on-site cafe, Garage 25, for a take out coffee and sat at the bus stop shelter (there are no buses LOL) before returning to Morphie.

In the afternoon after a bacon and egg brunch, Richard decided to start tackling the cockpit. He scrubbed it vigorously with boat wash and was using the chamois cloth to wipe off the residual water when he had a sharp pain in his chest which felt like he had pulled a muscle. So I finished off and we had a long evening and night of him feeling under the weather, but really all the symptoms appeared muscular combined with severe indigestion / reflux, as sucking Gaviscon tablets helped.

Sunday morning Richard said that the pain had eased slightly after having taken some anti-inflammatory tablets but was still persistent. So we had a lazy day but in the evening it worsened again – not helped by his struggle to get any sleep as it hurt to lay flat so he ended up sitting up all night again.

Monday morning we made a doctors appointment and got a courtesy car from the marina to go there. When we arrived, they decided to do an ECG just to make sure everything was OK before considering other reasons for his discomfort.

The ECG was not good and the doctor said that it looked like Richard had actually had a heart attack, although obviously he was not a specialist. As non-essential hospital appointments are being scaled back in Australia due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the GP decided the most efficient way forward was for him to be transported to the Gold Coast University Hospital in Southport so he could get into the system. So the ambulance was called….and then the nightmare really began. The paramedics said that he was actually still having a heart attack – and had been for two days – and they gave him lots of medications as they whizzed us down the M1 motorway. In the meantime the Boatworks sent a couple of their guys out to collect the courtesy car from the mall’s car park.

We arrived at this extensive modern teaching hospital and were put straight into Resus 1 where the paramedics passed Richard over to the on-site staff.

He was quickly stripped off and gowned up and there were at least 12 doctors / nurses plugging him into multiple machines, taking measurements, taking blood, and monitoring all the outputs. They sent the results to the on-duty cardiologist and, suddenly, Richard is being whisked up to the theatre for an exploratory procedure.

Throughout all of this I was able to stay with him, but at this point I was sent to a waiting room, and the reality of what was happening hit home. Couldn’t fault the amazing Australian medical services nor the facilities of this five-year old hospital – have never seen anywhere quite so clean. We were concerned over Covid but they explained that those poor people are isolated elsewhere so we didn’t have to worry about contamination.

Thankfully after what felt like hours I was taken to the recovery room to reunite with a sedated Richard whilst they continued to monitor him – they had found a blocked artery and had inserted a stent there and then.

The lower-left ventricle heart muscle has also been damaged as it was ‘stunned’ by the lack of oxygenated blood for a period of time although it is possible that the functionality could improve over time and under treatment. The team worked hard doing constant ECG monitoring and scans. But Richard’s blood pressure and heart rate was all over the place. The machines were constantly sounding alarms and this was very scary – it was quite clear even to me that he was unstable. After an extended period in recovery they decided that he was OK to move to critical care. So I followed him on his journey along the corridor and he was taken into his own room. Richard remained pretty cheerful throughout the whole time and even managed to flirt with the nurses a bit. He was still being constantly monitored and it soon became clear I was in the way – I probably wasn’t supposed to be there anyway. So a nurse walked me off the premises – in a tearful daze – I really didn’t know where I was. Thankfully there was a huge line of taxis waiting and I was able to get back to Morphie for $50.

Back on board and the whole situation hit me really hard especially when I started contacting friends and family back in the UK – some by phone, others online. I also walked the docks to tell some friends who are on boats here in the marina. Then back to Morphie again for more calls, more internet, and lots and lots of tears. I was so scared and every time the phone rang I thought it was going to be the hospital bringing me bad news. I didn’t get much sleep for sure.

Tuesday morning, at 7am, I went to the marina office. Without any dramas they had booked the free courtesy car for me for the whole week through to the Tuesday after Easter. The manager of the site even came out and bought me a coffee from the on-site restaurant. He also explained how I was able to get out-of-hours support if I needed it from the Boatworks family and said that all I had to do was shout. Unbelievably supportive and they definitely live up to their reputation of being Australia’s Greatest Boatyard.

By 9am, google maps at the ready, I headed out in the car (very thankful they gave me an automatic rather than a manual) towards the hospital. On a good run it takes about 25 minutes but the roads were rammed – they couldn’t all be essential workers, could they??? Anyway, I managed to find the hospital and the car parking, grabbed a drink from the vendor in the main hospital reception and wandered aimlessly towards a lift block. The wards here do not have names just their location – so I was heading towards Floor 4, B block, North. Got a bit lost but eventually I made it to the ward, checked in with the nurses and was escorted to his room. It was a very emotional reunion and I quickly got told off for bawling everywhere as I was supposed to be there to support him!! Just so damn relieved. The doctors came on their rounds and they were very pleased with his progress. They explained that they would keep him in for a minimum of four days while they introduced him to a whole new drug regime. They also explained that he was in AF too. They confirmed that this was genetics rather than lifestyle so he could have had a heart attack at any time – thank god that we were locked down in a marina because of the Covid problem. The medics said that he was lucky to have survived and the horror of this happening underway or in a remote anchorage someplace doesn’t bear thinking about.

During my two hour visit (maximum allowed daily) we were visited by Justin who is a specialist heart nurse. He talked us through the problems, the symptoms, and the recommended changes we needed to make to keep Richard safe from other episodes. All very sobering stuff. Quickly my time was up so I drove back to Morphie – again surprised by the amount of traffic around. I visited the office to keep them updated and then walked the docks again to update our friends.

Back on board I did some research into Medicare here in Australia. The in-patient and future out-patient appointments are all covered free of charge as Australia has a reciprocal arrangement wth the UK. We are also entitled to sign up for Medicare to give us free access to GP services which is going to be required going forward. Although prescription medication, apparently, is charged at cost to everybody. So I rang them to see if I could make an appointment for Wednesday afternoon to be told you have to come in and do it in person. So I got the form printed off.

Another night on board but was delighted to speak to Richard in the evening to find that he had eaten and he was very happy with his three-course dinner service! In the evening, for an hour or so, I joined Steve and Jody – at an appropriate social distance of course – and it was nice to get off the boat for a little while. It is incredibly strange to be onboard Morphie without Richard – we are always together 24/7 and it just felt plain wrong. This was followed by another busy evening of messaging updates on his condition but sleep still remained elusive.

Wednesday morning, again at 7am, I headed into the office to update the office staff. Back on board I filled the 13 page form in and gathered all the original documents ready to take with me. They wanted quite a lot of information that I had to sort out. Armed with all this, plus the address of the local Southport Centrelink office, I drove back down the motorway to see Richard. The traffic had quietened a little – with lots of messages about essential travel only – but still more than I would have expected. The motorways aren’t too bad to navigate as at least they drive on the correct side of the road in Australia LOL. They also have roughly the same speed limit as us which is 110 kph / almost 70 mph.

I arrived to find Richard sitting up in a chair watching the TV. He was so much brighter I couldn’t believe it. They had got him up and about with a mobile monitoring device so he had been able to shower too. Here he is looking surprisingly well considering. After the photoshoot I got him to sign the documents.

The doctors were incredibly pleased with his progress and said he may even come home on Thursday – which is a day earlier than we thought was the earliest release date. So we were pretty chuffed. Again Justin came by for another chat this time about support going forward. Basically Richard is going to be monitored very closely and has been allocated a specialist nurse practitioner who will be keeping in touch with him and his GP (when we have signed up with one) and monitoring his test results and tolerance for the drugs etc and also organising his out-patient check-ups. There is usually a rehab clinic to attend too but this is not operating at the moment due to the pandemic. The reality is that the medics have asked that we don’t move away from the Gold Coast for the next three months whilst he is closely monitored….and, as we are virtually in lock down here with non-essential boating prohibited, we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon anyway.

Leaving him again after my allocated two hours I headed off in the car to find this Centrelink / Medicare office. I found a free public car park and watched the queue up the street. Great…. I joined the queue (suitably masked up) and had to keep moving to maintain my position in the line but also to keep away from the damn people who clearly had no regard for the social distancing practices put in place. After an hour I made it into the office itself and then to the check-in desk – only to be told that they no longer do enrolments here and I have to send the documents in via email. Great, what a waste of time. The experience was certainly an education and people watching never gets more interesting than that!

Back to the boatyard, I did my now customary dock walk and visited the office ladies to give them some chocolates as a small token of my appreciation for their help and support. Then I started the process of collating pdfs of documents in readiness for the submission. And, of course, at that point my scanner packed up! Really…..I only had two more documents to do……sigh…. So that was the end of that for the evening so again another evening of messaging and keeping people informed. Another lonely and pretty sleepless night on board followed as I was by now feeling increasingly anxious about everything.

Thursday morning, again at 7am I’m back to the office, to get these last two documents scanned. They did it on the spot – amazing service or what?!? – and back to Morphie to get them all sent off. Phew, job done, and then back in the car down to the hospital. I did my usual two hour visit but Richard was still unsure of whether he would be released or not as the doctors were late doing their rounds. By this time he had been moved into a two-man room as his original one was needed for someone who was in a very bad way. That’s when you start counting your blessings!

So I left as usual and asked him to call me. When I left him this time I headed straight to Coles supermarket in the Westfield Mall (which we have found to be the better stocked supermarket locally). And, being the day before a long holiday weekend, with numbers being restricted inside the store, I had to queue for a long time to actually get inside. I was after some new essential ingredients to help Richard with his new diet plus lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. The weird thing was that the seafood stuff was all gone – so no hope of getting some fresh prawns and salmon then?!? Also eggs seem to be the latest things to be in short supply but there was lots of toilet paper instead LOL.

When I got back to the car I had missed a call from the hospital. So I rang back and it took me quite a while to get through to Richard – not great for my stress levels! But it was very good news and he confirmed that he was coming home and I should return at 4pm. So I rushed back to Morphie, unloaded the shopping and did a quick clean up job in readiness for his return. Then I headed off down the Pacific Highway towards the motorway as I wanted to pop into the rug shop. I know that this was non-essential (was actually surprised they were still open) but if we are going to be sitting on the dock for a long while we really need the saloon to feel more homely. Richard had given me permission to choose it on my own LOL. Anyway, job done, I headed to the hospital for the second visit of the day.

I arrived in good time and Richard was sitting in his chair, watching TV, all packed up and ready to go. The pharmacist was with him going through all his drugs and the regime he needed to follow and what each of them did. We still had to wait around for the discharge papers which are usually posted to your doctor – but, of course, we don’t have one yet – so we waited and waited. Realising that time was getting on I headed down to the hospital pharmacy to get the prescriptions made up in preparation for our departure. We got one month’s supply of eight different drugs for a total cost of $127 (as we elected for generic rather than branded ones) which didn’t seem that bad actually.

I headed back to the ward and he was still sitting there…..so I chased up the documents. I really didn’t want to drive back in the dark if I could avoid it. Anyway, finally, I was able to take him home. On arrival back we slowly walked around and visited three boats (at a social distance of course) to show them that he was well and then had a quiet evening on board whilst he phoned around his family after a very healthy dinner. We both slept pretty well.

At this juncture, I just want to praise the Australian healthcare system for being so amazing – fantastically prompt, efficient, professional, no-nonsense service. I’m not sure the outcome would have been such a good one if this had happened back in the UK right now with the current emergency situation. Grateful to be here in Australia and on the Gold Coast which has a relatively low number of Covid cases to date.

This rainy morning, Good Friday, and Richard is resting and reading in the saloon (with the new navy rug that he is not keen on, typical!). We’ll go out for a short dock walk later but don’t plan anything strenuous for him for the next two to three weeks as he builds his stamina. Guess the boat jobs will fall to me soon and expect to be tackling them going forward under direct supervision – not sure that will be fun LOL.

Happy Easter everybody. Take care, stay safe, stay home and to let you know we are thinking of you. Plus a huge thank you to everybody who have been phoning me; messaging me; and emailing me with supportive messages throughout this difficult time. You were all awesome!

Bye for now