Pass the Smelling Salts!

A rainy day in Kalbarri. Roddy is fiddling with electrical stuff. He finds that some electrical equipment, like the fridge, is interfering with his HF radio reception so he is now busy building insulators, soldering away merrily. We are spending much more time in Kalbarri than my itchy feet allow as we are waiting for a postal delivery from the UK – some loudspeaker… Smile J…

Anyhow! I am not one to ridicule the geeky equipment as it could save our lives one day. The other day it would have had to, had we been in a remote location.

We were getting comfy last Wednesday evening when I suddenly saw Roddy sitting, holding his chest and panting. I went over to him, asking what was wrong with him. He managed to tell me that he had severe chest pains and did not know what was wrong. It was shocking! My head was a mess and I couldn’t think straight. For a while I thought that this is it. There have been a few too many scary medical moments and they have rattled me to the bone. I looked for the number of the Kalbarri Medical Centre but it took me much longer than normal as my eyes didn’t connect so well with my brain. I did find it though, but was connected to some centre, somewhere in Australia. After explaining the situation, the voice told me to dial 000 for an ambulance, which I did. That voice asked me some questions and told me to give him an Aspirin. She said an ambo was on its way and to call back if there was a development. After I hung up, Roddy seemed to be a bit better but he then tried to stand up which was not a good idea. I made him lie down and he settled. We waited for 5,10 minutes and I suddenly thought that the ambo might come from Geraldton, not from Kalbarri. Geraldton is 150km away. The prospect of a wait of 1.5 hours or longer was worrying to say the least. The possibility of it being a heart attack and us having to wait any time was sickening and we both felt quite fragile throughout the wait. Fortunately though, we suddenly heard a short blast of the siren and, a little while later, saw the flashing lights and the manager of the campsite leading the ambo to site 49.

There was a main ambo in charge of the team. The second woman followed her instructions and then there was Gordon, the driver and new to the position. The team tried to assess Roddy but one of their handheld devices was not working; I think the battery had run out… They also couldn’t bring the stretcher into the van as there was not enough room. It was all a bit of a guddle but fortunately Roddy seemed stable. Eventually they walked him out and put him on a stretcher in the back of the ambulance. I was sitting in the front with Gordon. The main ambo told Gordon to take it easy driving over the rough campsite ground and onto the main road, so Gordon crawled. Once on the main road, she told him to get going, repeating a while later that speed limits don’t apply to ambos and that he could even use the blue flashing lights and the siren. There was no other traffic though, so this seemed a bit over the top. Gordon still drove gingerly and was then hollered at to put his foot down. There was a whiff of the comical about the scene and I felt for wee Gordon.

It had been a quiet night at the hospital and Roddy was the only patient. The nurse in charge, Victoria, was just the kind of nurse you would want in a situation like that: very calm, very steady, kind and solid. They took bloods and gave him an ECG, put loads of sensors on him and then contacted a centre in Perth. Roddy’s bed was in front of a big screen with a camera on top. A consultant from Perth spoke with him via the screen, assessing the situation and taking copious notes re his medical history. It was decided that he should have a second blood test at 2.30am to assess whether he had been suffering a heart attack or not. Roddy looked like a wee soul in his hospital bed, so vulnerable. It was decided that he had most likely suffered a pulmonary embolism due to the blood in his injured foot clotting (Was that not what I said from day one of the table top falling onto his foot??) Victoria surmised that the clot was probably very small and was dissolved by the aspirin. As the medical centre was supposed to be closed at that stage it was decided to take Roddy to Geraldton’s Regional Hospital. Ehm, I guess the cost of an ambo ride with two staff all the way there in the middle of the night, plus the treatment he was to receive there was costlier than keeping the medical centre open for a few more hours but there was probably a different budget involved. As it was, the ambulance took forever to get to Geraldton. It was round about midnight, there was a full moon and it had been dry for a long time – all factors that drive kangaroos to congregate on roads en masse. Needless to say, Roddy did not get much sleep that night as the hospital did more tests. They agreed with the previous diagnosis of a PE and told him his heart was very healthy but wanted him to have a stress test once his foot is healed. That will probably happen when we reach Carnarvon so there will be more hospital joy for both of us. I packed up camp here and drove to Geraldton the next day to pick up a very tired Roddy.

We decided to take it easy for a bit. He still has the pains in his leg and takes a daily dose of Aspirin. Due to his recent immunotherapy they decided against Warfarin which is the usual medication.

As always, though, a scary episode like this brings people very close together and we could not be closer just now which is lovely. I insisted that he teach me how to operate the HF-90 shortwave radio so that I can use it should we need to attract help again in a more remote place. He wrote me out a list with clear instructions, as well as NATO phonetics (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc) and then taught me how to use his baby. I practised ‘beaconing’ Perth, Meekatharra and Carnarvon stations and I spoke into the DTMF microphone, saying, “Mobile 1626 to Perth base. Do you copy? Over.” Then I watched his video in which he demonstrates beaconing: in order to ‘deepen my understanding’ and found out that I am apparently a named and registered HF operator (mobile 1626) and member of VKS737, the National Four-Wheel Drive Radio Network! And I thought I was just an English teacher but no, Roddy surreptitiously registered me. Needless to say, it would be nice not to have a medical emergency for a while but it’s great to know that I could contact help in any case.

4 thoughts on “Pass the Smelling Salts!

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