Jenna here. First, I want to let you know Jamie is ok. Early Wednesday morning he had a seizure. All his test results have come back normal and he has felt fine since then. We went by ambulance to the hospital on Moorea and then ferried to the main hospital in Papeete where he’s been under excellent care in the neurology unit. They have run many tests including CT scans, MRI, EKG, EEG, blood work, etc. and so far everything has come back clean. The doctors are running one more cardio test today, but felt he was doing well enough to let him out last night so he could go out to dinner and stay with us on Sophie.
I was planning a lightweight follow up to Jamie’s tattoo post when this happened. Instead, here is my account of what transpired that I wrote late Wednesday night after we got his first test results.
Around 7:15am Jamie seemed to be having a nightmare. I woke up to him mumbling and then sort of crying out in his sleep. I shook his arm to wake him and said “Jamie you’re having a nightmare,” but he didn’t rouse and I realized this was actually my worst nightmare. Something was horribly wrong. He grabbed his chest, screamed, and started writhing and convulsing while his eyes rolled back into his head. His jaw clamped shut and I expected him to start foaming at the mouth any second. I held his hand and heard myself screaming “No! Are you having a heart attack? Can you hear me? Do you hear me? Jamie!” while a thousand thoughts raced through my head. Do I remember CPR? Why didn’t we get that portable defibrillator? What do you do during a seizure? Could this be a stroke? Could it be all three? How am I going to get you to shore? Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare die on me right now, Jamie! Maybe all of that was out loud too. I’m not sure how long this lasted, probably less than a minute, but it felt like forever. Then he was unconscious. He had a pulse but didn’t respond. At all. This was the most terrifying moment of my life. What now?
We were anchored near Opunohu Bay, off the beach about a kilometer down from a Hilton resort, so after I screamed for Max and Becca to wake up I called the hotel concierge to help get an ambulance dispatched to our beach. They were wonderful. Within minutes I had also consulted with Jamie’s dad and my sister Julie (doctors in the family), put Leo in charge of breakfast and playing Rat-a-Tat Cat with Hazel, and started throwing some things in a bag. Jamie went in and out of consciousness a few times during the 15 minutes we waited for the ambulance. The first time he couldn’t speak and I didn’t think his eyes focused when he looked at me. The next time he recovered a little more. He was confused, not remembering where we were and repeated questions. Thank God! I was thrilled he could say anything at all and able to move his arms and legs. In and out again, but then he began to recall parts of the last few days and became curious about the gaps. Of course, he wanted to get up right away and I wouldn’t let him.
Max and Becca met the pompiers at the beach with the dinghy and soon we had 3 of Moorea’s finest with a stretcher on board. By this time, Jamie was able to sit up and talk, then walk up the steps from our cabin and climb onto the back board. He requested sunglasses before the firemen lowered him into the dinghy. I can’t tell you how thankful we are to have Max and Becca here. While I imagine that I could have handled all of this by myself if I had to, it means the world to me that they are here and could manage everything. I had the luxury of staying with Jamie without worrying at all about the kids or the boat. Thank you two!
Here’s a shot of Jamie going to shore. We had to make a few trips to shuttle everyone on and off Sophie. The pompiers and EMTs were great, but spoke almost no English, like most of the hospital workers, so today really put my French to the test.
The hospital on Moorea is on the eastern shore, about 15 minutes from the boat. It’s a twisty road, but the EMTs were happy to pose for a photo along the way since Jamie’s vitals looked good.
Jamie saw a terrific French lady doctor who the nurses said is “absolutely the best, trained in Paris.” She confirmed it wasn’t a heart attack, didn’t appear to be a stroke, and most likely was simply une crise convulsive. Otherwise known as a seizure. I heard this phrase a lot today. The protocol here for a first time seizure is basically to do nothing… unless, she said… you ask for scans. And are willing to pay. She recommended going to the main hospital in Papeete on Tahiti since she doesn’t have CT or MRI equipment in Moorea. The next ferry was scheduled to leave in an hour. Ok, sounds great. At this point I figured out we had forgotten a few things. Jamie wasn’t wearing shoes. The staff thought we were a little crazy not to have them but who wears shoes in bed? I also hadn’t eaten anything. Or changed clothes. Or brushed my hair or teeth or even stepped into the bathroom before we left in the ambulance. But I did manage to bring our passports, wallets, phone and a Surface with chargers, and the snappy camera that was in the bag I grabbed. We travelled by ambulance, with nurse Carole and two other patients who were much worse off than Jamie, to the ferry and 30 minutes after that arrived in Tahiti. Another ambulance shuttled us to the emergency room.
Jamie and I sat up in the front seat and it was fascinating to speed through town with sirens blaring, tearing through red lights with almost a bird’s eye view of the traffic parting to let us through.
Do you ever have that feeling that someone is calling your name but then you turn around and can’t find them? This kept happening to me while checking in. I thought I was imagining it, until nurse Jenna showed up to take Jamie’s blood pressure. Same spelling. Phew! Those weren’t voices in my head after all.
French Polynesia hospital policy is different than the US. Only Jamie was allowed to go in and I had to stay in the waiting room. It was 1:30pm and I still hadn’t eaten. Jamie of course sent out a nurse almost immediately to dismiss me to the café. Winding my way through a long hospital corridor in search of food brought back memories of 5 years ago. I picked at a bacon and ham quiche (because at a time like this one smoked meat just isn’t enough. Don’t you love the French?) and then made my way back through the hallway and elevator maze to the urgence waiting room. Jamie was admitted overnight for more tests and observation. His biggest complaint was his sore mouth from biting his tongue during la crise. I had just over an hour to catch the last ferry back to Moorea, the boat and the kids, so as Jamie swallowed some anti-seizure medication and they started his IV line, I left for the harbor. I always love being on the water, but the highlight of my return trip was the bus I took from the ferry terminal back to the boat. It was filled with locals heading home from work in the city and it was fascinating to listen to their stories and connect them with their homes as they hopped off.
The kids had a fun day playing at the beach with Max and Becca and I got the biggest, much needed hugs from them. They were so excited to share every detail of the day. Batteries were down a little so I started the genset, which promptly stalled a few seconds later and flashed fault #7 (loss of raw water flow). Thank you Murphy’s law. It looks like we need to replace the impeller again. Jamie usually does this so we’ll see if he gets out in time to fix it. Otherwise I have a new project. Batteries are still at 73% so we’re ok for now. Love that battery bank!
I finally spoke to Jamie around 10pm. He’s been moved to the neurology unit, had a CT scan and chest x-ray, and the doctor says everything looks ok so far. An MRI and blood work are on tap for tomorrow. Feels like old times. Jamie sounds back to normal and I’m sure he’s entertaining the staff. He says not to worry and that the hospital food is way better here than in Seattle.
I’ll move the boat to Papeete first thing in the morning. It feels pretty routine to do this now, like driving a car to the mall.
On a separate note, I have had several requests to write more blog posts and post more photos and had actually begun a follow up to Jamie’s previous post when this all happened. I am starting to get used to my ink. In the waiting room today I noticed the ray’s wings also resemble sails, which makes me smile. My children make me smile. Jamie makes me smile. I love this crazy wild adventure we are on together and how much we are learning about the world and ourselves, maybe even more at the end of a day we’re thrown a curveball.
It was great to have Jamie home for the night. He changed the impeller on the genset and then we had Chinese food at the nearby outdoor food market where food trucks set up each night and musicians play. He’s back at the hospital for the last tests today and although we await those results and what the doctors conclude, we’re very optimistic. Jamie seems fine and ready to resume life on Sophie. We anticipate he’ll be released later today or tomorrow. Will let you know.