So … not quite sure how to start this one. I think I’ll do a section on what’s been going on in the UK, where I still am, and a separate Buzzard section so that if you’re not interested in the boring (or not so boring) family saga you can skip down to the really exciting stuff.
In the UK -
My wonderful happy holiday has not been working out quite as planned. My son, Alastair, had been having leg pains a week or so before I arrived, and the week after I got there ended up being diagnosed with DVT and a blood clot behind his knee. His calf and foot were massively swollen, his spleen was enlarged, his blood count was low and he was severely anaemic. Because they didn’t know what was causing it, he was put on anti-coagulants and B12 injections and placed under the Haematology Dept. at Castle Hill Hospital. After numerous visits to doctors and clinics they did a bone-marrow biopsy and a CT scan both of which, although showing slight abnormalities, didn’t come up with anything conclusive (that was a good day because they had been fearing that it was leukemia, which it wasn’t).
Then he started showing other symptoms, like horrendous blood clots coming up just under his skin around his neck and face, together with swollen lips and ears, and excruciating leg cramps. At this point he was admitted into hospital to see a dermatologist and get a biopsy taken. The clots started to re-absorb after four days and he was discharged with a tentative diagnosis of Antiphosopholipid Syndrome (aka APS or Hughes Syndrome), which is a rare auto-immune disease. Unfortunately it’s incurable but with the right medication and monitoring, can hopefully be ‘managed’.
We finally thought we were getting somewhere then he suddenly began being violently sick with severe stomach pain and constipation. After a second emergency dash to A&E he was re-admitted to hospital and placed on intravenous fluids and pain-killers. Eventually he was moved onto the acute assessment ward (for the second time in less than a week) because, apart from the stomach cramps and sickness, his wrist had become really painful and hot and had and started swelling up with red blotches appearing.
This was last Saturday and he’s still in the hospital now, but …THE GOOD NEWS, they appear to be finally joining up the dots of his various symptoms which they believe are all connected with APS. Now he’s finally stopped being sick they’ve put him on steroids and when I spoke to him this morning he was, for the first time, ‘feeling better’!!!! He’s waiting to see a Rheumatologist now who can hopefully make sense of all his disparate symptoms and work out what the next step is.
Believe it or not this is the very abridged version of what’s been going on with my wonderful son! And although it’s been hard going I’m so pleased I’ve been able to be here for him … I’ve just extended my stay for the second time.
Also, in amongst all the bad stuff happening, there are good bits. The English summer has been wonderful; my mum and I spent a week with my sister in the Lake District which was set out in all it’s scenic glory, and at the end of August we actually had the almost unheard of phenomena of a hot and sunny Bank Holiday Monday. Of course the good weather has all but gone now, the night’s are drawing in and there’s a definite autumnal nip in the air but, despite the advent of cold feet, it’s still beautiful.
So .. enough about me.
THE BUZZARD -
This is a very limited version of events as I can only relate what Mike’s told me and I know for sure there are things that happened that he hasn’t told me … probably good and bad and even more adventuresome. They were away for eight weeks and three days in total, but last Friday finally made it back on to the mooring in Clarke’s Court.
To begin with they ended up having to spend two weeks in Suriname because the barge that they were supposed to be towing back was most definitely ‘not fit for purpose’. So they had to find another barge, of which there are apparently many in Suriname, but even the best of the lot needed pumping out and welding before they could contemplate towing it out.
However, after two weeks hard graft and some minor hiccups with officialdom, they set off for St. Martin. The weather was calm and first few days went reasonably well until, just off the outside of St. Vincent, the barge started taking on water. As usual with these things it happened in the middle of the night. They had to drop back with the Buzzard to go alongside and pump it out and put the Bentley in to stop any collisions. The barge managed to rip part of our rub-rail off when it was alongside, and they got the the tow rope caught round the prop and Ian had to go in to free it. (And Mike wonder’s why I’m not keen to go on these trips with him!)
Anyway, they got enough water out to stop it sinking and made it into Otley Hall in St. Vincent. They then spent almost two weeks there getting more welding and repairs carried out. Not absolutely sure what else happened there as Mike’s communications were quite sporadic, but when they eventually set off again they were minus James and Andy (James never to be seen on the Buzzard again (again), but hopefully that’s not the case with Andy, something I’ll no doubt find out in due course).
There were various tropical storms developing in the area but luckily they made it safe to St. Martin in about four days. The barge was picked up outside the lagoon by two smaller tugs and Mike followed them through the bridge and into the lagoon … and got stuck on a mud/sand bank just underneath the airport. Of course it just happened to be on the highest tide of the month, and a storm hit the following day so they couldn’t get the smaller tugs out to help pull them off.
In all they were on the bank for ten days, and then only got off when a barge and excavator was brought out to dig a channel. No doubt providing some great harbour theatre for the yachts in the bay.
After that, as far as I can gather, it was all relatively delay-free plain-sailing, which is just as well as they were on a mission to get back to Grenada for Mike’s birthday on the 18th. They went to St. Barths to pick up some garden statues, Antigua to drop off, Dominica to get water, Martinique to stock up on wine and cheese, Bequia and Carriacou briefly, and actually made it into Clarke’s Court, not only in time for his birthday but also in time for the Friday night full-moon party.
I do know they were really pleased to finally get back, and all I can say is a big THANK YOU to the valiant crew who stuck with the adventure … no doubt topping up their store of stories to tell for quite a few years to come. Now all Mike’s got to do is the repair work on the Buzzard and the Bentley which apparently needs doing, and then no doubt he’ll be ready for the next adventure.
Love to all …
PS In amongst all the stuff happening with Al and Mike, I also had a ‘happening’ of my own when my routine smear test came back positive for ‘high grade (severe) dyskaryosis’. I went last Monday to have a colposcopy and the offending cells removed for which, being the wimp that I apparently now am, had to have gas and air. I’m waiting for the test results to come back but feeling positive that all will be well and I will finally be able to get back to the Buzzard. At the moment my Caribbean life feels like a million miles away rather than the 5,000 it actually is.