Maui is our fantasy. The vibe is perfection. We daydream about living in the peace and tranquility of this beautiful island.
So we try to visit at least once a year, and this year it was mid-February. An idyllic week on our favorite island with close friends from our home town.
As usual, we had beers with our local Maui friend to get the real lay of the land, and asked him if medical care on the island had gotten any better.
No. Still the same problem attracting doctors and other medical personnel.
We sighed, and went back to our regularly scheduled program of rest and relaxation.
And then, things took an … interesting… turn.
SATURDAY IN KAUA’I
After a week in Maui, we hopped over to Kaua’i to meet up for a few days with three old friends from our days in Tallahassee, Fla. One had a condo at Princeville as his second home, so for convenience, we rented a studio condo in the same complex.
Our first full day was a beach day…watching surfers, talking about old times, catching up on current events.
Then, we went back to our condos to…rest up some more.
M and I had been there about 10 minutes when an ominous THUD! broke the quiet.
“Are you ok?” I called out to M.
I ran to the kitchen, where he lay on the floor flat on his stomach. The thud was his head hitting the stone floor, which was covered in blood. I mean COVERED.
“Are you ok?” I asked again, hoping I’d hear “I’m fine!”
“NO,” I heard. I wasn’t sure what had happened. Could he even stand up? Had he broken anything serious? When he stood, I had my answer.
A huge gash on his forehead was gushing blood all over the stone tile. I didn’t panic. I grabbed paper towels and he applied pressure.
It was hard to know how truly bad it was because M is on blood thinners — any little thing makes him bleed. But I was worried about a head injury.
Stand by, I texted our friends across the parking lot. Michael took a fall. He’s bleeding profusely.
“I’m going to text our doctor,” I told M.
“No! Don’t do that,” he protested.
Triage–by a lawyer?
Our local friend appeared at the door with large bandages, Neosporin and a critical eye. For the first time I looked at what lay beneath the paper towels: M had a huge, bloody gouge above his eyebrows. An entire chunk of flesh seemed missing. Exactly in the spot where the bear in the image above is hurt.
“That’s going to need stitches,” our friend said. “You need the ER.” No, he isn’t a doctor. He, like the rest of the group (except for me) was a lawyer. Of course, he’d been a health care lawyer, so maybe that qualified him to assess. In any case, we took his word for it.
They left for the hospital. I stayed back, immediately texted our doctor, then mopped up the blood.
The closest ER was a relatively new hospital 20 miles away. It was empty, so M was immediately evaluated and stitched. Nine stitches. Given his heart condition, the doctor did an EKG. They didn’t like what they saw.
Our doctor was actually on the east coast that day, where it was almost midnight. She had responded to my text, “I’ll wait up and talk to the ER doctor.” I texted M that info and they called her from the ER. Our doctor was able to discuss M’s always strange EKG, send the Kaua’i doctor his most recent prior EKG (on the spot!) and they determined that the pattern was normal for him.
“You need a head CT scan just to be safe,” the hospital doctor said. “But our scanner isn’t installed yet. You’ll need to go to another hospital for that.” (Seriously???)
So off M and our friend went to a sister hospital, further away. Fortuitously, it was almost as empty. He was taken right into the CT room. Scan was fine. Thankfully.
When he got home, M. mentioned that the first ER doc had sat and chatted with him about the lack of medical care in Hawai’i.
There’s only one oncologist and one cardiologist on the island. The CT scan was being read remotely in Australia because the radiologists all went home at 4pm.
“This is no country for old men,” she told him.
No kidding. In fact, we’ve felt almost trapped in the Bay area, where we are blessed with exceptional medical care (what doctor is available 24/7 on text and waits up for an ER call after midnight?).
At our age, excellent medical care has become a criterion for any kind of move. And, sadly, eliminates Hawai’i from consideration.
Waimea Canyon / February 2023
M was banged up but said he felt fine. So off we all went to gorgeous Waimea Canyon. The round trip drive would take the better part of a full day, and the view did not disappoint.
That night, back in our condo, I realized I had developed a pretty bad sore throat. Oh no! Not good. I thought. It’s always a bad idea for me to fly with an upper respiratory ailment of any kind, since my ears are sensitive to changes in pressure and in fact, I’d lost my hearing twice in recent years and only regained it after massive doses of prednisone. And I do mean massive. Did not want to repeat that.
One timemI was trapped for two weeks 3,000 miles from home because my ENT doc wouldn’t approve flying. I did not want to be trapped in a state with inadequate medical care.
Of course, I hoped for the best, but feared I’d only get sicker. And then…what if I had Covid? No, didn’t want to be here if that were the case.
I swallowed a zinc tablet for immune support and quickly emailed my travel agent ,who was in Texas. I knew he, himself, was heading to Kauai the next day because we planned to grab a drink while we were both there. I inquired if we could get home the next day. There didn’t seem to be a way. I went to bed hoping I’d feel better after rest.
Rain poured steadily and heavily all night. By morning I was no better. A negative home Covid test would not be reassuring, as symptoms were only 12 hours old and false negatives that early are not uncommon. Could we get a flight home that afternoon?
Weather was due to clear late morning, but it looked really iffy for the rest of the week. This was the best flying day we’d have all week. Chances are that flights later in the week would be cancelled. But. The gods were with us and we got seats on a flight that afternoon. I have never packed so fast.
Our flights were on time. We got home safely. Reunited with the pups.
The sore throat quickly abated, replaced by sinus congestion. No fever. I tested negative for Covid repeatedly and had what seemed to be simply a bad bad head cold with a cough. Our internist offered to call an antibiotic in for me, but I didn’t feel the need — no fever, so why take it? We filled it just in case.
Michael texted a photo of his wound to the Kauai doctor (as she’d asked) who told him it looked good, no sign of infection, no need for an antibiotic.
In the end, everything was A-OK. So how about a shaka sign?
But this turn of events was a lesson. It only reinforced how important excellent medical care is at this stage of our lives. Living on Maui will remain a dream, a vacation we take as often as possible. But not a place we can live as we age.
There’s no escaping that when push comes to shove, the San Francisco Bay area’s where we need to be.
Because unlike Hawai’i, it IS a country for old men.