At the end of Part I, Lucky was just pulling into the little man-made lake between the North Miami campus of Florida International University and Oleta River State Park. It was just after noon. I had run forward to loosen the chain and tip the anchor over the bow so I could drop it when Richard had found a good spot to anchor.
I held the chain in my right hand and reached over with my left to push the “down” button, but hit the “up” button by mistake. Oops! My hand moved into the winch. Feeling the pain, I quickly pushed the down button and removed my hand. Three fingers had been cut, the tip of the index finger was almost off and the tip of the middle finger was missing and the nail torn out. I cupped my right hand in the other and and Richard ran forward and dropped the hook. Lots of blood, but no pain for quite a long time.
Jim and Lynda rafted alongside. Jim dinghied Lynda and me to shore to find medical care while Richard stayed behind with the boats and (he told me later) mopped up blood. The woman at the university clinic was very sympathetic but could only treat students. She cleaned my hand up a bit, put a kind of tent bandage around it, and called a cab to take us to emergency.
In the little room where we had been put right away, staff popped in over the next five hours to take blood pressure, assess what needed doing, give me pain medication when reminded by Lynda and sprayed disinfectant on my fingers from time to time. Lynda found food for us, kept up my spirits and observed the workings of the emergency department (and even an ongoing romance) as my treatment kept getting bumped by the arrival of people who were more likely to die than I was. Finally the doctor came and injected painkiller into my fingers with what felt like quite a large needle and ran off. When he eventually came back the numbness was wearing off, but he sewed up the less damaged finger and bandaged the fingers tightly and then splinted them tightly together.
After paying the flat rate for uninsured visitors who didn’t have to stay overnight, $660, we walked to the nearby Walmart to get my prescriptions filled, and called a cab. It was ten o’clock when we got back to the boat, and I took my oxycodone and slept well.
The plastic surgeon saw me the next evening and two days later he repaired the tip of my middle finger with skin from my wrist. Dr. Lampert was gentle, competent, good-looking and younger than my son.
His assistant Ashley was helpful, kind and patient. When I commented that their needle for injecting painkiller didn’t hurt like the one in Emergency, she smiled and said that it was because Dr. Lambert used a slim little Botox needle. She arranged Uber cabs for me, since I didn’t have a smart phone. After return visits, I gave her two of my books and she told me she bought a book light so her boyfriend wouldn’t complain about her reading in bed.
Lynda went with me to these appointments and was patient, upbeat and efficient about keeping the places and times straight when I was too muddled to do it. But on April 8, Jim and Lynda had to head north.
Lucky stayed in that little lake until April 27th, the day after Dr. Lampert took the stitches out of my fingers. During that time, we slowed down, enjoyed each other’s company and watched the life of the lake go on around us. Richard dressed and undressed me, and cooked. He set up a shower bag in the cockpit and washed my hair. We went for walks together in the park.
He tackled the job of replacing the wood frame of the hard dodger, which was falling apart, and sanded and varnished the new pieces.
Hundreds of kayaks, canoes and paddle boards poured out of the little mangrove creek in the corner of the
lake next to our boat, especially on the weekends. People would often chat with us as they went by, and Richard frequently had his binoculars out, checking out the latest in swimwear fashions being worn by some paddle boarders.
On April 15th, Maggie M appeared around the corner and anchored near us. That afternoon and for several to follow, Chris, Divya and I played heavily contested Scrabble games in the park, on a picnic table in the shade. One evening during Happy Hour on our boat, the rain came down so heavily that both dinghies filled with water. We filled the tanks with drinking water from our water jugs, and then filled the jugs and shower bags with the fresh rainwater for showers. The water taps in the park had all been removed to discourage live-aboards, but we now had enough water to get us back to Indiantown. Yippee!
On Sunday, April 17, Richard made all of the remaining pancake mix into crêpes and Chris and Divya helped us eat them with fruit. That afternoon we walked through the park. Every picnic table was occupied.
Hundreds of families, speaking many different languages, were cooking, eating, playing, swimming, and enjoying being alive. It was wonderful.
The following Thursday Chris and Divya went to Dr. Lampert’s office with me. The Uber driver was a no show, so we got there late and had to wait until the doctor could squeeze me in.
The next day, Friday, Chris and Divya went back to South Beach to anchor so they could see a wonderful outdoor classical music concert. We chose to stay where we were. We just didn’t have the wherewithal to go.
On Sunday, we saw a canoe almost completely submerged in the distance, with people and things bobbing around it. Paddle boarders had pulled children from the water. Richard dinghied over to help. A man was in the water with his life jacket up around his ears and gasping for air, looking terrified. He couldn’t get into the dinghy in the deep water so Richard towed him to where he could stand up and climb in. Richard then went back and got the two little girls off of the paddle boards and picked up their mother, who near them. With everyone safely in the dinghy, and helped by a paddle-boarder, Richard towed the canoe to shallow water and emptied it. Then he took the family, whom he learned were Russian tourists, and the canoe back to the kayak station. The father shoved money which Richard had refused under the dinghy engine cover. He thanked Richard for saving his life. My accident had kept us there, in the right spot for Richard to save that man’s life.
Finally the day came when Richard went with me to South Beach to have my stitches removed and to meet Dr. Lampert and Ashley.
When we went to pull up the anchor on April 27, the windlass wouldn’t go. Richard had to rewire it before it would work, and the chain was covered with barnacles. But finally we were underway.
The trip north to Indiantown was uneventful .We did the usual racing to make it under time-restricted opening bridges, and waiting for the ones we couldn’t get to on time. A couple of kind bridge-tenders held the bridge or opened it a little late so we could make it. We stayed in anchorages we knew well, and caught up to Chris and Divya at Peck Lake, and went out to dinner together in Stuart. Then we did the usual three days of work at Indiantown to store the boat. It was stored on the hard and we drove north. Richard, very tired during this time, was subject to hot sweats at night. We assume he had a virus, which he is just now getting over.
We are both back in our homes and with our families. My hand is almost completely recovered. Will we cruise next year? We hope so, but treat ourselves gently and live each day as if it is special.