Being on a boat is generally very safe, but you do have to be careful.
We were on a mooring in Prince Rupert Bay, off the city of Portsmouth on Dominica. One of our favorite spots. Gretchen was looking forward to a fishing expedition she had planned with Alexis, one of the several boat services providers in the bay and a long-time acquaintance. She had just finished rinsing out the cockpit with seawater, and started down the companionway stairs. Her feet were wet with saltwater, and more slippery than she realized.
When she stepped down, her foot went out from under her, and she crashed headfirst down the stairs. This is about a four-foot fall, with lots of hard boat bits at the bottom. She hit her head, and opened a gash in her scalp that bled profusely.
It was hard to see the extent of the wound under her hair, so we tried applying pressure, and later some ice. After 30 minutes, she was still bleeding and we decided to take her to the hospital. We tried calling Alexis, but he was out of radio range. Another boat services provider, Martin, responded to our call, and transported us by boat and taxi to the hospital. Martin stayed in the hospital quite a while, but this was at the busiest time of day for his business, so we told him we would call when we were through.
The hospital in Portsmouth is small, and on a Sunday staffed only with nurses (though a doctor was on call). We entered the treatment area and were met by Clarisse Joseph, one of the nurses. She immediately stopped what she was doing, and started taking care of Gretchen.
By combing through her hair, Clarisse found that there was a significant gash, about 4 cm long and unlikely to close on its own. Time for stitches. She shaved Gretchen’s scalp in the area of the wound, cleaned everything with antiseptic, and injected lidocain. It then took about 10-15 minutes to put in 7 stitches.
There were lots of questions about how she fell (no, David did not push her), and if she had any symptoms that might indicate a concussion (no).
There was no charge for all of this! But the hospital was happy to accept a donation, which we cheerfully made.
Gretchen was sent home with strict instructions to return if any concussion symptoms appeared, and antibiotic capsules as a prophylactic measure. In addition to her scalp wound, she suffered several bruises on her shoulder, arms, and legs. She’ll be sore for quite a while. We are just as grateful as can be that there was nothing worse, and that she got good care.