Curaray: Ones worst nightmare, a jungle medical emergency
13 Oct 2007
| Nightmare in the jungle
One of the biggest fears for anyone in the jungle or a similar remote location removed completely from society and all the amenities that we take for granted is that something bad might happen which would require immediate medical attention. Unfortunately for Nathan (the Juggler) this nightmare became a reality. He'd been complaining about a sore eye for a few days but on day 8 of our trip things came to a head when he was reduced to walking around practically blind because his sore left eye was too painful to open and his good right eye had to be kept closed to stop it causing further pain to the left one. We all therefore didn't hesitate in directing our crew to do what ever possible to get him to medical attention as soon as possible. Unfortunately that meant a mammoth eight hour stint in the canoe on what turned out to be one of the hottest days of the trip; blue sky, little cloud and unrelenting sun beating down on us for hours. We even suffered more due to the reflection of the suns rays on the water.
We were heading for Santa Clothilde which had the biggest and best medical facility on the area. On the way we dropped into several army bases to get him checked out by their medical staff but although they were fantastic and took a look at his infected eye, helped clean it and gave him medication to help alleviate the pain and disinfect the it we needed to push on and get him to Santa Clothilde and maybe from there home to the US
. I was sat next to him on the canoe trying my best to keep his spirits up; I can only imagine how absolutely frightening it must have been to instantly loose your sight then have scary thoughts about whether you'd get out of the jungle in time to prevent any permanent damage. I can speak for all of us when I say we were all in shock with his predicament and all were praying that we'd get to help as soon as possible if not sooner.
Several times during the canoe trip we had to stop the canoe and drift in the river as we set up a makeshift field hospital complete with sun shade so Sarah could see to Nathan's eye as he was in excruciating pain
. I didn't realise that she had done some medical training until now and she was a absolute Godsend as she constantly cleaned out his eye, redressed it an administered painkillers.
After six hours we decide to lighten the boat to speed things up and help it pass quicker over the shallows. This meant that we offloaded ourselves and all the surplus equipment and supplies onto another riverside beach on the River Curaray and waved off Nathan with Diego and Meliton to make the last stretch to Santa Clothilde as speedily as possible. We all just watched the canoe speed off, everyone's thoughts with our stricken friend. There was nothing we could do but just pray for the best.
Super Sausalito Sarah
It's at this point that I'd like to say that its not often that your friends really surprise you as you think you know them but this was one of those occasions I was so proud to have Sarah as a friend. I saw her in a whole new light, she was amazing, cool, super confident in the way she nursed Nathan and directed Diego our guide on the situation and what needed to be done and when. She also accompanied Nathan every time we got him to a military doctor and helped liaise with their medical staff in perfect Spanish. Call me soft and I know you probably didn't think too much to it, but Sarah I was so incredibly proud of you and you were a credit to yourself and one huge example to us all in such a tense and delicate situation, I honestly don't know how Nathan would have managed had it not been for you.
Burning Bluegrass over the campfire
Back on the beach we had Nilo the cook and Anibal the Peruvian guide with us and like seasoned pros we all set up camp a little off the rivers edge. The beach though huge was infested with flying insects of all kinds, shapes and sizes and with everyone still scratching themselves silly from the sandfly bites from our last beach experience this time no one stripped off for a dip in the river how ever tempting it was. This location though was a hive of jungle wildlife, the beach was covered in hoof prints of either cows and/or Capybaras, there were grey river dolphins that kept surfacing in the water and we were constantly buzzed by huge dragonflies. Someone commented that as soon as Diego our guide left we'd seen more species of wildlife than when guided by him.
We were forced to eat dinner in darkness as the flying insects were an annoyance as attracted by the candles they flew into your food, your face, everywhere! We then spent a magical night around a campfire that Nilo and Anibal had built having a really good time chatting over the trip, stories from the guides and just enjoying the amazing location that we found ourselves in...sat around a campfire on some random beach, next to a huge river with the jungle to our backs and animals screeching into the night, not many people can say they've had that experience. Nate surprises us all by pulling out a harmonica and treating us to some very cool Bluegrass music, damn that boy could hold a tune too as he sang acapella, was really a memorable night
. What was really funny was the juxtaposition of us so-called first-worlders in the middle of nowhere round a simple campfire making our own music whilst we hear the faint sounds of reggaeton and salsa carried across the air from a nearby community that obviously had electricity. Was like some kind of role-reversal if we go by stereotypes and this tickled me somewhat, besides I was enjoying our campfire and music just fine.