2-18 Epi to Vila to Brisbane

It is ten o’clock at night. I’ve been up since 4 am.

We got up and left Epi at daybreak this morning. Between the plane check and the weather, we didn’t get in until 7:45. The Peace Corps Medical Officer met me at the Vila Airport and gave me a ride to the office. Once we got to the office, Nelsine looked at my hand and it confirmed her initial impression. There is likely nerve damage.

I still have no sensation in part of my thumb, though my range of motion remains intact. If I tip my hand sideways, I get a tingly feeling next to the numb part. If you look at a diagram of the nervous system of the hand, where my thumb is numb almost perfectly maps onto the branch of the radial nerve the feeds the top and outside of my thumb.

There is no microsurgery in Vanuatu. There is no guarantee of a sterile environment. Given the position of the incision, an infection could have serious effects on the movement and sensation of my entire wrist and hand. They sent me to Brisbane, Australia.

After I met with the PC doctor, she got an appointment at the hospital to talk to a surgeon. He looked at my hand and agreed with her assessment. From there, a lot of paperwork happened. A lot of running around happened. I was in and out of the medical office enough that one of the PCMOs started joking that I should just get my own key.

I signed a lot of forms. I got a visa to go to Australia. I got given my per diem in US dollars for the visit to Australia. I signed a few more forms. I got an insurance card. Eventually, I went to lunch with a few friends. It was nice to see people and pretend like nothing was wrong. Then I went back to signing forms.

My flight was leaving at 4 pm. By 1 pm, the Brisbane hospital hadn’t gotten back to my PCMOs about a hand surgeon. I couldn’t leave Vila without the Brisbane coordinator giving the ok for me to go, which she couldn’t give until she’d found a place that could give appropriate care. The next flight was on Sunday, which would have been fine, except that there is a tropical depression over Vanuatu which is likely to turn into another cyclone over the weekend. That would mean I couldn’t get out until sometime next week, which is not ideal for getting my hand put back together.

At 3:10, the paperwork came through. Did I mention I was getting on a 4:00 flight? I grabbed all my stuff, stuffed it in my bag and ran out the door. We got checked in by 3:30 and through security. When I tried to call Jason to tell him I’d made it on the plane, I found out my phone had to credit. One of the security guards was nice enough to take my money and go top up my phone. I called and left a message for Jason saying I was leaving, on a jet plane.

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