Thursday, February 13, 2014

An Unexpected Detour

Warderick Wells to Nassau
February 6 ‒ 10

You never know what’s going to happen on a given day, when life will take you on an unexpected detour. 

Waiting at Staniel Cay airstrip
to fly to Nassau
After we had left Nassau and spent several days in the Exumas, Keith and I had to fly back Nassau because I got injured. I’m going to be fine, but my left thumb was nearly crushed as I tried to bring a line from a mooring pennant onto a boat cleat. My thumb got caught between the two with the weight of the boat pressing on it. It was so quick I’m not even quite sure how it happened.

The injury happened on Thursday, February 6, at around 1:30. From then on, God’s grace took over. We were in a remote park, and we borrowed their first-aid kit. The tissue on the outside of my thumb was lacerated, torn down to the bone, the nail ripped off, and we knew I needed stitches. But I didn’t think it was broken because I could easily bend the thumb. Keith and I applied a couple butterfly closures and wrapped it tight. I had ice in the freezer (which is rare), so I iced it for the first hour. Meanwhile, a lot was going on. It just so “happened” that Bahamas Defense Force soldiers were there with a fast boat. They zoomed us 25 miles to Staniel Cay in a half hour; we arrived within an hour of the accident.

There’s a clinic there, staffed by a nurse, and an airstrip. The nurse took one look, told us we needed to get to the States or Nassau, and wrapped it back up. Keith, during this time, caught a golf-cart ride to the airstrip and was able to secure two seats on a small plane taking off shortly for Nassau.

Dr. Neil unwrapping it to take a first look
Everything fell into place perfectly, and by 5:30, four hours later, we were in the ER of Doctor’s Hospital in Nassau. I soon learned that I have eight fractures to the distal phalange (the bone at the tip), one fracture in the proximal phalange, the next bone. But the good news is that my knuckle was not harmed and the nerves seem to be intact. These are huge blessings.

Here’s where the big miracle comes in. The plastic surgeon on call that night was super-qualified in hand- and micro-surgery. He has re-attached digits and done many reconstructions. A Jamaican who has practiced medicine in Canada, Virginia, and NYC, Dr. Neil is both very highly regarded and very kind. I got the best of care, and we don’t believe we would have found anyone more qualified no matter where we went.

Keith and I (under local anesthesia) watched the surgery as Dr. Neil put my thumb back together, and it was absolutely fascinating. Now I’m in a bulky thumb cast (which goes to the elbow!) and must not get wet. That’s a lifestyle-changer on a boat, for sure. The doctor said he treats about twenty patients per year who were on boats and lost one, two, or three fingers. It could have been much worse!
Part of the view from our balcony on Paradise Island

We needed to stay in Nassau for a follow-up visit on Monday to ensure that infection had not set in. If you’re stuck for a few days, it would be hard to find a better place for it. We were fortunate to get a deal on an all-inclusive hotel on Paradise Island. Between naps, meals, and sitting on the balcony overlooking the harbor and swimming pool, we even did a little sightseeing. My swimsuit and cast made an unusual ensemble as we strolled the length of Cabbage Beach one day. Another day we walked to The Cloisters and Versailles Garden, then through the marina at Atlantis. It really was an enjoyable stay, but we were anxious to get back home to the boat once the doctor cleared it.
Sightseeing at The Cloisters

On Monday, Dr. Neil gave me a big thumbs-up to return to the boat. There’s very little pain and no evidence of infection. Infection would be a major issue when the bone is involved, and we’ll keep watching for redness, swelling, or discharge. I know many people have been praying for me, and I appreciate it so much. Avoiding infection is my main prayer, along with full function in the future.

On February 24, less than two weeks from now, we’ll fly back to Nassau for cast removal. In the meantime, we’ll figure out how to manage with a one-handed first mate.

Perpetual thumbs-up, happy to be
flying back to the boat
While we were away, friends we’d traveled with for the past three weeks—Bob and Ilona on Ihana and Chris and Eden on Rag Doll—took care of Pelican and kept the batteries charged. We’re so thankful to them, to Andrew Kriz, the Exuma Park Administrator, and to all the others who rallied around us with generosity and kindness.

My heart’s gratitude goes especially to Keith. In many ways, my injury affects him more than it does me. He could not be more sweet, loving, and helpful in his new roles as chief cook, bottle-washer, and waiter-on-hand-and-foot. Some tasks he probably enjoys more than others, but he does it all willingly. I’m so glad he’s with me on this side trip—and every other part of life. (By the way, our first date was thirty-two years ago today!)

Warderick Wells, where I got my "boat bite"
This unexpected detour isn’t at all the kind of thing anyone would want to happen, of course! But when it did, an amazing peace came over me. I was completely calm. God’s love carried us through every turn, and everything we needed seemed to already be there for us. As we were en route to Nassau, these words from Psalm 91 kept running through my mind:
“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only
get to know and trust me” (vss 14-15 msg).


  1. WOW! You are incredible, both of you. I so admire Joanie's incredible attitude. What a story.Rock on, Garborgs!

    1. Thanks, Renee! I'm going to collect one of your big bear hugs next time I see you!

  2. Thank you for sharing the miracle God provided for you. I have been praying for you and will continue to do so. Your life is not dull. Blessings on both of you.

    1. I sure appreciate the prayers. Next time I'm hoping for some other kind of excitement to keep dullness at bay! =}

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.