Queen’s Bath Recovery: “Dat a Bit Big Dere”

2020 … what can we say? So many weird, scary, painful, odd things have happened to us this year, it’s hard to believe. I had planned to finish up this Queens Bath saga weeks ago and then … Sally stalled, turned, strengthened and before we could respond or believe it, an unexpected, vicious Cat 2 hurricane ripped through Pensacola destroying our marina. So many friends lost their beautiful boats that day. We went from worrying about a tropical storm to trying to identify boats from their hulls or masts sticking out of the water. It’s been heartbreaking here for the boating community. But, somehow, inexplicably (although I will share many posts here trying to explain it), s/v Plaintiff’s Rest miraculously survived. This is how we found her as soon as Phillip and I could hike our way to the marina Wednesday morning, September 16, 2020.

She is one of only two boats who remained in their same spot with their docks intact. The remainder of the docks on Palafox broke up entirely and beat and bashed their way to the north end of the marina.

I have shared more photos here on Facebook so you can see how we fared. We have rudder damage and some serious bangs and gouges, for sure, but our baby girl is floating, she’s hauled out, and repairs have begun. That’s more than we can say for many in our area who are, right now, making the immensely painful decision of whether to repair or retire their beautiful vessel. But, we have all pulled together and we do feel incredibly lucky. Plaintiff’s Rest will sail again!

Now, since we’ve overcome that horrendous event, let’s share another. What else could 2020 possibly bring but the funkiest injury I’ve ever endured. Buckle up folks, it’s time to get … funky.  This leg wound of mine took some interesting turns while mending up.  Warning: If you don’t want to see open scabs and big weird wounds, feel free to read a text-only version here.  But, for those of you who LOVE to see weird things (like me!) read on and know that now, a good eight months after this injury, I am fully healed, fully functional, with a leg not near as freaky as it once was, and with just a somewhat-noticeable scar to prove I survived this whole ordeal.  I’ll also share our experience seeking medical care in the Bahamas—not anything Phillip or I had done before—and how that compared to medical care in the States.  

December 1, 2019:

I’m sitting on a rock by the Blue Sapphire Hole which is beckoning me to jump in, but I can’t.  I’ve got a heart rate that is through the roof, beads of sweat popped out on my forehead (although I feel cold), and a rock hard thigh the size of a watermelon I’m not even sure I could or should swim or climb with.  

When Phillip finally saw (or I should say I finally revealed to Phillip) the size of my leg after I was rolled on the rocks by a rogue wave at Queen’s Bath, he shut our whole excursion in Eleuthera down.  Phillip stopped at a small grocery store to get ice for my leg.  They didn’t have any ice for sale at the time, so he improvised and grabbed a couple bags of frozen corn which I plopped on my melon-thigh as he drove us back to the ferry that would take us back to our boat in Spanish Wells.  After an awkward hokey-pokey (right leg in, right leg out) attempt at a shower, Phillip sat me down in the saloon to assess and doctor my wounds and take the first round of photographs in case we needed to send them to a doctor for advice/treatment.  This was my status the afternoon of the event:

While I had a series of scratches on each chin, my hips, and ankles, it was clear my face and right thigh wounds were the worst.  While my thigh was painful, a dull, deep ache, it wasn’t in any way unbearable.  It hurt a bit to walk, and I think running would have made me yelp, but I was grateful my leg was mostly functional.  I believed at the time time that I had not broken any bones and I was incredibly pleased with that.  As it was after 5:00 p.m. by the time we got me cleaned up and worked over and I was, by all accounts, injured but totally fine, we lubed my wounds and wrapped my leg with an ACE bandage and decided to call the clinic there in Spanish Wells as soon as possible the following morning.  

I spoke with a “Nurse Gibson” who was super friendly and attentive.  This was our first encounter, however, with the Bahamian perception of the Queen’s Bath versus how unknowing tourists see it.  While we thought we were visiting an idyllic site where “natural pools are filled with crystal clear water, warmed by the sun, and perfect for soaking,” when I told Nurse Gibson I was injured at Queen’s Bath, she immediately piped up with an “Ahhh … you are lucky.  Many people go and do not come back from dere.”  I didn’t even have to explain what happened, she already knew a wave had rolled me.  

I told her I had a rather large lump (swelling I thought it might be?) that had formed at the greatest point of impact as well as multiple cuts and lacerations elsewhere but our primary concern was my leg.  Nurse Gibson asked about signs of infection, of which I had none, and she confirmed I did not have any deep or open wounds that were actively bleeding.  After that she told me what had formed on my leg was a hematoma that would simply have to be absorbed by the body over time (like a bruise).  It is not something they typically drain.  It started to sound like there was nothing Nurse Gibson could do for me, which got me a little nervous.  While I don’t, in any way, love going to the doctor (I’m quite stubborn about it), I do love the peace of mind you get when you’re worried and unsure about some troubling symptoms or unknown condition and a doctor looks you over and says “No, you’re fine, it’s just X.  Not a big deal.”  I didn’t want a simple phone call to be the end of it.  

“Maybe I could just pop in to be sure, or send you a photo of it, perhaps.  Would that be okay?” I asked Nurse Gibson.  

“Sure, send me a picture,” she replied, which I did to the cell number she gave me while she put me on hold.  Phillip and I sat, staring at my phone on speaker on the saloon table, wondering if what was going on inside my leg was “not a big deal,” or something that might need draining or surgery, or who knows what.  

Tick.  Tock.  It felt like an hour.  It was probably a minute and a half.  Nurse Gibson came back on and said:

“Dat a bit big dere.”

It is a quote Phillip and I have used many times since to describe both my leg and anything “a bit big dere.”  After viewing the photos, Nurse Gibson said she wanted me to come to the clinic so she could have a look.  Phillip and I immediately packed our party up and shuffled over to the clinic a few blocks away.  I could walk on it just fine.  It wasn’t 100% comfortable, mind you, but it was doable.  This “Public Clinic” is the clinic we went to.

If Nurse Gibson was surprised when she saw my wound in person, she hid it well.  She pushed around a few spots and did say it was the largest hematoma she had ever seen.  But, she was pleased that it did not have any heat or other signs of infection.  She wanted me to get an x-ray to make sure I had not broken my leg and to make sure the hematoma wasn’t putting unwanted pressure on something or was not likely to cause any other problems.  Nurse Gibson advised with the risk of infection from re-opening the wound to drain it, it would be better to allow my body to simply re-absorb the blood over time.  I saw her on Monday, December 2, 2019 and she scheduled me for an x-ray appointment on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 at a facility across the road from her clinic.  

It was about that time Phillip and I started talking about leaving the boat for a bit and flying home to Pensacola, FL.  While we’d had a friend (shout-out again to BaBaLu!) who had ordered us up a new fresh water pump for our Westerbeke 27A immediately after ours failed during our attempt to sail to the BVIs, it seemed the shipping was going to take several weeks to get curried through Nassau and out to Spanish Wells.  And even that was no guarantee.  With our boat busted, and Captain Annie banged up, hobbling, and in need of x-rays, many signs were pointing us toward home to take some time to heal, work, and make a new decision for hurricane season 2020.  (And, with hindsight we thankfully now know flying home was the absolute right call as our pump shipment saga is an entertaining story in and of itself.  It took us months to get that pump … just you wait!).  Phillip called Delta the next day, Tuesday, December 3, 2019 and booked our flights home that Saturday, December 7, 2019.  

Although I went to the x-ray facility in Spanish Wells on Wednesday at the time Nurse Gibson advised, there was a note on the door that said “Closed this week.”  This is not at all surprising for the Bahamas.  They operate on “island-time.”  The thought that a business might be open this week and closed the next (for no apparent reason) is a completely normal occurrence there.  There was nothing I could do about it.  And, at that time, we did not suspect any broken bones, nor was my hematoma causing me any issues.  While my leg was certainly starting to bruise up nicely, that didn’t bother me. My main issue then (and this would continue for weeks) was keeping my leg wrapped in a way that didn’t pull the scab off of my wound every time I removed the dressing or that wasn’t too wet/moist to allow a scab to form.  This white pussy patch was a problem area for a while.  I can’t tell you how many times I re-opened it.  Yuck.

Phillip and I just decided I would go get x-rays as soon as we got home to Pensacola.  Other than my thigh wound, I seemed to be healing alright and I was roughly 75% functional. (I wasn’t going to be doing any swimming any time soon with my open wound or any rigorous physical activity that would bounce my hematoma painfully around, but that was tolerable.)  But, it was during those last days in Spanish Wells that I entered my strange “Avatar phase.”

The impact site on my forehead puffed up and the bridge of my nose flared out.  It sure hurt to sneeze or blow my nose during that time, but I still thought it was just a reaction to the impact (not a fracture).  But, over the course of the next few days whatever fluid had accumulated in my forehead started to drain out into my eyes causing weird puffiness and bruising around my eyes, almost like someone had punched me in the nose and given me two black eyes.  I guess someone did. The Queen!

I swear I looked just like an Avatar.  

My close friends and family, whom I had told about my injuries (it wasn’t many), got a real kick out of seeing these photos.  And, I was glad we could all laugh about it because thankfully I was still HERE, walking my Avatar-self around Spanish Wells, and not washed up ashore somewhere on the Atlantic coast.  While Nurse Gibson only gave us a glimpse of the Bahamians’ opinion of the Queen’s Bath, the many, many locals I encountered during our last days there, who often asked what had happened to me, gave us the low-down, dirty truth about the Queen’s Bath.  

“Ahhh … what ‘appened to you?” they would ask. 

“I got rolled by a wave at Queen’s Bath,” I would tell them.  These are just a few of the verbatim responses we got: 

“Ooohh many have died there.  One guy wanted to propose there and he was taken by a wave right before he proposed.  His body was never found.”  

“Uhhh … a 19-year old was killed there not many years back.  His body washed up a’few days later.”

“One guy from the States and his brother went there in a rage.  The brother’s body was never found.”  

“I am too scared to drive over the Glass Window.  My friend’s father was swept away there.  His body found several days later.  The clothes ripped completely off.”  

I can’t tell you how many independent stories we heard about death at Queen’s Bath and virtually every local told us “you should not go in a rage.”  It was anything but a rage when we went, low tide on a calm day, yet it was still dangerous.  I’m telling you, I cannot stress this enough:

BE CAREFUL AT THE GLASS WINDOW AND QUEEN’S BATH!!

Okay, rant over.  Back to the funky pics!  When I got back to the States, I booked an appointment with my primary care physician immediately and scheduled an x-ray.  This is what my leg looked like the day I went to the doc’s.  I call this my “morgue photo.”  It literally looked like the leg of a dead person!!  

The physician’s assistant (“PA”) who saw me said she had never seen a hematoma as large as mine so she called the doctor while she was in the room with me to ask whether it needed draining or other care.  Like Nurse Gibson, my doctor at Baptist Health Care advised the best course of action was to allow my body to reabsorb the blood that had pooled.  I was given instructions for frequent icing and elevating, then it was off for my x-rays.  I found a long flowy dress (down to my ankles) was the best thing for me to wear during those weeks so no one could see my fatly-wrapped thigh, but when I would pull the dress back to show the medical personnel my wound, many dropped their jaws, as I would have too if I wasn’t so used to seeing my Zombie leg every day.  I was surprised, however, to learn after the x-ray that I had suffered a hairline fracture to my forehead and nose.  That definitely explained my body’s Avatar response!  

Over the course of the next few weeks/months, my leg slowly began to heal.  The bruising trickled away in weird purple rivulets and the mound that was my hematoma started to re-absorb centimeter by centimeter.  

A little worried about the slow process, I went to see my doc at Baptist again after about a month.  This time it was not the PA but my actual doctor who got to see me and his eyes literally bulged when he saw my leg for the first time.  But, he did not hesitate in telling me news I probably already could have guessed, but still did not want to hear.

“It will probably take six months or more for that to re-absorb.”  

Six months?  I thought.  He told me that on February 11, 2020 which meant I was going to have to live with my “lady lump” (another name Phillip and I came up with for her) until July at least!  But, what could I do about it?  Nothing was the answer.  Keep icing and resting and carry on.  

I often sent friends progress photos of my leg during this time and I had one write back and literally say “Please stop sending these. Your leg is horrifying!”  I kept sending them anyway … : )  That’s the price you pay for being my friend!  And, my followers!  This was my progress April through July:

April 2020

One of my close friends (whom I texted the pic above to) said: “Looks like abstract art.”

April 2020
April 2020
May 2020
May 2020
July 2020
July 2020

I am thrilled to share this is what my leg looks like now:

August 2020
August 2020

The tanner I get during the summer, the harder it is to even notice the scrape scars on the my thigh.  There is a slight blue/purple around the ring of my hematoma and it is still hard and numb in the center, but it is no longer a bulbous lump protruding off of my leg, thank goodness!  And, my little lump actually sits right on my vastus medialis muscle, so the slight protrusion kind of looks like I’ve bulked that muscle up a bit.  I got lucky in that regard.  

Here is a pic of me just a few weeks ago at the beach, and from afar, you can’t even see any scarring or lump on my right leg.

August 2020

As for my face, those scratches did start to heal up nicely even before we left the Bahamas and the Avatar drainage quickly subsided.

December 2019

However, I definitely have three new, visible scars on my forehead.  You can really see them when I’m tan and flushed (from a workout or something).  

August 2020

They were pinkish-red in the beginning and I had to cover them with makeup but that worked well enough.  

January 2020

Over time they turned more white and are hardly visible when I’m more white too, in the winter. 

Say hello to Lawyer Annie! February 2020

Overall I have very little to complain about or bemoan considering the severity of what I now know happened in those harrowing seconds as I rolled over the rocks and how well my tough little body handled it.  I think she deserves a whopping high five.  On a final note, this was an interesting takeaway from our experiences seeking medical care in both the Bahamas (which, I mentioned, we had never yet done) compared to in the States.

Comparison of the Available Care in the Bahamas Versus the States

We learned when talking to many people after my injury that had I suffered a severely-broken bone or some other serious injury that needed immediate emergency treatment, Phillip and I would have found ourselves in a very bad place.  It would have cost somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000 to get a helicopter to fly out to Eleuthera or Spanish Wells to fly me to an ER in Nassau if I had needed it.  The gal that worked the desk at Yacht Haven Marina told us when her little brother broke his leg jumping off the infamous bridge connecting Spanish Wells to Russell Island and they learned it was going to cost $15,000 to fly him to Nassau on an emergency medic chopper, the family buzzed him across instead on a neighbor’s power boat.  “That ride was not com-turble for lil’ Davin, I’ll tell you dat,” she said.  I couldn’t imagine bouncing around on a power boat with a cracked tibia.  Uggh.  So, the availability and cost of emergency care in the Bahamas is hard to come by.  I’m incredibly lucky I didn’t need anything of the sort.  

However, the difference in the time it took to get care and the cost was astonishing.  Phillip and I sat in Nurse Gibson’s clinic for ten minutes, maybe, before she brought me back for an immediate, personal inspection and the visit cost me a total of $35.  Back in the States, however, I sat about forty-five minutes after my scheduled appointment time before I was called back to the examination room where I sat another fifteen before the PA came into see me.  That visit was over $100 with my co-pay costing me $25.  I then spent a good two hours being shuffled from desk to desk in the hospital before I was sent up to the third floor for my x-ray, where I sat another forty-or-so minutes before they called me back.  The x-rays I was going to get in the Bahamas I was told would cost $160.  The cost of the very same x-rays the States?  $380.  I wonder why that is.  

Things that make you go hmmmmm …. 

Injured at Queen’s Bath

Warning: there are some graphic footage and photos in this blog.  If you get queasy easily, feel free to read a text-only version of this occurrence here.  

Part Two: As I mentioned in my last blog, what occurred that day in Eleuthera was one of the main reasons Phillip and I ended our cruising season in 2019 early.  While that decision proved wildly advantageous  in the following months—particularly when the unpredictable COVID pandemic began to spread—we did not know it at the time.  All we knew then was: Captain Annie was not in great shape to set off on an offshore passage anytime soon.  I was in need of x-rays, wound care, antibiotics, and months of icing and elevating.  What we know now is: I’m incredibly lucky to still be here, albeit with a new wicked scar that, along with the others, form the chorus that is my story.  Here’s what happened.

December 1, 2019

Phillip and I had just returned from our failed attempt to sail from Spanish Wells, Bahamas on (what was supposed to be) our longest offshore passage yet on the I65 route down to the BVIs.  After we were towed back in, we met another couple, Mike and Melody, who had just sailed into Spanish Wells after a pretty rough Gulf Stream crossing, and had set up a fun joint date to ferry over to Eleuthera on a calm day and explore several attractions Phillip had found in the guide books: 1) the Glass Window; 2) the Queen’s Bath; 3) the Preacher’s Cave; and 4) the Sapphire Blue Hole

The Glass Window did not in any way disappoint.  It’s amazing to think one tiny little cleft in the rocks traversed by a small bridge is all that stands between the mighty deep blue Atlantic and the shallow, emerald-green Caribbean Sea.  

Mike, Melody, Phillip, and I had become practically giddy when a big wave came toppling over the rocks soaking us up to our hips on the road.  In our euphoric state, we made our way to our next stop, the Queen’s Bath.  The Bath had been promoted as a tranquil spot high up on the cliff where you can wade in the pools of water that form in the quarry and are warmed by the sun.  Hence the name: the Queen’s Bath.  Unfortunately, the pools were not as warm as we had expected (a little chilly to be honest), but the view out into the Atlantic was stunning.  Mike and Melody picked their way down a little closer to the water while Phillip and I were taking pictures further up.  

Mike hollered at us from a pool with a fantastic view so Phillip and I ventured over.  We sat there for a bit watching the water in the ocean ebb and flow, hoping to see a good splash.  We were probably a good 20 feet up and away from the water below.  Mind you, this was a PERFECTLY CALM DAY.  Very little wind and waves.  

As we watched the Atlantic breathe a swell, a wave crashed against the rocks and sprayed up soaking us all.  Immediately after it subsided we all looked quickly to one another.  At first I didn’t see Phillip which scared me, but he soon popped up, saying he had jumped down to hold on tight as the wave came through.  Looking back, I cannot tell you precisely why none of us, not a one, had a worry or fear at that moment.  No hairs were rising on the back of our necks.  No red flags were waving.  Nothing told us, at that point: Beware.  And, this rings true for Phillip who is a very cognizant and cautious person, considering his military background, as well as Mike, who has considerable military experience as well, including that as a field medic.  It just did not seem dangerous.  That’s all I can say.  And, it was only a brief 5-10 seconds after that first considerably minor wave came through that the ocean took a deep breath and sent a massive rogue wave through that changed everything.  While I was the closest to the water, I wasn’t but about 2-3 feet from Mike and Melody who were sitting and standing on the other side of the same pool.  I was holding on, incredibly tightly, when the water rose up and began to rush past us.  At first it was thrilling.  Such an intoxicating, exciting feeling.  

Then it took me.  

It was just far too powerful.  

I felt an immediate plunge of guilt as I felt my hands rip off the rocks and my body struck in several places.  I can’t tell you where I felt an impact (other than all over) until, after a few tumbles, my head finally struck.  That one I remember.  I heard a little crack at the moment and thought it was my neck popping.  I would find out later it was something else.  But, when my face struck, for whatever reason, instinct told me to grab that rock and never let go.  I reached out and got a firm grip just as the massive amount of water that had moments ago submerged us now began to rush out. Imagine holding onto the edge of an Olympic size swimming pool at the top of a hotel and the bottom of the pool drops out. Hundreds of gallons rushed past me with astonishing suction.

I held on.  

When the water receded and we all scrambled to make eye contact, I will never forget Mike’s expression.  He was the first to see my injuries.  His eyes immediately bulged.  The whites around his pupils are burned into my memory.  His jaw went slack and he stumbled at first trying to lunge toward me, his hand outstretched, to examine my wounds.  It must have looked bad, but thankfully when he stroked a wet hand over my forehead, it revealed only surface wounds there and he breathed a sigh of relief, as did I because I was able to move everything just fine.  Phillip looked mortified.  And angry.  I was definitely angry.  Mad at myself for letting the water take me, for letting myself get injured, for (as stupid as this sounds) potentially ruining what was supposed to be a great day for everyone.  

I immediately downplayed any need for treatment.  “It’s just scratches,” I told them.  “I’m fine,” I chuckled with a smile.  And, in that moment, I did feel fine.  I’m sure it was the enormous amounts of adrenaline pumping through me, the coursing of which had mercifully guided my hands to the rock I gripped with all I had that both pummeled and saved me.  I’m sure it was the adrenaline and shock, as well, that had made it not hurt that bad.  Especially considering what I found out later had occurred in those tumultuous ten seconds.

I suffered hairline fractures to my forehead and nose, deep, scar-rending scratches all over my body and face, and an impact to my right thigh that caused a hematoma I believe I will live with in some form for the rest of my life.  I cannot believe I didn’t break my femur with that hit.  

Even though the pictures you will soon see on this blog and the next are alarming, know that I am lucky. Extremely lucky.  With the wisdom and insight of hindsight, I know now it could have been far, far worse.  There could have easily been NO wounds to see, no body to find at all.  While the four of us had no idea at the time, we have since learned the Glass Window and Queen’s Bath in Eleuthera are actually notorious for sweeping people across the rocks, breaking bones, gnashing skin, even snatching people entirely in their grasp, never to be seen again.  Here are some videos (don’t watch if you’re squeamish). 

Glass Window:

Go to 1:18: https://youtu.be/eE-j-An2M1E

Go to 10:10: https://youtu.be/v9IauO2V8E8

Article about a 19-year old who was swept off the bridge and never found … sad.  

Here is a video by another travel vlogger (go to 5:48) showing them in a calm pool at the Queen’s Bath when a VERY small wave comes over their shoulders, but there is a good shot right after the wave of the flesh-eating rocks that I was raked across.  Yeesh.

The Wynns even did a video featuring the Glass Window and Queen’s Bath and they mention (while standing on the ledge) wishing it were “a raging sea, a storm,” so they could really capture the intensity of it (go to 9:02).  I’m telling you, you just can’t fathom how fast and powerful the water can become once a swelling wave slams into the rocky cliff.  It can shoot up 100 feet in an instant, as if gravity does not exist.  

I’m sharing all of these so those of you out there who are planning some day to visit these very visit-worthy, stunning places, please PLEASE give the incredible power of the ocean its due. Stay back from the ledge. Do not go if the seas are rough. Go see them. Absolutely. Just, go with caution.  

Okay, enough of that.  Suffice it to say, we went on a CALM day, and we never expected the wave we got, its immense power, or our unfortunate exposure to such danger.  So, rewind back to post-Annie rock-roll.  Like I said, I did not believe I was hurt that bad.  No broken bones (that I knew of at the time), no persistent, dangerous bleeds.  Just scratches … or so I thought.  I convinced everyone I was fine and that we should just carry on with our day.  “Take a pic,” I said.  And they did.  And, I’m smiling.  

While you can definitely see the abrasions on my forehead, some on my chins and thighs as well, “Everything is fine,” I told them.  Nothing to see (or treat) here.  (I do hope you are realizing what a dumb move that was, but I’ve been known to make a few of those in my past.)  

We carried on, ambling around a nearby beach to pick up shells.  I tied a sarong around my waist to cover my injuries as we headed to a little eatery for lunch.  I even took a selfie in the car making a funny face at the camera, seriously thinking it was just going to be some minor wounds to deal with.  

I cleaned up my face and other scrapes a bit in the bathroom at the restaurant and pulled my hat down low to hide my marred forehead (something I would do every day for the coming weeks).  But, as we sat at the table and ate, weird things started happening to my body.  I could feel under the table as my right thigh (which had hit the hardest) started to swell and firm up considerably.  I didn’t mention anything at lunch (because I’m brilliant remember, and stubborn … a quality Phillip has had to battle before).  But, as we made our way to the next stop, the Preacher’s Cave, my heart began to race as we walked up the path.  I got hot all over and sweaty.  I honestly thought I was about to pass out.  I sat down and finally showed Phillip my leg.  It was the size of a watermelon.  

That’s when we all changed course.  Nothing was fine.  There was definitely something to see here.  And treat.  I had a leg the size of a blimp and pain that was finally starting to seep in where all of my joints had hit.  My head began to throb.  It was time to take action and seek treatment, which was an experience in and of itself.  Stay tuned next time for the final chapter of this saga.  The evolution of my leg wound will bewilder you.