On the last night of the rally we were tied-up in Kalmar on Sweden’s east coast, mid-Summer celebrations were in the offing and the harbour was buzzing. But onboard Grey Wanderer things were not so good. Jane had gone to bed early with abdominal pains, and by 11pm it was obvious that she was seriously ill. The pain was unbearable, and we called for medical help. Within minutes an Ambulance arrived at the harbour and the crew came onboard and administered a powerful painkiller before attempting to get her off the boat. Normally this would have been done by stretcher, but with the boat moored bows-to, and the pulpit and rigging making it impossible to use the stretcher, poor Jane had to somehow climb off herself with assistance from the Ambulance crew and other people pulling the boat up to the pontoon. I was very scared for her at this point, despite the professional reassurance of the Ambulance crew.
When we arrived at the hospital a Swedish Health Service number was assigned (once they had seen her E111 EU health card), and from then on she was treated exactly as a Swedish national would have been. There is a nominal fee of about £10 per day, apart from that everything is provided for free. The following day the Doctors diagnosed Pancreatitis caused by a stray Gall Stone and we were told that she would need urgent surgery back in the UK where we should return as soon as she was fit enough to travel. For the next 5 days Jane remained in hospital and it was a stressful time, we were helped by several of our CA friends who visited the hospital, and kept me fed/ distracted for a few hours in the evenings. Eventually she was pronounced recovered enough to travel, and we returned home on the first available flight leaving GW in Kalmar.
On reflection, no one wants to be ill when travelling, but if it has to happen, then a large town in Sweden is a good place to be. The standard of healthcare was excellent, and of course everyone spoke perfect English. The hospital even had a magnificent view across the harbour and out to sea! It could have been a lot worse – I don’t like to think what would have happened if she’d been taken ill on the remote island of Utklippan where we had been a few days earlier.
Once Jane had seen a UK Specialist and was booked in for an operation (surprisingly quickly for the NHS), we decided that I should return to Kalmar and take the boat back to Germany as it was unlikely that Jane would be fit to sail again before the end of the Baltic sailing season. Two good friends, Richard S and Richard P, otherwise known as R1 and R2, volunteered for the trip. We had a great couple of weeks retracing the route back to Fehmarn with mostly fair weather, and it was nice to do some Baltic sailing with the boys. However, it wasn’t really the same without Jane onboard. There was also the worry that she might suffer another Pancreatitis episode before I got back and before her scheduled Gall Bladder surgery.
The surgery went well though, and she was soon sufficiently recovered for me to return to Fehmarn to complete the boat lay-up/ winterisation process.This time another good friend, Les, travelled back to Germany with me, and together we got GW ready for the winter. She is now in her shed waiting for us to return in the spring.
Thankfully, Jane has now made a full recovery and is raring to go for the next season!
Thanks are due to everyone who helped us out and showed so much kindness at this difficult time. The medical staff in Kalmar, friends in the CA who visited Jane in hospital and showed me much kindness and hospitality, the “delivery crew” R1 and R2, Les for airport lifts and driving back to Germany with me, the harbour staff in Kalmar who kept an eye on GW for us, the Baltic Kolln guys who were so flexible with our amended lift-out and lay-up arrangements.
When things go wrong, you are grateful for your friends!
As sailors we need to be optimistic, and look forward to next year’s adventures which may include visiting Poland and the Baltic States.