My dreams of river paradise have ended – for now. The health issues I only half dealt with and then tried to ignore at the end of last year have returned, or, given that they never went away, have intensified, causing me sleepless worry-filled nights. After a couple of tear-filled days of indecision, I have decided to leave Julian and the boat on the river while the girls and I fly back to the UK. We are all hoping it will be only for a few weeks, but depending on what’s actually wrong with me, it may take longer.
The flight is booked – one way, because I don’t know when we will come back. Once I have a clearer idea of how long I need to be away, Julian will either come join us or await our imminent return.
We weighed up the alternatives. Should I try the Spanish or Portuguese health service? Should Julian come with us immediately? Should we sail Carina back to the UK? None of the options, including the one we’ve settled on, is ideal. But I had to come to some decision.
My experiences of Spanish health care last year were pretty awful. I blogged about the episodes I could laugh at afterwards, but I had another experience that I won’t blog about, because I’m still too angry and shaken. Maybe all those experiences were sheer bad luck on my part, or maybe Almería has particularly poor patient care, but I don’t want to go down that road again. The fact remains that I don’t speak Spanish and the thought of dealing not only with doctors, but with receptionists, nurses, radiologists and all the other health professionals I might encounter fills me with stress. I was greatly distressed the last time because I didn’t understand what tests I was being sent for, why those tests were taking place, or what the actual procedures would be when I showed up.
I’m the kind of patient who likes talking to the people who take care of me. I like to talk about why and how they are doing whatever it is they are doing to me, I like talking about the weather, I like sharing a joke. Stressing about what might be wrong with me is bad enough, so I’ve decided I don’t want to have the added stress of health care in a language I don’t understand.
I am very lucky and privileged to be able to return to the UK, where I can have free and top class health care, at the hands of health care workers who speak my language, and in a health care system whose workings I am familiar with.
We considered the possibility of all four of us flying back immediately, but the stress of thinking about flights and finding a secure place to keep Carina was all too much. So Julian is staying put, carrying on with his onboard maintenance work, hopefully having more time to devote to his Spanish study, and more time to go for long walks along the river and in the hills. There’s a good community of sailors here, so I’m not worried about him lacking companionship. Staying put also gives him the time to investigate the best and cheapest options for Carina, if she needs to stay here without us longer term. Julian’s staying is also psychological, reminding all of us that we won’t be away for long.
The truth is, though, that I probably will be away for some time. I will register with a GP the first morning I get back, but by the time I arrange a first GP’s appointment, get sent for tests, await the results, I am unlikely to be in the UK for less than a month.
We considered sailing Carina back to Plymouth, but that would take time and we would then be committing to spending the winter in the UK or environs and we would have to start out on our voyage all over again. We may return in a year or two to the UK to work and refill our bank account, but if we do that it will be planned well in advance, and not something done quickly so that I can see a doctor.
So as I pack our bags and prepare to spend a few weeks or longer with Julian’s parents in the UK Midlands, I am a bundle of mixed emotions. I am happy for Lily and Katie and for their grandparents that they will get to spend time together, but I am sad that the girls’ summer of swimming every day in the river, travelling everywhere by dinghy, and foraging for wild food is potentially over. I am relieved to be finally seeking an answer to the strange goings on in my abdomen, but sad to be leaving a place that I find so life-affirming and inspirational. And it goes without saying that I am sad at the thought of leaving Julian behind for an indeterminate period of time, but at least I can smile at photos of his seven-year old self on display at his mum’s house!
So goodbye Rio Guadiana. Let’s hope it won’t be too long until we are reunited.