About 6 weeks ago, just after the kids had gone to bed, Lara felt a sharp pain in her chest. A bit of heartburn we thought, it’ll subside… Half an hour later and Lara was struggling to breathe. Better get to hospital. Luckily we were in Oeiras marina and a decent hospital was easy to find. The wonderful marina staff drove her straight to Cascais while I stayed on the boat with the girls. Fast forward to the wee hours of the morning; after 7 hours in the waiting room and Lara was diagnosed with a spontaneous pneumothorax of the left lung. They immediately inserted a chest drain and long story short, she was out of hospital 6 days later. We took it easy for a week, had an x-ray and after a meeting with our doctor, made an informed decision to continue on our merry nautical way.
We eagerly departed Lisbon and sailed down the Portuguese coast. It was sublime, our adventure had really begun. Several delightful nights at anchor later and we’d made it to the beautiful and more protected Algarve coast of southern Portugal. We decided to take it easy for a day, do some baking, make some fresh water and muck about in the tender. Half way into baking a delicious chocolate cake, those pains returned in Lara’s chest. This time instead of being in a marina we were at anchor though, in a spot that whilst beautiful, felt a little more isolated. I cannot begin to describe the feeling of vulnerability that ensued. With Lara incapacitated in pain and breathless, we launched the tender, donned life jackets and got to shore. Luckily we had phone reception and managed to arrange a taxi to drive us straight to a private hospital in Lagos.
Lara spent the next 2 weeks in hospital, firstly in Lagos where the lung collapsed again, and then moved to Alvor hospital by ambulance. Another hole in her chest, another tube, and so it continued until finally the decision was made to conduct Pleurodesis surgery to seal the holes and glue the side of her lung to her chest wall. She has had a total of 5 holes poked in her side to insert various tubes into her chest cavity. The surgery provided a more permanent solution to this issue, and now it’s the beginning of a slow and at times painful recovery.
Now we are faced with the “what next” decision. After some chats with close friends, I finally realised that despite my instincts telling me a rash decision was required, now is the time for calm, considered decision making, which is totally at odds with how my mind works. We’ve considered many options, from selling our dream boat and returning home, to enlisting another crew member to help out should we need to leave the boat and make tracks to hospital, to staying put and seeing the summer out here in the beautiful Algarve. Our plans are always evolving, as they would be anyway during this lovely cruising life. We are determined to give it a shot, although what that now means may be slightly different, at least initially, from the aspirations we had of reaching remote cruising grounds in the near future.
C’est La Vie…