Anchored in a remote lagoon in the Solomon Islands last year, Tom Partridge and his partner Susie Plume were into the third year of a circumnavigation on their Hylas 46 Adina, when Tom suddenly started to feel very unwell.
Consulting their copy of the Ship Captain’s Medical Guide, they determined that he was showing common symptoms of malaria. Susie contacted a friend in Vanuatu, who happened to be a qualified vet, for a second opinion. He shared their view and, after speaking to his own GP, suggested that as well as treating Tom for malaria, Tom should also be treated for infections he might have which show similar symptoms to those of malaria.
With a box of prescription drugs and extensive first aid kit on board, Susie was able to administer high doses of two broad spectrum antibiotics before sailing them 24 hours to Gizo. Having seen a doctor there, Tom and Susie then flew to Brisbane for intensive hospital treatment.
On arrival in Australia, the infection appeared to be subsiding. The antibiotics seemed to have helped. After multiple tests, Tom’s condition was diagnosed not as malaria, but as suspected septicaemia caused by a small abscess in the root of one of his teeth.
Having experienced a medical emergency so far from home, Tom and Susie are now convinced of the importance of having access to professional help by satellite phone. “I used email extensively and the satellite phone a few times throughout the period from Tom falling sick to reaching Brisbane. Not only was I receiving medical advice but also help with logistical arrangements and much-needed emotional support from family too.
“I could not have done what had to be done without this help. Most importantly I would not have known to give Tom the antibiotics in addition to the malaria treatment and I cannot bear to think about what could have happened. In short, it’s great to take training and carry equipment and drugs but you cannot beat the experience of professionals.”
Telemedicine more affordable
For sailors who don’t have a medical professional on their contacts list, there is now an ever-increasing range of telemedicine services that offer remote