What to do when you’re sick on a cruise ship

Accompanied by LA cop Harry Bosch, I made my way to the cruise ship’s medical centre for another round of treatment. Harry and I were to get to know one other well over the coming days.

The simple, rather small, rash on my lower legs had been brought on, I reasoned, by walking at least 16km in a day when the temperature sat around the 30-degree mark. But when it hadn’t retreated a day later, I decided to visit the ship’s doctor.

If you’re a reader who skips to the end first, let’s just say the rash was never formally identified but I did step out of the clinic much lighter – in the pocket.

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My hopes of being given a topical ointment and sent on my way were dashed as the middle-aged doctor fired questions and handed me to Manuela the nurse for intravenous antibiotics. Really? For a (self-diagnosed) heat rash? Turns out “Doc”, as his co-workers called him, was treating me for phlebitis, or vein inflammation which can cause blood clots. Yikes.

Day 1 was 30 minutes’ worth of IV, plus shots, through a double shunt line of anti-nausea medication and a diuretic, that stayed in my arm right through the “enrichment lecture” I attended afterwards. Back upstairs the surroundings were again sumptuous, rather than workaday, and the bathroom nearest the lecture theatre, which I got to know well, no exception.

I was told to return that evening for another half-hour of antibiotics. “Come early,” the nurse said, “and I’ll get you started before the clinic opens.”

What she meant was, come before the clinic opens to passengers. In the waiting area there were crew members already in line, including one bleeding through his first aid bandage. It’s easy to forget when you’re ordering lobster from a smiling waiter that there’s another, invisible, crew doing the grunt work.

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