*not for sensitive readers
Our minds really opened to all that Brazil has to offered only as we arrived in the country and settled in. The Amazon beckoned to the boys and, after local consultation, it was agreed that entry by boat is just too risky. An overland trip would have to do.
Me, the only female Ongemak crew, stayed safely behind while my doctor boyfriend and Oloff brother flew to Manaus to start an exotic Amazonian jungle river trip. Our departing words included wishes of safety and care into the new “unknown”.
Alas I thought, this would allow me some time to finally befriend the monkey on board the boat moored adjacent to Ongemak. His name is Jimmy and he belongs to Claudia. She’s had him since he was a baby and so their relationship is akin to mother and son. Thus far, she has been weary of letting strangers get too close – he was behaving differently and she wasn’t sure if it was a “friendly different”.
Claudia had Jimmy on a leash and at times, when he wanted to leap onto people (mostly me), she would jerk him back and he would continue being his adorable self – playing with her, hugging her, kissing her.
Surely a few days of getting to know Jimmy would warm him to me and I too will have a bucket list experience with this tiny primate.
Soon enough, Claudia and I were sitting alone with Jimmy in the marina, chatting and sharing. It is amazing how quickly you can make close friends in this strange sailing community.
Jimmy was somehow agitated, maybe irritated by this new friendship and grabbed my water bottle off the table. In a rolling eyes moment, Claudia tried to take it back but Jimmy was being a bit of an @$$hole. So rolling eyes really became “son, you’re embarrassing me” and a more aggressive struggle to free this bottle from his teeth and claws. He resisted, Claudia persisted and, with a snatch, Claudia won over the bottle. In the process however, she had dropped Jimmy’s leash. Jimmy noticed in an instant and leapt.
I looked up at a monkey flying right at me. I must have put my arm out to protect my face because the next thing I knew, Jimmy’s teeth sank into my arm and he held on for dear life. Two seconds later, Claudia grabbed his hind legs and pulled, not unlike the bottle struggle, this seemed only free-able by snatch. I pulled my arm back and there it was, three gaping, bleeding holes.
Adrenaline fully engaged, I aimed for hospital. The Marina security popped a helmet onto my head and biked me into Joao Pessoa city and its public hospital emergency room. Not understanding a word of Portuguese, he clumsily navigated me through the process and soon I was in a room with a doctor being stitched up – 13 in total.
The doctor did a wonderful job and sent me away with prescriptions for antibiotics and (anti)tetanus. That seemed reasonable and simple enough. I was thankful for a brilliant job on my arm and free healthcare in Brazil.
We headed to the pharmacy for antibiotics since no-one seemed to have the tetanus vaccine. We would tackle that the next day and be done with the ordeal. So I thought.
Another Marina staff kindly drove me into town in search of tetanus vaccinations. After a full tour of the Brazilian public health system, we ended up at the clinic who, according to procedure, also started rabies vaccinations and referred me back to hospital for the tetanus. Not understanding a word and having just been injected twice, a long, poorly translated debate started about why on earth I needed to go back to the hospital for tetanus. In the end, this too became a struggle and I gave in. At the hospital, they would explain that they had to inject me with the tetanus antigens, which would immediately protect me – whereas the vaccine would only start your body’s process in developing the antigens over time.
They would keep me in hospital for two hours under observation, so I sent my companion home. Next thing, I was standing next to the sink in the hospital’s toilet (not private) with two painful injections being placed in my bum, following by two injections of fluid into my vein – luckily seated. I have never felt as dizzy or confused. 30 min later the nurse dismissed me. I explained my dizziness to the doctor who kindly wanted to put me on a drip, surprised by my dizziness. I couldn’t handle more of anything being pumped into me and I opted to go home. His last words were “you know you need to come back on Wednesday right?”
No, I did not know this doctor and even now I do not know why but right now, I need to go home.
I got into an Uber and made my way home through a haze. I fell into the boat and slept from that early afternoon to the next morning, getting up only to take my medication.
What followed next were two more rabies vaccinations and this additional visit to the hospital. This time Eric offered to accompany me – he speaks Portuguese, English and Afrikaans – I was going to understand what to expect this time. The doctor explained that it is only one injection (of rabies antigens) but what he failed to mention once again were all the other prophylactic injections beforehand. Two in the bum, two in the thighs, then an IV drip. I reached the boat around 11am and slept until 8am the next morning.
As I write, I am left with one more rabies vaccine which I will get in the village this afternoon.
A few days later the guys returned unharmed from the Amazon – they will have to tell that tale.
Conclusion? None really.
Thanks to everyone at Jacare Marina Village who ensured my safety and treatment.