A case study for: Anaphylaxis: Diagnosis and Treatment
Rain and thunder had hammered me and Misty Moon, my 58 foot sailboat, all night. One wave after another sprayed over the cabin top and my eyes stung from looking up to make sure that the small bit of sail I had up wasn’t being ripped to shreds. I found refuge at Bahia Honda in northern Colombia. Anchored, I laid down and the gently rolling sea lulled me into a deep sleep.
Hearing a strange noise at sunrise, I continued to lay in my berth listening as the slow pop – long pause – pop –long pause – pop of an ancient gas motor grew louder. Pirates are a very real concern along the Venezuelan and Colombian coasts and there were no villages on my chart. The sound increased and was what I estimated to be within 1911 Colt .45 auto pistol range.
Peering over my cockpit, I saw a small multi-colored fishing boat with burlap sacks sewed together for a sail. The captain was alone. He was a small, thin man with a toothless smile. He wore a tattered, ‘Eat More Chicken’ tee shirt. This led me to believe that I wasn’t the first pilgrim in this bay. Closer now, he began waving and soon held up a Mackerel not much bigger than a sardine. I grabbed his bow line and he began rattling off Spanish about 20 times faster than his tiny, rusty motor rotated. He said, “Me, old wife, child only people here. Live on fish, goats on cliffs, and cactus.” “Fish yours. You give food cans, pigment, and cap baseballs.”
I asked, “I understand cans of food, but why paint and baseball caps?”
He said, “Pigment my boat. Cap baseballs for child and old wife.” “Trade big fish see?” He held up the minnow again. I noticed his wooden boat of many colors. It reminded me of a hippy bus minus the peace signs on one side; the other side was faded blue. After very little thought, I decided the paint color that I could give him didn’t matter much.
Going below deck, I gathered up hat baseballs, clothes, a quart of fluorescent orange paint that someone had given me, and 6 cans of generic Spaghetti O’s I keep on hand for just such an occasion. I remembered I had some Trinidad peanuts. I handed the items to him and he kept trying to appreciatively hand me the sardine. I waved my hand no.
Giving him the peanuts last, he looked curiously at them and then as if an old neuron fired, he opened the bag and began eating as he talked. A half hour passed as he told me how Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel used to run drugs out of this very bay. Pulling the rope 21 times on his pre-civil war motor, it finally popped to life. He raised the burlap sail, shoved off, and sailed away. I grabbed my sewing kit and sat in the cockpit repairing a mizzen sail.
The wind and current seemed to be against him. I was sure that the captain had been running at full throttle for 20 minutes, yet with a good slingshot, I bet I could have hit him. I continued to sew.
The noise was getting louder. I looked. He had turned around and was heading towards me waving, what seemed to be, a metal object reflecting in the sun. He was barking curse words faster than a squirrel chews on a nut. I could only make out the words “Going to kill you gringo.” Now I could see the waving object. It was a machete, the number one murder weapon in South America.
As thin as he was, his face was swollen and he had large, raised patches on his tanned chest. By the time he reached Misty Moon he had dropped the machete, wasn’t able to curse or talk anymore, and was clutching at his throat. I leaned over the side, got under his arms and pulled him into the cockpit. Wasting no time, I went below, loaded a syringe with 0.5 cc’s of 1:1000 epinephrine and gave it to him in the deltoid (shoulder). Following this I injected Cimetidine 300 mg I.V.
I had to re-inject him with epinephrine. Several hours passed before the captain looked like his old rogue self. He said, “You try to kill Jorge then you give life.” “Why gringo?”
I explained, “Peanuts are no good for you. Do not eat again. Almost killed you.”
He said, “Like wasp sting almost kill me.”
“Si Senor Capitan”
I knew he was feeling better when he left. The motor popped on the forty-second pull and he kept waving as the little sail got smaller rolling back and forth in the setting sun.
*Attached image is of the ole capi’tan. Proving all my stories are real…At least this one.