Sunday, May 15, 2011
Out of the Pans, Into The Fire
Martin at Jack's Camp.
On our last day in the Pans, sitting back next to the fire at our little bush camp, we poured some hot coffee and waited for the sun to go down so we could walk to the brush covered hill overlooking a wet spot in the pans and maybe see some game at sunset. It had been a gorgeous day, not much driving, and lots of bird watching. We had seen some spoonbills and a group of dozens of young Lappetfaced Vultures, as well as many others. The three of us had bonded over the last few days and were looking forward to being in the Okavango Delta. For Martin and Carl it would be the first time, and they had no idea what to expect.
Martin sat forward in his camp chair, and smilingly slapped his leg, "ouch!" another bite of something small...then he saw it was a strange type of bee. He laughed a bit, said good thing he wasn't allergic, pried out the stinger and thought not much more about it. Fifteen minutes later the aggressive poison had raised huge welts, and fifteen minutes after that it became clear he was indeed having his first allergic reaction to a bee sting.
I had carelessly given away my antihistamines two weeks earlier in Cape Town, and not thought to replenish them. I am not allergic to anything and both Martin and Carl thought the same. Even the most well prepared expedition can come up short, however, and now we were in what could be very serious trouble. We were at least two hours hard driving from the nearest clinic, and maybe more. Fortunately we were near Jack's Camp, one of the oldest bushcamps in the Magadigadi Pans, and a five-star fly-in safari destination of some repute. I felt confident that they would have oral and inject-able solutions to Martin's increasingly perilous condition.
Leaving Carl at the camp, we jumped into the truck and I made all safe haste for Jack's, about six miles away. By the time we arrived Martin was struggling but still on his own feet, and within five minutes he had antihistamines in his body. The young but capable staff had a doctor on the radio, and in case of need a medical evacuation flight sitting on the dirt runway.
Thankfully within the hour Martin was stabilized and looking much much better. We arrived back at our camp just after sunset, to a great reception from Carl who had been very worried. There are now both inject-able and oral antihistamines in my medical kit, and from now on they will be fresh and available for future need.
This is a clear illustration of some of the dangers inherent in being alive in the bush. Most people live within thirty minutes of medical help. Once you go beyond that it is necessary to be prepared for most eventualities. I have a wilderness medical certificate, and Martin is a qualified veterinarian, and both of us thought we were covered, because our past experience showed we were not allergic to bees. I carry an extensive medical kit that will take care of most problems in the bush, at least until we can reach a hospital. Yet we did indeed come up up short. The lesson to learn is: Prepare for every eventuality that you can.
We would both like to extend our heartfelt appreciation for the very professional staff at Jack's Camp and the way that they reacted in such a helpful manner. Martin also should be commended for keeping calm, keeping watch over his symptoms, and remaining positive.
After a rest day in Maun near a critical care facility to make sure Martin was indeed fine, we headed up into the Okavango Delta.