Sunday, June 10, 2012

Barracuda: A Fish Tale

Last month when we were on the North Shore swimming with my turtle friends my world was rocked.

Now I thought I knew my ocean.  Thought I knew what possible dangers lurk in my waters.

I know about sharks, and in our two years of living here and being in the water nearly daily I have only had one encounter with a shark, and I totally missed it. But this isn't a shark tale, it's a fish tale.

I also know about eels, I have many close encounters with these sneaky little beasts and to be honest, I'm more apt to get bit by an eel than a shark.

So back to my tale.

I was swimming near the shore, in shallow water only about six feet deep. The visibility was crap the currents pulling up all the seaweed and sand making the water a silty mess. Just what the turtles love, tiny bits of tasty morsels floating near the shore. It is unfortunate that what brings these creatures to this beach is the very same thing that makes the visibility so bad.

So I had just entered the water, it was my first snorkel of the day, I was excited to get some new photos of my turtle friends. A few yards from shore I immediately see something I rarely see, a large school of Ulua the very large fish all fishermen hope to come across, raced right around me. I immediately pop my head up and yell to my son on shore to bring the spear, maybe he'll catch us dinner.

When I put my face back in the water I see a head of one of the Ulua, floating near the bottom, tendrils of blood hoover close to it.  Now I did not immediately put two and two together. My first thought was a fisherman had thrown his scraps into the ocean. But it only took a split second for that to change.

To my right I see in the murky darkness the tail of the largest creature I have ever encountered in the ocean. It seemed to slither away from me cutting the water with its gigantic tail fins. I immediately gasped, surfaced and instinctively flung myself onto my back trying to distance myself from the creature. My husband had seen it too. I was speechless. Rattled.

I knew it wasn't a shark, the tail fins were all wrong, they were vaguely familiar though, but at the time I couldn't quite place it. They were silvery with a large black dot.

The girth of the creature is what was so frightening.  It was at least two and a half feet thick, thicker than me, a lot thicker than me.

The length of the creature (of what I saw slowly slithering away from me) was at least four feet long, and mind you I did not see it's face.

Thank God Almighty, I did not see it's face.

I was rattled. I got out of the water shaken and confused. What the hell was that thing?  It looked like something from river monsters. What kind of fish gets that big? I mean it was REALLY big.

A Behemoth.

I realized from the safety of the shore that the creature was hunting and that is why the school of Ulua swam right through me, they were being pursued. I had stumbled into the middle of the Behemoth's lunch.

When I got home I thumbed through my book on Hawaiian Fish looking for that tail fin. I know that tail fin.

 And then I found it: Barracuda.  It was a Barracuda.

I had seen Barracuda before, hovering in the distance at the end of the pipes at Electric Beach. But they weren't as big as this. I didn't know they could get as big as this.

It turns out the Great Barracuda can grow to 6 feet. "These powerful predators are often found in shallow water close to shore, especially in early morning or late afternoon."

Barracudas do occasionally attack humans, especially in the middle of feeding frenzy.

We went to North Shore yesterday.  When I was packing our lunch I was thinking about my fish encounter. I have to say I was a little leery to get back in the water.  Once again visibility was crap. But my turtle friends were there and yes lurking in the brackish water I did see those tell-tale fins of silver and black, but they were much smaller, not nearly the size of the Behemoth from before.

Yes I can share my ocean with you, just tell your really big brother to stay away, okay?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Don't Get Sick in Hawaii

When we first moved to Hawaii I immediately went about trying to find a new doctor. You see I had numerous prescriptions I needed filled. Because even though I moved with prescriptions in hand, the state of Hawaii will not honor prescriptions for "controlled substances" from out of state doctors. Unfortunately this included sleep aids.

So I went about the task of finding a new doctor with diligence. Now you need to know that our new doctor would have pretty big shoes to fill, since our family had had the same doctor for the last 17 years. He delivered our children and treated our illnesses and injuries. {Insert shout out for Dr. Dee Christlieb of Ashland Family Practice! We miss you!}

When we moved here I was pleased to discover that we had Kaiser. I had never used Kaiser, but I thought that they had a fairly good reputation.  Boy was I wrong.  My first encounter of the Kaiser kind was a meet and greet of my new "Doctor" to establish care and give him the paper files I had brought with me from Oregon.  I was appalled at the interview. Kaiser offices in Hawaii are set up like this: a computer is set up with a chair for the doctor or nurse to input info into-- facing the opposite wall as the patient/customer seating.  My doctor sat with his back to me the entire consultation looking over his shoulder only occasionally to question a particular medication and my use of it. So lame.

So I know that I came from the most perfect of medical relationships, a doctor who knew everything about me and my family and cared about us on a personal level. But I was not prepared for Kaiser. What was particularly eye opening was the way the doctor would say things like I don't know if "they" would allow that... Always referring to Kaiser as "They" and implying that he had no control over my medical care, and that it was all decided by "Them". Creepy big brother crap, that I hoped was just this one doctor's perspective.

Needless to say we switched doctors. But we still had to stay with Kaiser until open enrollment. I decided I would drive all the way to Mililani for my medical care.


When I stepped inside this fairly modern building I was slapped in the face by the pungent aromas of Asian cuisine.

What?  Really?

There were folding tables set up with trays and trays of food.  What the heck?  Piles of chicken and other meats, noodles and soups all sitting out and waiting to be sold while sick people and their illness walked by trailing their germs behind them.

Yuck. Gross.  Are you serious?  Is this even safe?

And if I didn't feel sick when I walked in I sure do now.

When my doctor suggested exploratory surgery over an MRI for my injured knee, I was gone.

I remember saying, "I don't want to get sick in Hawaii." I imagined being elderly and  having to battle cancer or some other disease here, in a place where medical care seemed archaic, and it really panicked me. This is not the U.S this is like living in Mexico.

My new bout with illness (or suspected illness) has put me a little more at ease. Though I was led astray by an overzealous dermatologist, my rheumatologist had put me at ease. And yes I think my new general practitioner may make the cut as well. Only time will tell, I'm not in any kind of hurry to find out.