Guest Post – Jenny Heesh / Pt3 / Blood Poisoning ~

Here is the third and last part of Jenny’s guest post on her time as a First Aid nurse on the Camino this past year. She’s left the best for last – Blood Poisoning.

Jenny – it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to host these posts here. Personally, I’ve found them fascinating, as have a lot of others who visit this blog. And I’ve also learned things too. As you know, I also had a bad Compeed experience and would never ever use it again. It nearly derailed my Camino. So thank you for posting here on PGS The Way. You are a wonderful story-teller.

Now, here is Jenny’s final instalment.
Keep your hurl buckets handy…

Blood Poisoning
Jenny Heesh

When we saw Jane at Los Arcos, she had begun walking with Kerstin, a Swedish pilgrim.  Jane had recovered well from her blisters, sore knees and the cold – she was really getting into her stride with the Camino – loving every minute of every day. 

Kerstin was also going very, very well.  When we said goodbye I told Jane that I felt we would see each other again.  She was skeptical as the legend is that, on the Camino, you only meet the same people twice, and we had seen each other twice.

However, we DID meet up with Jane again, just outside Rabe, a couple of weeks later.  By then we had moved over to the town of Castrojeriz, another spot where pilgrims often sustain injuries. 

It was one of those extraordinary Camino coincidences – we were driving out to the main road from the town of Rabe when I thought I saw Jane.  I told David, who asked me if I wanted to turn around and go back to where she was, to make sure. 

I debated whether or not we should turn back as we were heading to Burgos on another first aid mission involving the purchase of large quantities of cat food for a feline family we had “adopted” at the campsite (which is a story for another time!). 

We did turn back – it was just as well we did – Jane was with Kerstin, who was quite ill.  Kerstin was feeling dizzy and had put it down to lack of water or the heat. She then said she had a blister problem.

The moment David looked at the blister he knew she had to go to hospital. We bundled Jane and Kerstin into the car with us and set off to find a hospital, which we eventually found in a small town about 35 kilometres away.

This is what had us bundle Kerstin (and Jane) into the car in search of a doctor :

Kerstin's foot before treatment

Kerstin’s problem began when she put a Compeed patch onto a heel blister. The blister had grown over the days of walking until it burst and forced an edge of the Compeed patch open. Dirt got in and it became infected.  

When we saw her she had blood poisoning – her ankle had already started to swell. The doctor in the Casualty Department of the hospital cleaned and treated the wound, gave her an antibiotic injection and horse-pill sized antibiotics and told her that her Camino was over, she had to go home.

The doctor then took David aside and said we had to keep an eye on her overnight and that if her condition deteriorated we must take her immediately to the Emergency Department in the large regional hospital in Burgos – she was really concerned for her. We did keep a close eye on Kerstin and thankfully, her condition improved overnight.

Kerstin's foot after treatment

The next afternoon we drove her to Pamplona, a distance of around 250 kms, and put her on a train to Paris, so she could make her way home to Sweden.

David and Kerstin - Railway Station, Pamplona

As we were driving Kerstin to Pamplona, we decided to pack up the caravan at Castrojeriz and return to Puente la Reina and Albergue Santiago Apostol.

We had a few nights back at the albergue carrying out first aid.  It was the third week of September – the pilgrim numbers had begun to decline and as a result the need for first aid help was not as great, so we decided it was time for our first aid mission to end. 

To finish –

Roni successfully completed her camino and is currently working on her dissertation.

Mike successfully completed his camino and is currently writing an account of his experiences as a bike pilgrim, which he intends to share with members of the Camino Forum.

Kerstin’s foot is now completely healed.  It was six weeks before she was able to walk on it normally.

For me, it was an extraordinary privilege to be able to share the first aid role with David.  Every moment, from start to finish, was wonderful.

The first aid camino was a time of caring for others, of sharing and of laughter, and of nurturing and building upon an already strong friendship.  My Camino and first aid knowledge has increased exponentially because of this experience.  I am so very grateful that David gave me the opportunity to share in the valuable work he does each year.  It was a very, very special time – thank you so very much David.

David had found on his previous first aid missions that the first aid wasn’t just about treating blisters and putting dressings on – many pilgrims were suffering internally.  I found this to be so in helping him – many apparently confident pilgrims burst into tears when we started helping them. 

Spending time talking with pilgrims, hearing their stories and providing empathy and understanding was one of the most rewarding aspects of the work.

The help, as David says, is “all about love”.  For me it WAS “all about love” – for pilgrims, for my dear friend and of course, ultimately for the Camino.

David and Jenny, photo courtesy of Cee Jacques

 photo courtesy of Cee Jacques

12 thoughts on “Guest Post – Jenny Heesh / Pt3 / Blood Poisoning ~

  1. Ah Jenny, see… I see wings. What a wonderful accounting of your Camino. I think, I almost liked this more than being Hospitalera. Something to consider. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ingrid – thank you so much for your beautiful, kind thoughts.
      You would make a BRILLIANT Camino Samaritan! If you have a current first aid certificate you will be able to help. The first aid certificate is something that’s needed for obvious reasons but also in the unlikely event that a Spanish official wants to know what you’re doing … good to have the certificate in hand as a back-up.
      The fantastic thing about doing first aid as a pilgrim (which we’ll be doing later this year as you know) is that you have the WHOLE pilgrim experience – walking with others, staying in albergues with others, being part of shared meals – that wonderful sense of community – and there are always pilgrims who need help. A pared-down first aid kit doesn’t weigh much or take much space in your pack.
      If you would like to consider being part of the Camino Samaritan programme in the future, you can get in touch with David direct by sending him a PM on Ivar’s Forum (search David and his is the first user name that comes up), or if you would prefer to contact him via my email address which you have, I will forward on your email. At this early stage, David has a couple of people who want to help this year in addition to me, and at least one for next year.
      Best, best wishes, and much love –
      Jenny xxx

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Jenny, I will go through you when the time comes. Not 2016. I am staying put here at home. Just feels like I need to do that. You will have an awesome time. Hugs


  2. Dear Bill –
    Thank you so very much for the privilege of sharing my first aid journey on the Camino with our PGS family.
    You’ve made my story so very special – with your wonderful introductions and the beautiful presentation of the posts.
    I have such appreciation for the excellence of your posts – always have done since the first post appeared on the Forum nearly three years ago. I have an increased appreciation for your work, as, through the work I put into my story, I know a little of the huge amount of time and effort that you always put into everything that you do.
    While writing, I’d like to thank David for the help he gave me in compiling the story. A good portion of the text in the second and third posts I modified from a post he put up on the Forum. He deserves a lot of credit for this – again – thank you David.
    My most grateful thanks to you for giving me the opportunity to share my story.
    Much love to you and Jen –
    Jenny xo xo


    • Dear Jenny – you are so very sweet to say this, thank you – but it’s my pleasure to be able to give you this platform. More importantly it’s wonderful what you did last year, and great that you’re doing it again this year. As you say, it allows you a unique perspective on the Camino experience, and connects you at a very intimate and visceral level.

      Please feel free to use this blog to post other pieces too – you are a wonderful writer, and as I said before you made my job as a “publisher” very easy!

      I do feel though that you need some advice on the photos. In some shots there was too much headroom…

      🙂 🙂 🙂

      Well done Camino Angel!!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Cheers Bill, and thank you for allowing me to use PGS as a platform for posting future accounts.
        Can I say that the excess headroom was my BIGGEST CONCERN ? YES, IT WAS!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Brilliant Jenny. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I’ve really enjoyed reading your story and hearing the amazing things you have done and will continue to do. As Ingrid says, definitely some wings there.

    Next time I do a road trip to Sydney I’ll have to look up you “spiritual” pilgrims.

    Thanks again for sharing and do tell us your blog address if you start blogging on your own.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers Donna – I’m so pleased that you enjoyed reading the story. It was an incredibly special time and I can’t wait to do the whole thing again this year.
      It would be FANTASTIC to get together with you when you next visit Sydney! We could get together with Bill, Jen, Britta and Janet – it would be wonderful.
      I’ll definitely pass on the details of the blog address if I do it. If you do your own blog I’d love to read that too. Let’s know if you are, and what the address is.
      Best, best wishes to you –
      Jenny xx


  4. Hi Jill – thank you so much for your wonderful feedback. I’m so happy that you enjoyed the posts. It really was an incredible time – so memorable.
    I hope that all is well with you – best, best wishes for a fantastic 2016 –
    Jenny xxx


  5. Hi Jenny
    Just catching up on your wonderful posts! I see wings sprouting on you. How wonderful to provide aid on the Camino. That toe picture above is gross. I enjoyed your posts very much. You should be a guest poster more often. Is your shoulder back to 100%?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lynda –
      Thanks so much for your kind and generous feedback. I hope to do some more guest posts later in the year when I’m back volunteering at Refugio Gaucelmo at Rabanal. Hooly dooly! … It’ll probably be a case of bed bugs rather than bikes, blisters and blood poisoning but I will probably see bikes and blisters there too – ‘don’t want to see another case of blood poisoning!
      The shoulder is about 80% there. Glenn, the fantastic physio I go to, has given me the OK to do some very easy cycling on flat ground over short distances, on still days, to get my confidence back, so I’m about to get back into being back on two wheels … ‘feeling a bit anxious about it at present but I’ll get over that.
      I hope and pray that things are looking up with Stacey’s health and that 2016 will be a much brighter one for you all.
      Love to you and Dale –
      Jenny xxx


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