A memorable encounter in Antigua and Barbuda

Walking back along the warm sand covered beach I felt down, despite my beautiful surroundings.
Since I was 2years old I have suffered with arthritis – I know the ‘old person’s disease’ and it had made my life a struggle. I had been in a wheelchair for years, had my hips replaced when I was just 11 and been on injections to suppress my immune system since I was just a little boy. And then I found out the news that I needed more surgery – just my luck. My doctor told me I would need to have my ankle fused because it had become so badly damaged – there was no other option – I was scheduled to have the operation for the month following the holiday.
The surgery would mean I would never be able to move my left ankle again – no bike riding, no running, no nothing that was my pessimistic view so when my Dad booked us a holiday in the Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda I jumped at the chance to head off to catch some rays.
Arriving at VC Bird international airport the heat hit you like punch to the chest as I limped off to immigration though, the kind staff gave me special treatment meaning me and my family, dad – Paul, sister – Francesca and little brother – Will were fast tracked through and out of the airport in no time.
As we headed past roadside barbeque stands serving chunks of corn and beef I realised the beauty of where we were. Antigua and its sister island Barbuda are famous for world class sailing but the country I found was world class in other aspects too – bright fauna, friendly locals and beautiful beaches. The resort, St James Club, where we were to stay was on the southern tip of the island near the local hub that is English Harbour, it had several pools, clean beaches, restaurants and to top it all off the resort was surrounded by pristine rolling hills that the sunset bounced off in a glorious orange haze.
As the days flew by and I enjoyed myself with trips to empty beaches and pleasant villages, my foot still was making me nervous. I mean, I was only 16 how could I be having screws put in my foot that could never be reversed? I felt pretty isolated.
By the end of the holiday I realised that my trip to this beautiful island had cheered me up – the staff and locals always asked if my foot was alright and it felt good that some cared, but my upcoming operation was still on my mind.
On the final day I walked back along the beach towards our family’s villa with the sun beating down on my back, when a fellow Brit asked about my foot. I turned and told him about my ailment – he smiled and told me to my surprise how he had had the same surgery 25years ago. I was stunned. I felt like someone understood my pain and then I realised I had a great chance to ask questions – he was more than willing to help me out. Being in a car accident years ago he had even had his hips replaced!
On the flight home I realised that this holiday had been one of my best – I had eaten great new foods like conch and goat, done new things like zip-line through jungles and kayak along coasts but I had also meet some good people too. My trip to Antigua and Barbuda had been a truly memorable experience.

H Jackson

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