Been away for awhile

It’s been over a year since I have blogged.

No excuses.

2012 was not a very good year for my family.

2013 was a lot better; however will blog about it later.

My husband, Shirl, had heart surgery; he now has a new Aorta valve donated from a very giving cow, we were never told whether it was Daisy Mae or Ferdinand, and a double By-pass courtesy of one of the best Heart Surgeon in Phoenix.  He was pretty resilient in his recovery, mainly because in the previous two years he became a whole lot more serious about his health after he had two stents put in.  He is a very stubborn man, and when he likes something he wants a lot of it, so to give up butter (cold Turkey) was an accomplishment.  Of course, the heart to heart talk with the surgeon that inserted the stents didn’t hurt either. We were walking a mile a day within a month of his discharge.  We progressed to 3 miles most days.

About 15 years ag0 he had a virus attack his heart, and no, we don’t know what kind of virus it was, and, basically he died in the Doctor’s office.  Thankfully, he was revived and spent a week in ICU and the aftermath was that he has a-fib; i.e. his heart has an irregular beat.  Good thing that he was never a regular guy.  The part of his heart that controls the beat was and still is damaged, but the rest is in good shape now.

If you have ever had to navigate the mired of rules with Medicare Health, you can sympathize. Sometimes the cheapest is not the best.  Too bad the government didn’t get that memo. The Insurance plan that we chose does not have a monthly premium, but has co-pay for a Doctor visit, Hospital, Urgent Care, and Drugs.  Which works great for us most of the time? Read on!

We were in Benson, AZ working at Butterfield RV resort that had a work-out room, and tons to activities in addition to a heated pool and a spa.  The neat thing about this resort is that we were within walking or biking of a Walmart and right next to a small strip mall with a Safeway and an Ace Hardware.  We did not have a car so this was ideal as we could ride our bikes up a modest hill to Walmart and pack our groceries in cloth bags on the back of our bikes.

In January Shirl started getting some double vision, He had a prisom put on his glasses and that helped some.  Then all of a sudden Shirl started getting too tired to walk, ride, and work was getting hard.  On yet another appointment with another Ophthalmologist in Sierra Vista, we were sent over to the hospital across the road to get a blood test.  Since it was across the road and at that time we did not have a car, we opted to walk.   On the way, Shirl tripped over a branch on the sidewalk and fell face down.  Damn, we could see the Hospital!

An Emergency Vehicle saw the accident and stopped to help.  They transported Shirl to the Hospital across the road and he had an MRI and it appeared that he did not fall due to a stroke. Good news!  He looked like a prize fighter that lost the fight!  We actually made it through our contract with the resort, in May and headed for Phoenix, for another visit with his Heart Doctor. (His heart surgeon advised us that he would need a valve replacement sooner rather than later” the Doctors words”).  I now know what being in shock feels like.

Now the fun began.  Because his teeth were in such bad shape, he needed to have all the top teeth and some of the bottom teeth pulled, and it needed to be done before he could have Heart Surgery. If he didn’t do it before, he would have to wait at least a year after Heart Surgery to have them pulled.  Remember I told you he is stubborn?  He neglected his teeth in favor of minor things like a roof over our heads and food!

Since he was on Coumadin he had to stop taking it and had to have two shots a day of Lovenox for a week before an Oral Surgeon could pull them.  Wonderful!  Guess what? Going to a Doctor’s office to have the shots was out of the question.  The logistics of Shirl giving himself the shots was not good.  Soooo, I was drafted to do the deed!  It took me two days of a lot of “self-talk” to get mentally ready, because I am not a Nurse and usually pass out when I get have a blood draw on myself, and from this experience do not aspire to be one.  The good thing is that the needles come all filled and sealed, and when they are used all you had to do was press on the plunger again and the needle disappears inside. Easy Peasey! Not!

We thought we needed to have an Oral Surgeon pull them; however we have since learned that you can’t bleed to death from teeth being pulled.  Oh well! To soon old and too late smart! We got a lot of free quotes form Dentists that would pull the teeth and only charge $4000.00 for the set of upper dentures and a new partial for the bottom.  We were starting to be afraid that Shirl may have to go toothless forever.

Through a lot of fighting with the Insurance Company by going up three tiers of Insurance Representatives, we finally got the okay to have the teeth pulled and got partial payment for the Oral Surgeon.  When his mouth finally stopped bleeding and healed, we had another appointment with the Heart Doctor and he told us the time is now for his heart surgery. We only had to deal with the Insurance Company.  Fun Stuff!

We were told by the Insurance Company, that the Catheter that he needed to have to ascertain the condition of the heart, before surgery had to be “Out Patient”, and we were responsible for the whole $15,000.00, yikes!!  We were devastated.  So while we were trying to figure out how we could possible pay for the out-patient procedure and the surgery, our children came to town to visit.  While we were all out walking, yes, he still liked to walk, Shirl became so distressed that we took him to the hospital and he was admitted.  Once he was admitted it was determined that the catheter was necessary and was done, so we dodged that bullet, and it became part of the hospital bill.

The saddest thing that happened was that they had to cut his wedding ring off as it was very tight on his finger and he probably would have some swelling.  We all almost cried when he looked up with very sad eyes, and said “I have had that ring on my finger for 50 years”!  The Nurse that was cutting it off almost cried, too.  He was delayed a day because of an emergency of his heart Doctor and when he finally went up for surgery we were glad, scared, and relieved.  Then we all just withdrew into ourselves and waited.  When the Doctor finally came out and said it was a success we were all nearly ready to collapse. Shirl was doing fine!

BTW, all surgical patients look like hell after surgery! There were many tubes and IV’s hooked up to him, he was pale as a ghost and with a wonderful Nurse at his side at all times.  She patiently said many times “Mr. Colbath just relax and lay still” as the first thing that he wanted to do was get up.  I was a basket case, and probably looked worse than him.  Our Daughter was a Rock.  I probably leaned on her a lot more than I remember. She stayed with me until he was released.   Even though our Son had to fly back home, we communicated by phone and email often.

The follow-up by Banner Thunderbird Hospital was excellent.  As soon as he was released we were visited by a nurse and therapist on a weekly basis to make sure he was taken care of. He had a fuzzy Heart pillow that was given to him at the hospital that became his best friend. Heart patients cannot use their arms to push themselves up from a chair for months.  Before he could leave the hospital he had to learn how to dress and undress, how to get in and out of bed, how to go up and down stairs and get in and out of a shower.  The hospital staff was amazed at how fast he progressed!  We came to visit every day and stayed until time to go home to dinner. As a matter of fact, I cooked food for him and brought it in to be heated for him.  We walked him around the “track” as many times as he would and could every day.  By the time he was released, he was walking by himself and they told him he was setting records.  LOL

We also found out he doesn’t do well with pain medication.  Every time they asked if he wanted some pain medication he said “I guess so” and when we were visiting him he was telling us about the dog that was biting his hand and that all of the members of all of the Star Trek, Star Wars, and Babylon Five, movies were visiting, we decided that he did not need any more pain medication and told them not to give him anymore.

While Shirl was in the Hospital, I rented a car and when he got home we had to take it back.  Wait! I got used to the convenience of having a car instead of taking the Motorhome everywhere.  So we succumbed and let Bell Honda talk us into coming in to look at cars!  That experience is another blog altogether!  The result is we bought our Red Honda Fit, which a friend of our Daughter, named Red Rover! If you read some of my newsletter, you will learn about her, Miranda, and now Dolly Part-on.

We winter in North Phoenix RV Park and the road inside the park was exactly ½ mile around, so we started slow and gradually by the end of the first month after surgery he was not only making it around once, but up to 3 miles.    Living in a Motorhome was a challenge, but together we managed to make it work.

When he was released with no restrictions, we accepted a job in northern California in Lassen National Park at Hat Creek RV Park, where I would work as host checking people in and Shirl would do minor maintenance and lead Motorhomes to their sites.  We felt this would be reasonably easy work for him, even though he had no restrictions.  When we got there we were put in the Deli making sandwiches and Shakes.  We had an hour of training and started working full time, 8 hours a day 5 days a week!  During this time we took some time off and drove to Renton, WA to celebrate our Daughter’s 50th birthday. We had a blast! She throws a great party.  Wired, a Seattle based band played and our Son flew up and it was great to spend time with both of them. A friend of Dawn’s gave us a room in her house and it was across from the party, so if we pooped out we only had to walk across the street to bed.

We were doing fine, and adding some much needed money to our coffers, until the wild fires closed down the site and we ran for our lives!  I drove to Redding, CA via Shasta Lake.  We stayed in a Casino parking lot, until the smoke drove us further south to Sacramento, CA and finally home again to Phoenix where we spent the rest of the summer and the winter.



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