Nomad Trickery-Surgery

We’re home from a successful knee surgery, and I’m doing well! I’m grateful that so much I worried about is finally behind me.  

A friend suggested I write about what it’s like to deal with major medical issues from the road, which I have in past posts, but here goes a tad more, plus updated knee news.   

What I’ve Learned about Healthcare from the Road

For me, the biggest drawback of living on the road is disjointed health care.  I’m lucky to have a GP in Houston who’ll see me via zoom, but I have to count on his staff to keep my records from all the sometimes-random doctors I see, and they ain’t that great at it. They always send my prescriptions to some state I’m not in, for example.

Because I’m a woman, I have two more sets of medical needs than Tracy. We both try (and often fail) to keep consistent medical care for eyes, skin, teeth, and regular GP things, plus I have the ob/gyn and mammo appointments. Again, I have a regular ob/gyn in Houston but I’ve always had to cram in extra visits wherever I happen to be, and I am not good at picking providers.

Let’s see. In Naples I ended up at a dentist office for low socio-economic status folks, and the office just could not deal with me not having a permanent address—which seems like they’d be extra good at! I dropped them, and we now try to see dentists in Mexico in the winters and in Michigan near Finn in the summers.

Oh yeah, there was that sketchy ob/gyn practice in Vegas that decorated their waiting room for Halloween with fake blood and a zombie baby on a side table. Seriously? I don’t think that’s the place to get a kick out of the undead. People, we’re already freaked out enough just being here, thank you.

Here in Brownsville, I’ve also found myself in walk-in clinics for folks on the down-and-out, and I’ve witnessed seriously patient patients here. Long lines and wait time plus lackadaisical staff are the norm. I guess you have to take what you can get. The fancy surgery unit in Houston was like a spa compared.

With my ACL tear and a possible endocrinology issue (more tests are needed for that), I’m facing continued obstacles here in Brownsville. I have a window in time when I can see a doctor for the first time and then for follow-ups, but medical staff simply can’t accommodate that. I don’t think they understand, actually. Same goes for CVS: they fill prescriptions wherever they want to no matter what you tell them. Despite my vigilance, my restless leg syndrome meds just went to Alaska, for example.

So, for the knee alone, I’ve seen a local guy in Urgent Care whose hard cast set me back weeks of recovery. There’s the orthopedist whom I dropped for the same reasons. And I saw a GP down here for the pre-surgery evaluation, including x-rays, EKG, blood drawn (two mistakes made there).

In Houston, the surgeon’s staff is so busy, and I have to tell them over and over the story of me being essentially homeless, While in the surgery prep room I was questioned by a nurse who asked where I live and what I do, and I swear I almost lost it on her. It gets impossible to differentiate small talk (while you’re getting your blood pressure taken) with actual data-driven questions that I need to answer fully. Lady, just take my BP and leave my lifestyle out of it.

There’s the commute business, which went well but thanks only to Tracy, not to advice we were given by the surgeon’s staff. I got conflicting info on how much I should wear the demobilizing leg brace, when I should take the 8-hr ride home, what I do with bandages once I got there, etc.

I had to drop the dream of having a cold therapy machine, seeing as how the company that rents them to that surgeon’s patients wouldn’t rent to me due to my location. Too must shipping costs, or too low an SES here for them to trust an expensive machine? I dunno, but I’m using just those gel cold packs, which our tiny freezer is not keeping cold enough.

Next up is where I choose to get stitches out. Do I go all the way back to Houston or trust the local staff who failed to do the lab work right, twice? I can’t even get a straight answer from my surgeon’s nurse, who’s so busy that, once she heard I might not make that trip again, seems to have dropped me like a hot potato.

And then there’s the endocrinologist. She practices at four locations near me, which means that, because no one uses the internet down here, I have to call all those locations just to leave her a question. She’s got two last names, one used sometimes and one another (although I can’t find an pattern). Suffice it to say that does not smooth over document sharing in the slightest.

So. Surgery went well, and all my fears of it being cancelled due to the endo’s dire notes on my low cortisol and low blood pressure were unnecessary. Even the sketchy AirBnb we stayed in for surgery is behind us. I had no idea that AirBnB began with people renting out the homes they live in! I went to put my ice packs in the freezer, and it was chocked full of their own food. Expired meats were in the fridge, and baby clothes in the bedroom closet. Jeez Louise that’s weird. At least we watched a bunch of Doctor Who on their streaming account.

We survived the long trip home, too. As I write this, I’m lying on the Airstream sofa, with my knee iced and raised, as Tracy tries to catch up on sleep. My sleep is so, so far in the rear mirror, thanks to the hydrocortisone I’m taking for the endo; it keeps me wired even over top of narcotics.

Up next: Where do I get my stitches out? Can I get additional testing and a diagnosis from the endocrinologist before we have to leave in a month? We’ve canceled our appointments down here for skin, eyes, and teeth so my calendar will be free for the knee and adrenal glands, and for visiting Finn.

That’s not all we’ve had to cancel. I tore my ACL just one week into this winter stay, and all this time Tracy’s been driving me around and unable to tackle the trailer repairs we caused in Alaska. Oh, and the lack of electricity, which ain’t no small thing. And, we haven’t been able to take advantage of the RV resort as planned; we might as well be in last year’s down and out mobile home park and could have saved a thousand dollars. Oh well! A roseate spoonbill greeted us from right outside the trailer when we pulled in.

Onward with rehab and more endo testing. As much as I’d like a medical explanation of my anxiety and forgetfulness and what happened on my bike, even more I want to not have to be on a steroid for the rest of my life. So fingers crossed that the endo labs come back in normal range.

Aren’t I sexy?!

I’m so looking forward to seeing my PT today, who will help me organize (mentally) all my notes and timeline and needs.

Back to what I learned during the knee surgery.

What I Learned in Houston

Did you know that AirBnB started as a way for people to rent out space in their homes while living there? I’ve stayed in spare bedrooms before while the host lived in the rest of the house, but this was my first time using someone’s full home. Seriously, no room in the freezer for my ice packs and no room in the fridge for our groceries. I felt like an interloper.

During the surgery appointment, I was seen by at least six people (taking my stats, interviewing pre-anesthesia, prepping me for the procedure). I needed info from each of them, and I did a lousy job of it. My beloved PT told me to record conversations, and, predictably, I forgot to!

Turns out I am very very small. Which I knew, but each medic had to comment on it. Tiny veins for IVs. Tiny wrist for ID bracelet. Tiny knee, so my ACL replacement had to come from a cadaver instead of my own knee. I have no spare parts, I’m told. And now that I’m back home, I have to deal with a leg brace meant for someone a foot taller than I am, so it covers me from ankle to crotch, with so much extra Velcro on the four wraps that I stay tangled in it. I should have asked for a pediatric version!

Finally, my surgeon’s nurse, whom I was so impressed with initially, is done with me. Either I ask too many questions, or she feels like we’re done because I came back to Brownsville right away, I don’t know. But my beloved PT has stepped up to the plate in my holistic treatment; he even called me one evening to answer immediate-need questions.

Onward to a month of healing, getting some answers, finishing my sweater, and spending more time with Finn!

8 thoughts to “Nomad Trickery-Surgery”

  1. I’m happy to hear your surgery went well! What a relief that must be.

    Medical care on the road is one of those things I never really thought about before. Logistically speaking, it does sound challenging.

    1. It hasn’t been a problem for Tracy, but somehow for me I keep getting all tangled up with planning and doctors. So it could be me!

  2. Wow. You’ve had quite an ordeal. I can only imagine the logistic nightmare of not having a permanent address… our meds take two, sometimes three weeks to reach us by mail. By then you could be way across the country.
    I’m very glad your surgery went well and you managed to keep your sense of humor about it all. That many medical screw ups might be the end of me.
    Here’s hoping your PT goes well and brings you relief from the pain and discomfort.

    1. I think a need for consistent medical care is a big factor why the older fulltiming crowd ends up settling down. But, of course there are a whole bunch of them out there navigating healthcare on the road just fine.

  3. In the end the surgery went well and that is great news. Sounds like recovery will no be too long either – long enough to eat up your resort time, so sorry for that, but at least not to have to keep you there months. The doctor’s office dropping you like a hot potato sounds exactly like our experience at a hospital in Kissimmee last year. Dave had an issue that put him in overnight for observation. They’d resolved what brought us there and were going down rabbit holes for other things that we decided could wait till we got home. Once we put our foot down to be released, they did the same as with you. All but threw his things and paperwork at us, and told us we were free to leave. Not even the normally-requisite ride to the door in a wheel chair. Felt rather childish to us, and certainly unprofessional, but we got out at least, and all was well.
    Be well. Don’t shirk your PT!

    1. That’s wild we share that story of being dropped by a medical team. I did at least hear from the anesthesiologist several times after. Thanks for the encouragement!!

    1. Hey now, I have alarms on my phone for PT five times a day: morning, second breakfast, noon, tea, and happy hour. No skipping any of those!