Sunday, September 4, 2016

July 2016 July Fourth celebrations, cross-country travel, and hospitals.

Here we go again ... Sorry about the long time since my last post.

We began the month painting picnic tables and getting the place ready for the Fourth of July gathering.  Susan and Scott primed the tables then painted them ...

each a different color.  They were needing it and came out looking pretty  good.

We had our celebration on the 2nd this year because of scheduling conflicts trying to get everyone together on the Fourth.  Scott is sitting among some of the leftovers.  I don't know how much the total expenditures was but we normally go all out celebrating the 4th.  Plus our adult children also brought some stuff.  We made some changes on the type of fireworks purchased so that we can fire them off in less time. Last year we went way into the night and still had some left over for New Year's Eve.

Scott commandeered some of the spent packages to make a "robot."

We moved our steel water tank to a new location that is lower and will be easier to fill by siphoning water out of the rain barrels.  Before setting it in place Scott used it for a giant "hamster wheel."  I'm following to be sure it doesn't tip over on it's side.

The metal ring was given to us by a neighbor.  It has no bottom so we spread a tarp in it to enable it to hold water.

Story time at the library.  Scott is in the black/blue striped shirt in the center, front.

Scott, his dad and little brother firing some left over fireworks in the small water tank.

I took a photo of this in the driver examining station in Libby.  My license expired this year so I had to get it renewed.  It's pretty easy, you just show up, pay them money and pass the eye exam.

We are on the road again.  We hit rain in the Flathead Indian Reservation.  The Mission Mountains have some snow on top of them.  I don't know if it's new snow or left over from last winter.

We were on our way to Kansas in sort of a meandering fashion.  We needed to pick our car up at the body shop after hitting the deer while there in June.  We had my mother's pickup and decided to take some things to our daughter in New Mexico while we had the truck so it was loaded up with that stuff and our camping gear.  This is in northern Idaho along hwy. 93.

They have fishing access (camping is allowed) all along the highway.  It's a beautiful drive and we plan on doing it again next summer only this time I'll have a fishing license and we'll take our time.

The fog is from the river at the bend.

One stop where Scott had some play time at the park.  As usual he made a quick friend while there.  One thing he is not is bashful. 

I think this is in southern Idaho as are the next two photos.

We stopped to visit a friend in Elko, NV.  He took us to a couple of museums.  The next series of photos are from the museums (2) and the carnival that was in town at the time. 

Evening at our campsite overlooking the lake.

This is at a wildlife refuge in central NV.  We camped there to play in the nearby spring.

Breakfast time.

Laundry hung out on the fence drying while we played in the spring. (Susan did the laundry, Scott and I mostly played in the spring.  There were crawdads, tadpoles and small fish to catch which kept us kind of busy.)  

Welcome to Overton.  We came here to get some things out of the motor home.  We took our wind generator down to NM to give to our daughter and her family.  When we got there neither of us had brought keys so we opened the little side window by the passenger's front seat and let Scott wiggle his way through.  He thought it was great fun and then had to lock the door and come out the same way.

The temperature on our arrival was 111 degrees by the bank thermometer.  The one in the pickup read 108. Either was more than we wanted so we wen't to the library until they closed then went to McDonalds until the sun got low and it cooled down (about 89 degrees at 10:00 pm) for the evening.  I slept on the picnic table (I often do that) with Odie nearby.  We had planned on going to church the next morning but it was almost 100 degrees by 9:00 am and we didn't want to stick around until church started so we hit the road again to see another friend in his summer quarters up in the mountains of Utah.  

This is the second summer he's been here and it's beautiful country.  He stays in the desert in the winter then travels north and up to the high country to spend the summers. Technically he's a "homeless" vet. because he lives full time in  fifth-wheel camper.    

We spent most of the day with him then back down to Overton and on to Lake Mead.  This is near Stewart's Point where we spend most of the winter but it is not an "authorized" camping spot so I'm not getting too exact on it's location.  Odie abandoned me with my picnic table, deciding to stay near Susan for the night.  She and Scott slept in the pickup.

We had to make a stop in Henderson to return an item we purchased from Radio Shack.  It took almost a year of (non!) communication with their customer service to get them to take it back.  At one point I asked them specifically if they were just stalling and hoping I'd just go away.  I assured them that I would not be dropping the issue.  They got me like that about 20 years ago.  That time it got to the point I threatened to picket the store before I got my (repaired) computer back.  I thought maybe they'd changed but apparently they haven't.  I don't think I'll be buying anything else from them in my lifetime.

I believe this is near the AZ/NM border.  There's a place where we buy Indian blankets every time we pass through.  This time was no exception.  They sell the blankets for $5.00 so we picked up some for our grandchildren along with a few things for us.

I think this one is near the Kansas border where we spent the night at a (sort of) rest area.  It was an old shelter with no bathroom facilities.  Just a picnic table and a roof.  We were beat from the trip, the humidity and the hot temperatures.  Unknown to us we had already set into motion some things that would cause some serious issues later.

This and the next few photos are of the Kansas countryside.  This is the state I grew up in.  As you can see, their mountain removal project is complete.

We are in KS now.  I was experiencing some breathing problems which we thought were caused by the humidity, allergies and asthma.  Here I'm cutting up the wooden "rack" I made in MT for the pickup.  We needed the sides on the truck to help hold the stuff we were taking to our daughter and her family in NM.  We also needed some boards to put under our old Dodge Motor Home that we'd left at my mother's in Kansas.  I built the rack out of 2X6's so that I could cut them up in KS to put under the tires to keep the motor home from sinking into the ground.

Susan set up Scott's wading pool which he made a lot of use of.  He was doing "cannon balls" into eight inches of water and having a blast.  My breathing continued to deteriorate so we cut our visit short and headed for home hoping the dry air would help.
We had stopped one night in Marion, IL to see our daughter and her family then began our race north.  This is one of the rest areas we stopped at.  

Scott believes motel beds are side-by-side so that he can use them as trampolines.  After a full day in the car he has lots of energy to burn off so we let him unless he's going to break something or hurt himself.  We normally try to find a motel with a pool.  Playing in the water works to help him get some exercise too.

I actually had a pretty decent day after leaving Illinois and was feeling much better in the drier climate as we headed north.  That didn't last though.

The second night out of IL I was in the worst shape yet.  I simply couldn't get enough air in my lungs and didn't have the energy to walk over 25 feet without resting.  So we checked me into the emergency room at St. Vincent hospital in Billings, MT.  We were still almost 600 miles from home but I'd hit my limit.  The bruises are from IV's and blood drawings in the hospital.  Both arms and the back of both hands and my stomach looked like that. 

I was diagnosed with "common" pneumonia that had gone septic so they began IV antibiotics and moved me into a room.  The next morning they moved me to the cardiac ward and began running some tests.  Congestive heart failure runs in my family and they thought I was having heart problems too.  They did the heart cath. and the arteries/veins in my heart are elastic and completely clear.  Then they did a cat scan of my lungs and found blood clots.  An ultra-sound of the veins in my legs found clots so the official diagnosis was DVT and PE.  My weight and age coupled with long hours in the car had caused blood clots in my lower legs.  When they broke lose they traveled to my lungs and caused most of the symptoms I was experiencing.  They also did an ultra-sound of my heart which found no problems with the valves (my youngest sister had her heart valves replaced).  Considering how long I'd waited to go to the hospital the doctors were surprised I was still alive.  At any rate everything seemed to be getting better.  They put an IVF filter in the vein leading from my legs to my heart which is supposed to catch any clots before they reach the heart (that's what the big hole in my neck is from).  I went for my first walk soon after and set off all kinds of alarms in the cardiac ward when my heart rate hit 190 plus BPM.  The sides of my heart began beating out of sync. There's a name for it but I forgot what it is.  They added another medication to slow my heart down.  It didn't really work but my heart rate had slowed by morning.  Then I had a breathing treatment (albuterol through a nebulizer machine) and soon after my heart rate shot up again.  It seems the albuterol (asthma drug) was apparently causing the a-fib.  So, I only do that if it's a choice between living or dying!

I finally got to leave after being there a week.  But then while getting me on the wheel chair to leave, the hole on my neck opened up and I started bleeding again.  The nurse applied pressure and got it stopped.  Because of the blood thinners I'm on it took a lot of pressure.  My neck was sore for a week where she pushed in the vein.  I'm glad she knew what she was doing though.  Anyway, they sent me home with nine bottles of oxygen to last until I could get resupplied at home.

It was quite an ordeal, as much for Susan and Scott as for me. They spent a couple of nights sleeping in the car, one in a motel (occupied by mostly druggies and some very rough oil-field workers), and several sleeping in chairs in my room.  Susan was tasked with taking care of Scott and worrying about me the whole time we were there.

One thing I'd like to caution health care workers about.  Please don't talk about the "patient's" condition in front of children ... no matter how small they are.  Scott was scared to death that I was going to die.  Little kids especially, do not have the capability to deal with it.  Scott was scared to death but didn't know how to express it so it showed itself in other ways that we picked up on.  We gave him a lot of reassurance but he was still afraid.

It's been a month now and things are back to normal again.  I can do everything I could do before.  Plus, Susan and I have gone on a new diet (kind of a modified paleo diet) and we've both lost over twenty pounds so far.  But we still have a long way to go (80 lbs. for me) to meet our goals.

For now, big game archery season is upon us as is wood cutting season and the regular work of living out here in the mountains.

Hopefully I can get my blog entries for August posted soon.


  1. Wow! Such a scary deal! Glad you are feeling better. Also, leaving Montana, driving to Nevada, then to Illinois and back to Montana is quite a journey.

  2. Prayers for your speedy recovery.
    And for Susan...plenty of strength and good courage.
    Been following your blog for yeara....almost since the beginning....and find it really, truly inspiring!
    Get well soon, Steven!

  3. Wow. You've had quite the time! Glad to hear you're ok. Having a husband with advanced COPD, I think that sometimes it's harder for me when he's in hosp than on him as he gets drugged up and loopy and is only half there while I am entirely aware. I'm sure the little guy was petrified. Fortunately, they're resilient and frequently have short memories. (This is Laura S.. can't sign in under my reg acct for some reason)