Despite everything that happened I did sleep OK, mainly because I took some Nyquil. I woke up at 8am and saw Greg wasn’t going to be there until 10:30 and rolled over and slept until 9am. When I woke up I had energy and purpose and started buttoning everything up. Because I was way more comfortable with the inside of the rig I started there, and tried to move slowly and with great deliberation. Lee always double checks my work so I wanted to be super careful I didn’t miss anything, and by the time Greg got there at 10am I was close to being done. During the pack up process I kept going out and talking to the gate guard supervisor who was covering. I made sure I transitioned all their equipment back to them and left their extension cords etc with the trailer they provide.
I want to be clear here I absolutely did NOT have to move the next day. The gate guard company would have figured it and laid no expectations on me. I wanted to move the RV for a few reasons. First and foremost I wanted Lee to come home to the RV already moved. He was lobbying for us to wait until he could come and help and I absolutely did not want him in a truck five hours round trip and then dealing with the move. Second, I wanted my stuff near the hospital. I had to get Jack back and needed the RV and cage etc to make that work. I wanted my bed, my shower, my clothes etc, and since I was lucky enough to have a place to take it I wanted to make it happen sooner rather than later. Third, I was trying to do right by the gate guard company. There was a small area they could maybe squeeze a second rig and trailer in but it was not optimal. By getting out before the relief came it made their lives easier.
The only reason I felt comfortable doing any of this at all was because Cori was with Lee. She got up and went to the hospital and spent most of the day with him. She kept him entertained, talked to doctors and basically made sure he got what he needed. If I didn’t have her doing that no way would I have left him alone all day. It would have had to wait. If I didn’t have their help I probably would have needed to wait for him anyway. Several gate guard friends were close by and they certainly would have come and helped, but having a place to go and a long time friend to help gave me the courage to tackle it immediately.
During this process Greg was absolutely amazing. He doesn’t own a fifth wheel, but the basic mechanics of slides, power, water, and sewer aren’t that different. He also had brought his truck down which was really great because instead of needing to neatly pack everything, we just threw most of the outside stuff into his truck. That was super important because Lee is the pack master and I would have a hard time duplicating how he packs. Left to my own devices I probably would have thrown everything on the bed, which would have been a mess. Because we were both a little uncomfortable we took our time and talked through everything out loud. He was extremely kind and patient and let me work through it at my own speed.
When we got to the hitching though we both paused. Hitching is really important, and neither of us had ever done it ourselves. We talked it through and it looked right but Greg wanted to make absolutely sure. If the hitch was wrong we could have severely damaged the rig or the truck. I appreciated the fact that he didn’t just barrel through and first we called Lee. Unfortunately he was in the middle of a room change (from ICU to step down) and couldn’t talk so then we called Bill. He wasn’t immediately available so next I called Steve. Up until this point, I hadn’t told Steve and I didn’t handle that call very well. Basically it was “Hi Steve, Lee had a heart attack, he’s OK, but can you help us with our hitch?”. I wasn’t thinking to clearly at that point. Steve to his credit, after his initial shock took it in stride but unfortunately didn’t have the same hitch. Lee called back and so did Bill and ultimately Greg felt comfortable it was hitched probably.
The only thing that made it really tough, was Lee had written about what happened on Facebook. I was glad he told people, because word was starting to leak out, but that act opened the floodgates. Tons of people reached out to me and the love and support was amazing. I was glad Lee was telling people he was OK, but I felt like I needed to stop and answer every single text. In retrospect I should have made a general Facebook announcement and waited until I was done with everything. The kids wanted more information and now that he was OK, they had a lot to say. Everyone was worried and rightly so but I was just feeling overwhelmed. Not the best head space to be in when trying to move the rig without Lee and I really needed to focus. No one knew that of course, which again is why I should have just made a general announcement so people would know why I couldn’t get right back to them.
We finally got it done and although Greg offered to drive I decided I was going to. He’s never driven a fifth wheel and although I had every confidence in him, I felt this was one thing I could do for myself. He did keep the dogs in his truck because I knew Jack would be all over me and didn’t want any distractions. Pulling out was actually the hardest part because I had to go down the oilfield road and turn around. In retrospect we should have driven it first, but it didn’t even occur to me because we never have a second vehicle. I went down to the spot where the helicopter had landed thinking that area would be big enough to turn around, but what I didn’t see was a HUGE rut in the middle of the road. No way was I going through that so I started trying to back up which I am not very good at.
Thankfully Greg saw something was wrong and he pulled up. He walked it first and then said he could get it through. He pull the truck as far to the right as he could and the RV tipped significantly as he was going through. In that moment I was 100% sure it was going to flip on it’s side and I think my stress meter just overloaded. Emotionally at that point I just shut down although I did feel relief when he made it through both ways OK.
I took back over driving at that point and Greg followed me. Right before San Antonio I did stop at a rest area and told him I was feeling comfortable and he could go on ahead. I took a few minutes and ate some pizza, went to the bathroom, and tried to talk to Lee. Again, he was in the middle of talking to doctors but I exchanged texts with Cori and she said things were OK. Lee was lobbying hard to be let out of the hospital, but they were having none of that. He hated his room, his roommate was seriously ill, and he just wanted to go home. The enzyme tests though weren’t as low as they would like and they needed to do an echo. He was staying another night and was just going to have to deal with that.
I continued driving and followed my GPS which took me an unusual way. Turns out there were accidents and construction on the normal route, which Greg took, and I actually beat him there. Unfortunately as I was turning into his driveway I cut it to close and once again got stuck. I needed to back up and was nervous because I was in loose gravel. Thankfully Greg got there 5 minutes later and he got it in the driveway. He had to make a super wide turn up into the grass to get it in but he managed just fine.
The next part we both knew was going to be difficult. Greg had never backed in a fifth wheel and I knew I wasn’t great at it. The site we were getting into was extremely tight and Lee had trouble the last time we were there. At this point I talked to Lee but he said it was not something he could talk someone through unless he was there. Greg and I were on our own, but I felt pretty confident we would figure it out. I knew that Lee had pulled onto the hill to get it lined up last time and I also understood that it took numerous tries in a situation like this and was a battle of inches. Greg was really calm and patient and we talked the entire time. Ultimately he had it lined up beautifully and I was super proud of him.
At this point we were both really tired but there was lots left to do. He stayed with me and watched while I hooked up power and water and he was nice enough to hook up the sewer. The dogs were going crazy at this point glad to be outside, but when I opened the door they both came in. There isn’t much room in the RV when the slides are in, but Hobie managed to squeeze his chunky self in there anyway and went straight to the toys. That made me smile for the first time in two days. And one more time I want to say how wonderful Greg was. Many men would have just taken over in that situation. Not to be mean but in the attempt to be helpful. Greg made me feel supported but also let me feel in control which I desperately needed in that moment. He was amazing and couldn’t have handled it any better. I will always be grateful.
I takes a while to set everything up and even though I did the bare minimum it took a while because there were piles of things I hadn’t dealt with in the button up process. I was exhausted when I was done, but also knew I needed to get to the hospital. Cori had just left to head back so I called Lee and told him I was on my way, but he said I didn’t need to come. He was really cranky and there was nothing I could do to make it better and he wanted me to rest. I didn’t fight him too hard because I was wiped. Cori brought home some Panda Express and after eating a quick dinner I went and laid down. I was mentally too wound up to sleep right away but at least I could rest. I took the phone in the bedroom with me and finally got to sleep.
At 4:30am the dog woke me up because he needed to go outside. I had a hard time falling back to sleep but knew I needed to. I woke up at 7:10am and saw a 6:40am text from Lee saying please come and get him because he wanted to leave as soon as they released him. That threw me into a panic and I got the dog to pee real quick, grabbed him a shirt and coat, brushed my teeth and left. I knew I shouldn’t rush, but I couldn’t help myself. I felt late and the guilt from not going the day before came flooding in. Once I got in the truck though a couple of things slowed me down. First I didn’t have enough gas to get there. I stopped at one gas station but the pumps weren’t working and then found another and filled completely up. I had the presence of mind to make sure I put my finger on the diesel symbol on the pump though. Never making that mistake again. That gas station had a McDonald’s in it and I went through the drive through and got a sandwich to go. I hated to lose the time, but I knew I needed a full stomach.
I was also slowed down by the accident on the freeway. I don’t think I have ever driven on the freeway in San Antonio without either an accident or construction and this was a doozy. It took me an hour and ten minutes to get to Lee but it turned out to be fine. The cardiologist had released him at 6:30 am but the internist still had to sign off. He ate some breakfast and then wanted to get dressed, which he did. We waited another hour and finally they let him leave. He was coming out of his skin at this point, and couldn’t wait to get out of there. After we left we needed to stop and get his prescriptions which was tricky as well. It took a while to fill them, but thankfully my insurance plan has an RX benefit and all in it was only $38. While we were waiting I had a long talk with my brother and went through the medicines and after care treatment. The cardiologist talked to Lee but he was super groggy and I wanted to talk to someone I trusted. Once again having medical people in the family really helped.
I learned that Lee was taking Plavix (to help with the heart plaque) and a cholesterol lowering medicine. Both of those were for long term prevention though. The low blood pressure medicine or Beta Blocker was actually my biggest concern but was the most important. That medicine does two things, the most important was to slow the heart down so it doesn’t work so hard. Since Lee’s blood pressure was good throughout the event I was concerned about it getting too low, but my brother suggested buying a blood pressure machine and checking it regularly. If the blood pressure got too low he could cut them in half but it was extremely important in the short term that he take those pills. We also talked about the short-term recuperation, again things I would have talked to the cardiologist about if I would have been there.
On our way home, Lee started talking about lifestyle changes. I had made up my mind that in the short term I was going to allow him to decide the changes he wanted to make and I would be open to doing them with him. Long term if he was unwilling to make any changes that would be a separate conversation, but I hoped the event scared him enough that wouldn’t be necessary. Thankfully the entire experience was unpleasant enough he wanted to make changes. We both felt it was important to take this seriously but also take a moment as well. I also made sure I didn’t put lots of demands on him, because ultimately it was his decision.
When we got back to the RV he felt pretty good, but needed to rest. He also had lots of phone calls to make. Cori said she would make dinner and then left to go to the store and brought us back a Ninja Air Fryer. We had looked at these before but were on the fence, but now was a perfect time to get one. We loved our little baby fry daddy but it was messy and of course not good for you. Cori made fish, green beans, and salad for dinner and used the air fryer to make tater tots. They turned out really crispy and everyone really liked them. It was incredibly thoughtful of her. In the last couple of years she had gone through the process of eating healthier and has been a wonderful resource. Our friend who had a heart attack a year ago also reached out and told us about the McDougall diet. He has had dramatic results from adhering to it and has lost 40 pounds and is now off all medicine.
I particularly appreciate how they both approached me being helpful but also understanding about how difficult life changes are. A few people had made comments telling us what to do that I found rude and a little hostile. We both knew we had to make big changes and make them quickly, but we were also dealing with life as well and it was all overwhelming. Our plans for the next six weeks involved Lee working in Arizona and then taking some time off before starting work in Portland. Unfortunately the cardiologist was on vacation next week and couldn’t see us until after we had to leave. We didn’t have enough medicine to get us through to Oregon where our family physician is and weren’t all that comfortable traveling without a check out. Lee made several phone calls and finally got someone to understand our unusual situation. They found a cardiologist to see us on Monday of next week, but it was no easy thing. She had to go to her managers to even make it happen.
I was finding that when we talked about how we traveled people were just glazing over. Finally I just started telling people we lived in Oregon and were on vacation and that they seemed willing to deal with. There was a very good chance at one point we were going to need to stay in San Antonio indefinitely. That still could happen depending on the test results. Sometimes they want to do a follow-up catheter in 3 months. It would be extremely difficult if not impossible to transfer all of this to another doctor. And all of this might not matter except we have bills to pay. The kids were pushing hard to have him not work the March job, but that will cover our months expenses. We already had lost 2 weeks on pay in the oilfield and things since November have been tight. Thankfully we had a place to stay for free indefinitely, but we needed income coming in. I was resolved in the short-term not to even think about it, but it was on Lee’s mind. We talked through the various scenarios but there were too many unknowns to make any decisions. I steadfastly said we would figure it out no matter what and his health came first. I was completely open to just getting a temporary job if we had to stay to bring some money in.
It’s not a complete disaster, because we have $16K in an contingency fund for just something like this, but Lee knows once that fund is gone we need to stop traveling for a while and build it back up. We also have the medical bills looming of course, but again I was pushing that off to another day. It didn’t help when I got a call from the helicopter company verifying insurance and letting me know they were going to bill $57K. We will see how all of that plays out over time, and yes, I am as sticker shocked as you probably are. Right now though we tried to focus on what was right in front of us and that was getting the cardiologist appointment, and making some decisions about lifestyle changes.
Lee woke up the next morning and said he wanted to try Chantrix. I called my Dad and he called in a prescription for us immediately. We also gave me some great information on what had just happened. One of the best pieces of advice he gave me was to try and get a CD copy of the medical procedure. They record them now and he thought it would be good to take to any other cardiologist. I never even thought about that. After the call, I left to get us the Chantrix. I had to go to two different pharmacies because they each only had one starter package , but it was 100% covered by insurance which was great. Cori also fixed another really healthy meal of pork loin, salad, and she even made a yummy low calories desert. She has found great alternatives for sweets which should really help quite a bit. We can’t really replace every “bad” food item we have, but we can replace them with better alternatives over time and cook things in healthier ways in the meantime. Cori also gave Lee some things to try including Kodiak Cakes, which he really liked and Stevia, which he is trying in some recipes.
She’s been amazing through all of this and her approach is just right. She is providing information and encouragement and giving him someone neutral to talk to. Which was a really good thing because at some point I just mentally shut down. I needed a minute to catch my breath and as much as I appreciated his enthusiasm, it was all overwhelming. Let me put it this way. I woke up Monday morning and by Friday my husband had a serious medical incident, I had lost my job, moved my home, was quitting smoking, and changing my diet. The brute force tactics are certainly called for in this situation, but all things being equal I wouldn’t have chosen to take all this on at once. What mattered both then and now was Lee. He is a person who needs to make quick and dramatic changes and I get that about him. The worst possible scenario would have been he didn’t take it seriously, and I will take all of this over that any day.
So that’s where we are right now. I will continue to walk you guys through this as it occurs and we will see where it all ends up. Right now, if at all possible, we want to continue with our life as planned. Hopefully everything will be just fine and we will continue to be able to do that. I will say one thing, no matter what happens: I don’t regret being a full time RVer. Obviously if this would have happened in a normal house things would have been simpler in some respects, but the things we have seen and done over the last four years were worth whatever comes our way.
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