And One More Time!!!

This is my fourth hospital “vacation” this year and getting to be old. This time for 24 days. The nurses on virtually every hospital floor know me by name. This is a problem or two. First, I don’t remember their names. Second, I’m getting tired of being in the hospital.

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Well, just as we’re getting ready to head south again, up jumps life.

Or, to be more exact, the results of a 20 plus year old back surgery came to visit. For over 20 years, no problem once the back healed. The surgery: removal of the L5 S1 disk and allowing the vertebrae to “float” with the “sack” of the disk acting as a buffer between the vertebrae.

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To learn something about the spinal column, click here: Anatomy of a spine.

Back about the early 90’s this was considered to be better than fusing this area; less pain, etc. To date, it had not been much of a problem. I just had to be careful and be prepared with the meds I needed and light duty if there was a problem.

This time was very different. First, I got off the boat without a problem of any kind. By the time I had walked to the end of the finger, I was aware that my legs didn’t feel “right”. I stretched and tried to work out that “not right” feeling to no avail.

I began to walk up the dock and quickly began to have a bit of a pain but more importantly a “sick” feeling and a knowingness that something major was wrong.

After walking about 25 feet, I stopped and leaned against a convenient dock box. There was some relief. I continued to walk up the dock and, changing sides of the dock, leaned against yet another dock box. This time there was no “better” feeling. I sat on the dock box.

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Then, I sat down on the very warm (HOT) concrete dock. (Remember, this is summer in the tropics.) Then I laid down flat on my back. I remember thinking that even though this is usually too hot to walk on barefoot, compared to the pain I was feeling, this was not too bad.

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Joy on s/v HAPPY NEST saw what was going on and asked if she could help. (Thanks, Joy) She got Dave on s/v HAPPY NEST and Doug on s/v AQUADESIAC to help get me up and back to the boat. We had to make a couple of stops where I had to get back down on my knees with my forehead on the dock to get rid of the pain enough to keep going. Not a pleasant time.

I immediately went to bed with my feet inclined due to previous issues with blood clots. There was some improvement but not much. Therefore, the next step was a phone call to my doctor at Hospital San Javier Marina in Puerto Vallarta. Dr. Rios listened to my symptoms and said he’d meet us in Emergency.

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Security called a taxi for me. Getting to the taxi was once again quite eventful. I was unable to walk down the dock the car. I was expecting to ride in large dock cart (made practical sense to me).

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Instead, Lynn made arrangements to borrow Blanca’s office chair to “ride” up the dock to the taxi. Blanca’s job is to welcome each new arrival to the marina and process their necessary paperwork. She has a very busy job and I appreciate her donation.

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While I was able to sit in the chair for a short time, I was unable to do so for more than about 20 feet. My feet were too low. With Jose Luis and Jhony (pronounced Johnny) from security helping, Jose Luis pushing and Joney lifting my feet to alleviate the pain. Away we went down the dock to the gangway.

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As luck would have it, the tide was out. The gangway was at about 45 degrees. No way were Jose and Jhony going to get me up that ramp.

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Aaron on m/v MAXIMO and the taxi driver saw the problem and jumped in to help.

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It took all four to push me up the ramp.

Next, I was rolled down the sidewalk to the edge of the dirt parking lot. Here they picked me up and the chair and carried me across the dirt to the taxi. (Not an easy task!)

I got into the front seat which the driver had already reclined and pushed back and put on the seat belt. He was careful and fast getting me to the hospital in about 30 minutes while driving in some heavy traffic.

I was able to get out of the taxi with help and laid down on gurney with my knees drawn up to cut the pain. They adjusted the gurney so my head was down and my feet were raised. This position was a little less conspicuous.

Dr. Rios met me in the ER. He ordered some tests and sent me to Radiology for a CAT scan with contrast. They found that the Siatic nerve had grown some scar tissue over the years and was now inflamed and somewhat pinched creating the problem. Result: a catheter as well as medication to keep me very still for a while so that the nerve could relax and withdraw from where it was.

After two days, a secondary, unexpected result occurred; blood clots again. I had been too still for too long even though I was medicated for blood clots. The filter installed in the Spring of 2011, according to my doctor, saved me from a massive pulmonary embolism. That I might not have survived. But, that fantastic little filter prevailed. (Thank you again Dr. Rios, Dr. Valadez, and Dr. Hernandez!)

See post, If I Were A Cat, I’d Still Have 7 Lives to learn about my filter installation.

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I spent about two weeks in Telemetry (ICU with lower level of treatment.) In Telemetry I received medication for muscle relaxation, pain, blood pressure, and twice daily injections for blood clots.

Mel and Larry (s/v HEMISPHERE DANCER) stopped by to visit and give me a stuffed toy. The nurses promptly named it Tonchy. Loosely translated it means little lion.

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After nearly two weeks in Telemetry, I was ready to enjoy a game of cards.

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Now it was time to move from Telemetry to a private room.

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The #1 goal here was to continue to get the sciatic nerve to heal and make sure the blood clots were gone. The #2 goal was to get me back on my feet and walking. By now, in addition to medications, I was beginning to receive physical therapy.

The room was great as usual. Small but private but with a recliner and a “love seat” that has an end that pulls out to make a short single bed.

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Lynn made good use of that pull out love seat/bed. She slept with one eye open to monitor the night shift.

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Lynn spent over 20 nights in the room with me. The only exception was a couple nights when she had to go back to LA VITA to recharge the batteries or to bring something back to the hospital.

On one trip back to the boat Lynn discovered moldy eggs. The small tiendas (mom and pop grocery stores) do not have egg cartons. These eggs were accidentally left in the plastic bag that were used to bring them home to the boat.

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During the day, Lynn spent her time tracking down whatever information was that was needed and getting questions answered so we knew what to expect and when.

Nearly everyday she walked to the closest bank and withdrew money from the ATM to pay towards my hospital and doctor bills. The half-mile walk in the fresh air and sunshine was a welcome break from stress of the constant medical concerns.

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Without those payments, I might still be in the hospital (grin). Lynn was in constant contact with accounting and the doctors. The doctors were paid separately from the hospital bill and it was impossible to get an solid estimate of their fees.

It was my job to get well!

As usual, it takes the two of us to get it all done; and we do.

We had an army of friends from the Marina supporting us. Katrina, aka Kat Burglar (s/v KATRINA LIANA). We gave her the lock combination to the boat and she’d “break in” and get what I needed. Then one of our army of supporters would take the item to the hospital.

Some of our army of helpers: Lee and Dan (s/v AFROESSA), Joy and Dave (s/v HAPPY NEST), Ana Barba (our Spanish Teacher), Blanca (Marina Office Manager) and many more.

We had even more help when we returned to LA VITA. A special thanks to Scott and Terry (s/v ULALENA), Allison, Merle, Shandro and Matero (s/v KENTA ANAE), Gail and John (s/v MUSIC), Katrina and Rob (s/v KATRINA LIANA), Rafa (Harbor Master), and MORE!

A good friend of ours, Jane, provided nearly daily moral support.

Our family was in constant contact offering encouragement and reassurance.

Jose Louis, Jhony, and Ernesto helped tie LA VITA closer to the dock so the climb into the boat was easier.

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Before and after the gap between step and dock
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Walking was what I had to do to get out of the hospital. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Try doing that after you have been flat on your back and your is body pumped with muscle relaxant for over two weeks. Not so easy. The goal, in addition to being pain free, was to walk three laps around the floor I was on before I could leave the hospital.

First time out, I got all the way around. One lap and I was utterly exhausted. I had just walked 100 meters (one football field or 100 yards).

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It took me a couple days to get up to two laps. Then I had to double that with a rest in between; two laps, rest, and then two laps. I had to add yet another two laps to that series. I had a bit of a setback one day and was unable to exercise that day.

The following day, I started over. One lap then rest. Two laps and then rest. Then I walk about the two and a three laps before I began to get light headed and had to stop. I told myself that I had to do more than three laps to get out of the hospital.

The Next Day
After lap three, I noted that I did not feel that much worse than I did after two laps. So, I started lap four and completed it.

Oddly enough, I found after four laps that I did not feel much worse than I did after only three laps. So, I started lap five; and yes, completed it. However, this time my legs were shaking and I finally stopped. Five laps not just three. Real PROGRESS!

The doctor told me that for most people, they have to get them out of bed and make them move. With me, they had to slow me down.

Dr. Rios commented, “With your determination you should have been an athlete or a doctor.” Warm praise.

Five laps was enough to get me out of the hospital.

Back On The Boat
I’m continuing to make that walk a minimum of two times a day. Sometimes it is easier than others but I get it done. Lynn arranged for a pair of chairs to sit on and rest before climbing back on the boat.

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What’s up for the future?

Well, my doctor is asking me to go back to the states for a second opinion on my back issues once I am well enough to travel. He knows that there is not any more they can do for me here in Mexico.

There might be something that can be done in the states that will help keep this from happening again. So, I will follow my doctor’s orders.

The plan at this time is to be in El Salvador the first week of March and in Panama in May. However, that also means that I have to be completely well and strong enough to do that. So, that plan might be in 2013 instead of 2012.

Time will tell. Onward and upward.

To view the photo album for this post, click on the camera,

29 Responses to “And One More Time!!!”

  1. Mike Latta on April 4th, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Hey Rick. Hang in there.

  2. Lynn on April 6th, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Hi Mike, Thank you for reading our post and taking the time to reply. Keep writing & spreading the word! Lynn & Rick

  3. Dave Lewis on April 4th, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    God Bless you Rick & Lynn. What an adventure. Maybe not the one you were planning, but a real adventure none the less. I wish you well in all that follows and it is a grim reminder – it is one moment at a time, especially as we get older. Please keep Adriel & I informed of your travels and needs. I am in Ensenada and can be in San Diego to meet you at the airport or where ever I can assist. You are in our thoughts and prayers, and a speedy recovery.

  4. Lynn on April 6th, 2012 at 5:57 am

    Hi Dave & Adriel,
    It certainly has been an adventure. One filled with faith, hope, and support from family, friends, and doctors. Thank you very much for your offer to meet us at the airport and assist if you can. That means a lot and we’d like to see you two again.
    Lynn & Rick

  5. Sam Crabtree on April 4th, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Rick
    It sounds like you’re doing pretty good. Ain’t the doc tors and nurses in Mexico fabulous? Patients actually get treated as people. Anyway, happy that you’re back on the boat and seemingly in a good frame of mind.

  6. Lynn on April 6th, 2012 at 6:00 am

    Hi Sam,
    Yes, the doctors and nurses in here in Mexico, especially Hospital San Javier, do treat us as people. Both sides work hard to communicate and understand our cultural differences.
    Lynn & Rick

  7. John & Gayle Crowley on April 5th, 2012 at 6:09 am

    What a positive attitude after everything that has happened!! You two take care and keep in touch!! We’ll keep both of you in our thoughts & prayers!!

  8. Lynn on April 6th, 2012 at 6:07 am

    Hi John & Gayle,
    We’ve both had some very interesting and unexpected adventures since we met. We both appreciate you thoughts and prayers. They really do help lift our spirits.
    Lynn & Rick

  9. Rosie Ralph on April 5th, 2012 at 7:26 am

    Hi Rick, what an excuse to stay in one of the most perfect places on earth!! Seriously though we can identify with 2 of your problems. For the first 6 weeks we were in Nuevo Vallarta in 2007, Alan had bad chest pains. He saw the Doctor in the Paradise Village Mall who diagnosed a strained chest muscle. When we flew home to the UK, Alan’s chest pain got steadily worse, and in the end I made an appointment with his GP as he said he was too busy. He was asked to go to hospital for a chest Xray, so he grudginlgy went the next day. The radiogologist said he’d like to take some more shots- Alan asked if he had moved. No the radiologist just wanted to make sure he had a good picture of Alan’s lungs. Next day his GP called and said he had a “shadow” on his lung. He then saw a consultant who sent him for a CT scan, and we saw the results- a huge clot on Alan’s left lung- Pulmonary embolism. Because he was fit they treated him at home, with a nurse coming round daily to give him injections etc. Now he has huge scarring on his lung- they say that anyone could get a PE anywhere any time, he has no more chance of getting another as anyone else!The cause: we went for a cycle ride to BruHahHas in Mazatalan and on the way back the pain started. They reckon he was dehydrated- that made the clot form and the cycle ride drove it into his lungs!

    Now for my story- I have ridden in one of those dock carts- twice. Each time after Alex had made me cocktails in the Vallarta Yacht club, and I found my legs didn’t work too well, so Alan put me in the cart and wheeled me back to Serendipity on D Dock-miles away.

    We both congratulate you on your fortitude, especially when having to worry where the funding was coming from to pay for your hospital stay. We are so fortunate in the UK having the National Health system. Alan’s treatment for PE did not cost a bean- although he had a few threats from the nurse that if he did not stay in bed and rest he would be hospitalised.

    By comparison over the last month I have been for 2 scans, had appointments at 4 different Hospitals for different treatments, plus blood tests at my GP and it hasn’t cost me a penny except in Gas to drive to the Hospitals and back.

    So we congratulate you on getting well again. And don’t worry, someone delivered a power boat next to us while we were in Paradise Village Marina. They said the owner had a heart attack while in San Blas. He was treated in Mexico and was back on his boat 6 weeks later with his wife heading for Panama.If you ever go to the Britannia for open mike night and hear the tales of some of the brushes people there have had with their health while in Mexico, and they are still sailing it will make you feel a lot better.

    All the best Rosie

    PS if Captain Ron is still around could you pass on my Birthday wishes to him he will be 92 in a few days time. Also take a look out for Decade Dance they are on their way to La Cruz.

  10. Lynn on April 6th, 2012 at 7:05 am

    Hi Rosie and Alan,
    Wow, Alan has been through it all! You guys know exactly what we’ve been coping with. We send good thoughts for your full recovery. Had a big grin when we read about your ride in the dock cart. Yes, folks do recover and continue with their dream. Ron’s birthday is next week. We’ll pass along your birthday wishes to Ron. He will be thrilled.
    Lynn & Rick

  11. Jane on April 5th, 2012 at 7:28 am

    Wow, Rick and Lynn.

    Just wow.

    And lots and lots of love.

  12. Lynn on April 6th, 2012 at 7:06 am

    Hi Jane,
    Great to hear from you. Your constant support and reassurance was huge and really helped me through an extremely tough ride. Hugs,
    Lynn & Rick

  13. Bill Finkelstein & Mary Mack SV Raptor Dance on April 5th, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Glad you’re on the mend, Rick!

    Mary and I both want to wish you the speediest of recoveries.

    On the bright side, Mexico is a great place to hang out for another year!

    Warmest Regards,
    Bill & Mary

  14. Lynn on April 6th, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Hi Bill & Mary,
    We completely agree with you, Mexico, especially here in La Cruz, is a wonderful place to heal.
    Lynn & Rick

  15. dick tripp on April 5th, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Hey guys sorry to hear the story, but happy to hear the results. Getting old is not for the faint of heart. We are dealing with a prospect again on the business. Ready to start looking at boats again, only smaller this time. Will keep you posted, it may happen quick if it is to be. if we can do anything this end, let us know, dt

  16. Lynn on April 6th, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Hi Dick,
    Good luck selling the business and the purchase of your next boat. Please keep us posted on your progress and we’ll do the same. Thanks for your offer to help. We’ll sing out if we need anything. We can always offer you a terrific glass of box wine (grin).
    Lynn & Rick

  17. Lea Ann & Pat Walker on April 5th, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Unbelievable, Rick and Lynn! And I agree with the doctors that you could have been an athlete or a doctor with that kind of persistence and fortitude. We’re so glad that you are getting better all the time and are still able to live on La Vita.

    Know that we’re here for you whenever you want our help and presence in San Diego. Our van is always at your service if you need it, and our table is always open for food and dominoes.

    Thanks for keeping us informed and up to date. Your adventures are always interesting and important to us.

    Gesundheit, love, grace and shalom to you from all the Walkers.

  18. Lynn on April 6th, 2012 at 7:15 am

    Hi Lea Ann & Pat,
    Persistence and fortitude is really character building, ain’t it? After 24-days in the hospital it was sooo good to return to La Vita. Returning to our home was priceless. You’ve always been there for us and we know we can count on you. The fun, food, and dominoes offered in your home is always something we look forward to.
    Lynn & Rick

  19. Carole H on April 5th, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    What an amazing story!!! You two have really gone through the medical wringer and come out relatively unscathed. I am so happy for you that you are in Mexico undergoing all this rather than the U.S. Congratulations on having so many good friends who care about you and help you out!

    You wrote your story so well! Thanks so much for including photos of your friends and medical staff and your marine locale to let us visualize what was going on. You and Lynn are amazing!

    Salud and smooth sailing!

    Carole in Colorado

  20. Lynn on April 6th, 2012 at 7:21 am

    Hi Carole,
    I’m so glad you liked our writing. We ping-pong our posts back and forth until we are reasonably satisfied they are suitable for post. Especially when we’re writing about such personal experiences. I (Lynn) try to carry the camera with me everywhere. I like to show what we are talking about. Glad you like it, too!
    Lynn & Rick

  21. David Bloom & Karin McGinley on April 5th, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Hi Lynn & Rick,

    Wow! Had no idea that it was your back that was so debilitating. I can empathize with you Rick, for as you know, I had anterior/posterior fusion surgery in 2004. My “cage” has worked quite well and I feel lucky and blessed. A truly great neuro surgeon who was also a spinal orthopaedic surgeon Europeon trained was at the helm along with a very special vascular surgeon at Cedars Sinai. Karin and I know first-hand some of yours and Lynn’s struggles. (As an aside, Stone Island proved to be a wonderful”hole” for us to wait-out some nasty Norther weather before trekking to Los Frailes a month or so ago. It was kind of funny making wine runs to the Mega from the Old Port instead of Nueva Mazatland Marina.

    Rick,you were right. Rick the “Dick of Mazatlan Marina” is every bit the prick you described. He did do some installs, some plumbing stuff, etc that I had no choice but to have him do. However, it is but for the Grace of God that I happened to have some outside help from fellow mariners who got me squared away on my new ICOM 802 HF radio as well as straightening out some lousy wiring done on the install of my new solar regulater. Rick and his boys really F’ed up some stuff. The most assinine thing was that his installation of my new Denard dinghy wheels caused a nice leak in the double hull of my RIB. Only cost me #200 in LaPaz to get that fixed right.

    Otherwise, we survived a three-sail furler failure in Los Muertos where all three sails managed to unfurl into hour-glasses in 30-knot+ cormuel when anchored there. Karin, my friend Chris, and Karin managed to get all three sails down with only damage to UV coverings. Cost $400 to make them right in LaPaz. Cheap at half the price.

    Really excited about getting up in the Sea starting about next Tuesday or Wed. Having to sell Karin a little on the amount of time to spend out but we don’t need to be back in SoCal until about June 20 when we go direct to Shipyard in Newport to attend to a core leak we have in starboard aft hull. Discovered by on of Rick’s guys. At least owe him that as a critical discovery; we have a 15-year guarantee at the yard given the huge hull rebuild they did in 2009. So all will end well.

    My goal is to get back down to Mexico in 2013 or maybe a little sooner. Karin, I don’t know. We have some family decisions to make.

    We think you guys now have some good luck and better times coming to you. Hope to see you again not to far down the road. Be healthy, be good, and God Bless You Both on this Semana Santa.

    Best, David and Karin

  22. Lynn on April 6th, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Hi David & Karin,
    Dave, you are really a walking, talking, and sailing medical miracle. You constantly inspire us. We’re sorry that the Rick, in Mazatlan, in caused so much grief. He’s full of charm and that attitude can be quite misleading. Thank you for the public validation of our warning.

    Best of luck with your wonderful plans in the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) and haul out in Newport, CA.
    Lynn & Rick

  23. Dave and Jan sv Baraka on April 5th, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Rick and Lynn,
    Thanks for the update and we’re really glad you are recovering so well. It’s good that you were in the right place and had such great doctors and care givers.
    Dave and Jan
    sv Baraka

  24. Lynn on April 6th, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Hi Dave & Jan,
    Yes, we were in the right place with the right doctors and nurses. We are forever grateful we were directed to Hospital San Javier. Happy sailing!
    Lynn & Rick

  25. Bev and Larry on April 6th, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Congratulations on your recovery. Keep sailing.
    Love Bev and Larry

  26. Bev and Larry on April 6th, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Congratulations on your recovery. Keep sailing.

    Bev and Larry

  27. Lynn on April 6th, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Hi Bev & Larry,
    Great to hear from you two! We’ll do exactly what you say: keep sailing.

    Lynn & Rick

  28. Katie and Phil on April 6th, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    You guys really need to tone down the drama in your blog posts. It makes the rest of us look downright boring. Kidding aside, loved the pictures, which really helped us all understand the practical difficulties of having major medical issues on a boat. Cudos to you both for maintaining your sense of humor under such trying circumstances. Hope to see you when our paths cross next season – unless you are off on your world travels by then. Stay well.

  29. Lynn on April 6th, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Hi Katie & Phil,
    Thanks for your great comment. We really enjoyed reading them. I guess drama is part of living on the sea.
    Cheers,
    Lynn & Rick

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