At the end of my last post, I left off with a thought about not knowing what the next day mig ht have in store for us. When I wrote those words, I was thinking that, typically we go along in life with the expectation that each day will unfold pretty much as planned (well. . . . more or less). I’d say that was pretty much my thinking and approach to the days ahead as I travelled down to the Winterhaven, CA/Yuma, AZ area toward the end of January to spend some time sightseeing and getting acquainted with Lew. That may very well have been what Lew was thinking too as he finished up his visits with friends and family up in the Mesa/Apache Junction AZ area and started his drive down to spend a few weeks boondocking on the BLM land (Pilot Knob) in Winterhaven -- just as he’s done for several years now. I had arrived in the area a couple of days ahead of him and had settled in at an rv park -- about a half hour drive northwest of where Lew would be setting up. He gave me a quick call when he arrived mid afternoon on Sunday to say he’d been delayed by a flat tire along the drive over on I-8. Because of his later than planned arrival time, he would be busy setting his trailer up before it was too dark so he said he would call in the morning to talk about when to meet up and where we’d start our sightseeing. After we hung up I had this passing thought that I should drive down to the area he was camping in and give him a hand getting set up. But I readily dismissed that notion because I know how I am about setting up (and breaking down for that matter)! I have my own routine and find that if there’s someone else around chatting, etc. I can get distracted and overlook something -- that can be a problem. All too soon though, I regretted that I hadn’t acted and just gone over – even just for a quick stop to say hi.
The long and the short of this little story is, that as part of his setting up, Lew climbed onto the roof of his trailer to set up and angle his two solar panels which help with power while he’s ‘dry camping’. Shortly after our phone conversation, he went up to do that task and when he started his climb back down – well. . . . that’s where the ‘flash, bam, alackazam’ comes in. ‘. . . .the ladder went one way and he went the other is how he described it to me as he lay on an ER gurney the next day. His trailer doesn’t have an attached ladder so he carries a fold up ladder. He landed on top of some items that he had taken out of a storage bay -- hard items, like a portable grill, etc. He had ‘toughed it out’ through the night but in the wee hours, as day was breaking, he recognized that he really needed to visit the ER. So, early Monday morning, he called to tell me of the mishap and to say that he was driving himself over to the hospital ER in
The ER information gal pointed me to the room that Lew was in and told me that I could go ahead in. He had an IV in his arm and was dozing but opened his eyes when he realized that someone was in the room. The awful pain he had been experiencing all night had been somewhat alleviated by the meds in the IV and they had already taken xrays. Shortly after I arrived they took him down for a scan of some sort. Typical of hospital emergency facilities, it was a busy place that morning and we were there for quite some time. In the end, the doctor said there were no visible signs of breaks/fractures but did admit to Lew that there could possibly be some fractures that just weren’t visible (he landed mostly on one side so it was his ribs and back that were causing him pain but, he had also hit his head). A couple of prescriptions and a recommendation for a local doctor that he should make an appt with for follow-up and off we went. He was told not to drive as he was heavily medicated at that point so we left his truck in the parking lot and went off to fill the scripts, have lunch and get him back to his trailer.
Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where things go from bad to worse before they finally improve and get better. He called me the next morning to say that the pain meds and resting had helped a lot and he was feeling much better. He said he wanted to get together to take a drive into Yuma to check out a couple of places he wanted to show me and then have lunch. I tried protesting that it was too much, too soon but he said he was feeling improved and that he wouldn’t overdo it -- so I agreed. That was not a good idea. The poor guy ended up in such pain Tues. night that he actually had to call 911 to come find him in the darkness of the BLM desert setting to take him back to the ER (he felt that he couldn’t breathe and was fearing a heart attack). I got a call from him Wed. morning explaining that he was back at the ER and I drove down to retrieve him. He was seen by a different ER doctor this time and because his pain level had heightened so much overnight, the doctor prescribed stronger pain meds and a wrap-around support thing for his mid-section that came with a warning to remove it every hour or so and walk around and breathe deeply because shallow breathing for too long a period could cause pneumonia to set in. While we waited for his latest prescriptions to be filled, we went nearby to have lunch and he was so heavily medicated that he could hardly keep his eyes open to eat. I remember thinking that this would be good as it would keep him more or less immobilized and ‘out’ so that he wasn’t trying to do stuff around his trailer or fretting over not being able to do our sightseeing treks, or cook on the grill.
As I left off from him at his trailer that afternoon, he expressed how much he appreciated my help, etc. and he gave me some recommendations for things to see and said he was sorry but I’d have to go on my own as he just wasn’t up to it. So that’s what I did on Thurs. and Fri. I phoned a couple times each day to see how he was doing. His voice was a little weak and he didn’t talk for long but I still felt that was a good thing – tempering the pain I knew he must have been in and keeping him fairly still. Late Sat. morning I stopped by to see how he was doing and to bring some fresh water by. I was very unsettled when I saw how weak he was and then, while talking with him I felt he was disoriented and I recognized that it was from the heavy medication he was on for his pain. I became very worried because I was due to head back up to the
After a fitful night trying to sleep, I woke up Sunday realizing that I just could not leave the area until Lew’s situation had improved or, someone from his family was able to get down there to help him. I was able to book a couple additional days at the rv park I was in and then I got ready to head down to see how he was doing. On the drive down I called his daughter and she told me that her father was back in the ER and that this time the doctors were admitting him. Boy, was I hugely relieved to hear that news. I drove straight to the hospital and when I arrived up to his room, he said that he was in severe pain in his lower back and his right arm/wrist and that he had been asking for more pain medication. Within a few minutes his nurse arrived to add pain medicine to his IV drip. I talked to him briefly and he started to doze but very shortly after, he said he was still in bad pain so the nurse added more medication and said that he’d be ‘out’ for quite awhile. Even though I felt he was drifting into a good, deep sleep, I took the time to assure him that being admitted was best thing for him as he would be monitored for pain and would be getting enough fluids and nutrition which, in the end would help him heal properly. I wasn’t sure that he could even hear me but was hoping that he could on some level. Later that day his daughter sent an email or text to tell me that her Dad’s cousin would be heading down to see him soon. That was a positive piece of news too because, I still felt that because he was so heavily medicated, he wasn’t fully lucid and couldn’t ‘advocate’ for himself. I do know though, that his daughter was on the phone at least a few times each day to inquire how he was doing and what meds they had him on, etc. She’s in a two year course to become EMT certified herself, so had knowledge of medications, dosages, etc. and how her father would handle medication.
Lew is from MT and, at one point I was thinking that it might be best if he could get back to his home, to his doctors, his other two daughters and his friends back there. But, even if I felt he could have been moved back to his home area, there was no way I could take care of doing that – he drives a standard shift – I’ve never driven anything but automatic and. . . . there was no way I was going up on his roof to lower/latch the solar panels, etc. Fortunately, he has a close relationship with his cousin who was coming down to Yuma to see him and she was able to make arrangements to have a friend come along with her. They took his trailer back to Mesa and also made arrangements to come back to pick Lew up after his release from the hospital
A couple/few days into his hospital stay, an Orthopaedic (?) doctor was called in to look into Lew’s pain levels and injuries. This doctor was able to pinpoint new fractures and some bruising to old fractures that Lew had sustained in his wrist, ribs and back when he fell. He was released from the hospital after about ten days to a Rehab facility in Yuma where he spent another 10 days getting physical therapy and back on his feet. Just three days shy of a month from when his ordeal began, he was released from rehab and went back to the Mesa area to spend another few days with his cousin. He wrote that he was anxious to finally get back on the road with his trailer. His plans were to get back on track with the regular routine he’s had each year at this time, heading to Quartzsite for a couple of nights -- hoping to find some of the ham radio guys still in the area. From there moving along to spend time and do a little work with friends in Hesperia; then visit other family members in the Laguna Beach area. Finally, he'd be working in the Monterey County Park system for a month(?) before heading back to his home base in MT.
Lew’s ‘Flash, wam, alackazam’ was an excruciatingly painful and traumatic whallop to his physical body along with the emotional effects that must have accompanied the painful healing process. I have a mental picture of his being up on the roof of his trailer as the Arizona sun was starting to turn the sky various shades of orange and then, as he climbed back onto the ladder, I think it must have been like the words to the song I wrote about earlier – ‘timber’ ‘the ceiling fell in and the bottom fell out’ ‘I went into a spin and I started to shout’ ‘This is it, this is it’. This accident not only took him by surprise but it also took him ‘down for the count’ – a whole month of not waking up each day and just going about his regular routine.
For myself, I have to say that I felt my own version of the ‘Flash, bam, alackazam’. I didn’t even realize it until I was driving back to the Riverside area after leaving Winterhaven. Obviously it’s totally different in all aspects from what Lew’s experience was. For one thing, I found myself with this vivid imagery in my mind of Lew up on his roof one minute and on the ground the next. Then, the realization hit me that, as his pain level worsened and his medications became stronger, he really couldn’t take care of himself with any level of responsibility. The ‘flash, bam’ moment happened on the Sat. before I was scheduled to leave when I found he couldn’t get up without assistance and he wasn’t truly able to comprehend the situation he was in. That was followd by the ‘alackazam’ as I found myself wondering if he was going to be alright on his own each day/night and how would I feel if he took a sudden heart attack or stroke and no one was there to call for help. It is unnerving thinking about how vulnerable we solo travelers are so. . . . I’ve decided to take the Scarlett O’Hara approach to this dilemma and ‘think about that tomorrow’.
For now, I’m hoping that I just may be passing through the Monterey area next month on my way up to the Napa/ Calistoga area to visit with my other daughter and that will give me the opportunity to have the chance to see Lew back to his ole’ self and take him up on that steak dinner he claims he ‘owes’ me (wink, wink)!! A nice Swordfish steak will probably be my choice.