As some of you know Lizzy and I embarked on her "Paint The States Tour". The goal is to have Lizzy and I eventually travel to all 50 states, while Lizzy makes art. Paint The States would frequently have us coming back home, for holidays, doctors appointments, etc., so it's not like we'd be gone for years at a time.
Originally, we planned to leave May 1st, and slowly make our way to Arizona to visit my dad. While we were driving, the plan was to drive only a few hours each day, so that we could stop at interesting places along the way.
Due to work, May 1st drifted into June 1st, June 15th July 1st, and finally July 15th. My son Cam and I were still finishing up all of the jobs we could until July 23rd when we had no choice left, we had to leave, and bomb our way across the country.
Two things were driving the train beyond our desire to go. 1st, I haven't seen my dad in four years, and really wanted to make sure I have another chance to hang out with him. 2nd, Lizzy signed us up to go to the Paparazzi Convention in Las Vegas, and that started on July 31.
On the 23rd, we threw the last few things we had into the RV, picked up the last of our mail from Liz's parents and hit the road that evening.
Long story short(er) it took a lot of long hours of driving to get to Las Vegas on time. We were able to squeeze in a quick stop at the Uranus Fudge Factory, the Cadillac Ranch, and the Grand Canyon, so at least we made a couple of pleasure stops along the way.
We made it to Vegas on time, but the both of us were pretty wiped out from all of the driving. Liz and I did as much of the convention as we could - which was less than expected. Along the way, we had a few minor issues with the RV, and I had hoped to resolve them in Vegas, but the 100+ temperatures kept me indoors and out of the blazing sun as much as possible.
While in Vegas, we discovered that Rachel, NV was only about 2 hours north of us, and they were averaging temperatures in the 80s. For those of you who don't know, Rachel, NV is the home of the "Little A'Le'Inn" an alien themed restaurant and motel, which is just a stone's throw from "Area 51" the worst kept secret base in the US.
With weak hopes of seeing UFOs and "Little Green Men", and greater hopes of doing some minor repairs to the RV, we struck out for Rachel, traveling two hours through the mountains on one-lane roads at 70mph. It was a fun drive!
When we got to Rachel, we hooked up to our RV spot, and had power to run the AC and all. The next morning was planned for coffee and breakfast, get the work done, and start heading to my Dad's...but I woke up in pain. Serious pain in my lower body, and was having trouble breathing.
Lizzy used her Googling skills, and determined the most likely cause was "altitude sickness". Rachel, NV is almost a mile above sea level. I have had a heart condition since 2006, and people with heart conditions are more susceptible to altitude sickness than others. The articles said to take it easy, and given time, your body will adjust to the higher altitude.
So with that in mind, we contacted the Little A'Le'Inn and scheduled a second night there.
Waking up Sunday, the pain in my lower body was gone, but I was having even more trouble breathing. We took a wait and see attitude for Sunday, and by Sunday night, I really wasn't feeling great.
On Monday morning, Lizzy packed up the RV (I helped where I could) and we headed back south. As we descended out of the mountains, I was hoping to feel relief from the shortness of breath - which never came. We drove through Las Vegas and continued toward Kingman, AZ.
I drove all of the way from Rachel, NV to Kingman, AZ. As we got closer to Kingman - still feeling no relief - we had to make a plan. Liz *COULD* drive the RV, but she hasn't had a lot of practice yet. Driving to the hospital, and letting her drive the RV to an RV park would have been tough (though not impossible), because she hasn't had a chance to drive the RV in close quarters.
Liz found an RV park along our route, in Kingman, and we decided that I would park the RV, and then she'd call 911 and have an ambulance get me to the hospital.
So far, so good. We got to the RV park, got our space, and called 911. I could barely breathe let alone talk.
The paramedics showed up within a few minutes, and an ambulance showed up a few minutes later. They kept talking about these being Covid symptoms. Maybe I did have Covid, but aside from shortness of breath and sharp pain on inhaling, I had no other Covid symptoms.
On the way to the hospital, I heard the word Covid from the EMTs and the hospital staff several times. They did the Covid test on me, and it came back negative.
An ultrasound and a CT scan later showed that I had developed blood clots in my leg, and some of the clots had traveled to my lungs! The doctor was amazed that I was able to drive 250 miles in the RV with the blockages I had, and that somehow, my vitals (while elevated) were still stable!
The doctors injected me with blood thinners (in my belly!), admitted me to the hospital, and eventually got me into a patient room.
That first night and the following day were rough. Every breath I took triggered a sharp pain at the base of my right lung, like being stabbed with a knife. The hospital gave me morphine, which took the pain from about an 8 or 9 (heart attack being 10) down to a 4 or 5.
Standing (which I couldn't do for long) or sitting upright were the positions which hurt the least. Lying down produced excruciating pain and I couldn't breath at all. I tried to sleep the first night sitting up, and the following day sat up for most of the day. The doctors didn't want me to move my legs any more than necessary, because they didn't want another clot to break loose.
The doctor explained that your heart pumps your blood through your lungs to get oxygenated. When there is a blockage, the heart tried to pump against the pressure. This is a bad situation, because no oxygenated blood will get through a full blockage, and eventually the lack of oxygen shuts everything down and you die. I had only a partial blockage, so somehow, I was still chugging along.
After my third blood thinner shot, I was able to lie back in a reclined position. I'm not sure if I slept because I could lay back more, or from sheer exhaustion!
Sometime during the middle of the night, I woke up, and realized I was taking longer, slower breaths. What a relief to finally be able to take a deep(er) breath!
I slept through most of the night, and felt better the next day. Talking is still hard, as is holding my breath for tests, but most of the pain is finally gone - no more morphine!
I expect that I'll be released in a day or two, but might have to remain in Kingman for follow up appointments. Thank goodness, everything seems to be okay!
In the photo, I'm showing my tiny heart monitor. Everything here is like Star Trek. The doctors and nurses walk around with "tags" hanging their shirts, which alert them to incoming calls, and allows them to take or reject the call. They can also make calls by pressing a button and saying, "Call Doctor John Smith" or whomever, and immediately they're connected, or told to leave a message.
The staff here is great, and since getting here I have felt like I'm in good hands! The doctor said that the most likely cause of the clots was the long time driving, and not resting, walking, moving around, and my heart condition exacerbating poor circulation in my feet and legs. So, we can still travel, but just take things in smaller bites.
So...Paint The States may be delayed in Kingman, AZ for a little bit, but I'm sure that Liz will find some cool things to paint here, and wherever else we go.
Be safe everyone!