(This story took place in 2013 and has just been moved from an older RV site to this site. Lavonne’s surgery made a wonderful improvement for her and her back has been much better since!)
Lavonne Has Major Surgery; I Live Aboard the Coach on the Hospital Parking Lot for a Week…
March 27, 2013: Day 1, to Kaiser Hospital Sacramento via SR99, US80 = 62 miles
This short trip was not a pleasure trip. I took my dear wife, Lavonne, to Kaiser hospital in Sacramento for her long awaited back surgery. She had suffered severe pain for years, and nothing had worked. It came down to major surgery, and she was finally ready. The surgery would be eight hours and her time in the hospital would be as much as a week.
The hospital scheduled us to arrive at 0545, so we had to leave home at 0430. We were up and around at 0300 to do the final things needed to close up the house for a week and to load the last few necessities on the coach.
Parked on the Kaiser Hospital parking lot where I stayed six days.
The entire morning went smoothly; traffic was nearly non-existent and we made excellent time. After we got her to admitting, I headed out to park the coach on Kaiser’s employee lot. They were most accommodating in allowing us to park for the whole week if needed, and they had plenty of room roped off to park the coach.
Lavonne was wheeled into surgery at 0845, and I was on my own for most of the day. I walked over to the hospital to check on her several times, and each visit I checked the flat screen board that showed patients by only their assigned number. Each check of the flat screen showed Lavonne still in the operating room, still undergoing surgery. It became clearer each visit that as each of those eight hours ticked by, my Baby was surely undergoing very major surgery.
Craig, our son, joined me late in the afternoon, and together we finally were able to visit Lavonne sometime after she was wheeled into recovery. It took her a couple of hours or so to come around, and when she was stable and awake, we were allowed to visit her. The poor thing was in a lot of pain, and we could only encourage the attending nurses to keep giving her pain meds through the I-V. Her little face was swollen after all those hours on her stomach during surgery. A hand printed sign on her headboard warned all to keep her flat on the mattress. We visited ‘til it was almost time for them to move her to a regular room, and then we had to leave.
We visited her in her room an hour or so later and found her feeling a bit better. She did not mention pain, but was uncomfortable with having to lay flat. They could only bolster her with a pillow on either side of her back for some relief. She had a self-administering pain medication button to press as she needed more relief. It would beep once if pressed too early for another dose, and would beep twice if it injected more relief. She held it in her hand and could press it anytime. It was clear that she was very tired, so we left for the night, hoping that she’d be feeling better the next morning.
Craig and I drove into town for a Chik-Fil-A dinner. Not having one in our area, it was a real treat for me. We whiled away the evening watching a memorial DVD of Chris Farley on the coach’s flat screen TV. We had a couple of drinks, or more, to settle the day and laughed heartily at the antics of Chris Farley.
Friday, Day 2, Life in the Kaiser parking lot continued…
I was up at 0500, and began my morning chores. Poor Craig, asleep on the couch, was rousted and sent back to the bed that I had just left. Craig was Craig; between crawling from the couch and climbing onto the bed, he grabbed his iPhone and tapped a response to someone – but at 0500?! He and Dean are two peas in a pod; if they could have their infernal iPhones surgically attached, I’m sure they would!
We headed over to the hospital and visited Lavonne sometime after 0600. I was surprised that we could walk in at such an hour, but we were welcomed. Poor Lavonne; she was more herself that morning but she was in pain – and would be for some time. She kept herself as comfy as possible with her med injection button, but it really was not enough, I don’t think. She always wanted to be leaned one way or the other as she laid flat and was not allowed to sit up or roll over. But after the first 24 hours she would be allowed to move around a bit more, and perhaps even to walk.
I helped during the day as I was able; I moved her about the little that she could move, trying to find a bit of comfort. The surgeon’s assistant visited sometime after noon, and gave orders that she could be raised up to 15° from flat. That may not sound like much, but after 24 hours of flat, it was welcome, indeed.
Craig drove up in the late afternoon from a busy day of running the business. He stayed at Mom’s bedside for about two hours or so, making her tough day a bit brighter by his presence. I helped Lavonne to pick at her dinner and to clean up a bit, chores not so easy at 15° above flat, but we did the best we could. A couple of nurses came in to administer some of her meds around 1900, and I figured it was time for me to head back to the coach as she wanted to go to sleep for the night.
The day had been a grind for Lavonne, and it’s likely she has more such days ahead. But it was good to see her more like her old self, and our hope for a healthier, less painful future made all the effort worthwhile.
Good Friday, Day 3, Life in the parking lot continued…
I spent a comfy night aboard the coach, watched an old MMA DVD and downed a few of my Cockpit Collins cocktails. (Mix vodka, lemon juice, and Fresca with a squeeze of lime – a cherry is good, too.) To go a week in the coach without adding water, I had to alternate a shower one night and a “bird bath,” or sponge bath, as some folks call them the next. That saved a lot of water and worked quite well. I was snug in my favorite bed by 2200 and slept like a baby.
I was back to Lavonne’s room at 0630. She slept in spurts, she said, and dealt with pain during the night. They gave her Percocet during the night and that helped. She was then put on Percocet as a regular med, and we hoped that would alleviate more of the pain.
While my cousin, Harris, took me out to breakfast, Craig drove up early to sit by her bedside awhile. When I came back I learned that she had been helped out of bed and walked to the door of her private room and back. That was a milestone and we were all very pleased! The surgeon visited earlier that morning and said that she may be going home Sunday, or more likely, Monday. We were ecstatic! It seems that she really was on her path to recovery.
While the doc was visiting I asked him how many vertebrae were fused, thinking it was five. But no, the doctor said they fused eight of them! Goodness, it sounded like she would become a human board. It remained to be seen how well she’d be able to move after all this was over.
During the afternoon she was again helped out of bed and that time walked about 20 feet, out into the hall and back. She tired from that little activity, but it was encouraging to see her on her feet! She had a tough afternoon and evening with pain, probably due to the struggle of being helped out of bed for the first time.
Two tubes ran out of her back to drain the area of the operation. The doc said they’d likely be removed the next day, along with most of the other wires and tubes attached to her for monitoring, etc. The many hours she spent in bed would be easier without those infernal lines running all around her.
After helping her with dinner which she ate better than any meal so far, I bid her goodnight and left for the night. It was about 1900 when I climbed aboard the coach for my dinner and evening alone. Again. But soon my sweetie would be home and we’d begin the home healing project together.
Saturday, Day 4, life in the parking lot continued.
Saturday was a day alone with my dear Lavonne. We actually discouraged Craig from driving so far to see Mom when she would likely be asleep. And she just didn’t feel up to visiting anyone, even commenting that I must be bored and maybe that was a suggestion for me to head to the coach awhile. So Craig stayed in Stockton and I didn’t hear from Harris. But some good things happened that day. The two drainage tubes from her incision were finally removed and by evening all of her wires and tubes or hoses were gone. She was wrapped in wires and tubes after her surgery, and it was good to have them gone. Around noon they gave her a muscle relaxer, and more potent pain pills. Her pain continued to be the main issue and would have to be controlled before her discharge. When the doctor removed the drain tubes, he also removed the old wound dressing and replaced it with a thinner, more comfortable one. The wound was about a foot long, and covered her entire lower back.
The doctor’s assistant seemed to believe she’d still go home on Monday, and I hoped that was true. For me, living in the parking lot was getting old, and so was the trudging back and forth to and from the hospital room. I knew Lavonne would be delighted to be back home and away from the hospital lifestyle. We seem to take the comfort, convenience, and pleasure of home for granted ‘til we suddenly find ourselves living elsewhere.
When I left for the evening around 1900, she had just had dinner which consisted of eight ounces of milk and a bite or two of veggies. She had no appetite, but usually drank liquids pretty well. Her pain was still at 7 of 10 on the pain scale, and must have been very frustrating to her. It tended to depress me as all I could do was watch her hurt. That fourth evening I was pretty glum about the whole thing and could only look forward to a better day the next. That night was rainy and cozy as I listened to the sound of rain on the coach roof. Even so, I was a disgruntled believer; I questioned God and prayer and faith. Just how long does one have to pray while watching their loved one suffer? Why, after years of prayer by so many people, did my Lavonne still suffer?!
Easter Sunday, Day 5, life in the lot went on…
I returned to Lavonne’s bedside around 0630. One of the staff was giving her meds or checking her pulse; it seems they need someone different for each task. We greeted each other on that “happy” Easter morning. She slept better overnight, and that was an improvement. I helped her get comfortable and sat back in the dark room as she fell back to sleep. Soon more nurses came and went with meds, etc. Around 0800 the breakfast trolley rolled by and she nibbled a bit at some hot cereal and drank her milk. As usual, I ate her breakfast as she still had no appetite. Eating her leftovers at least saved me cooking in the coach.
The more powerful meds kicked in, and her pain dropped to six. She had turned the corner it seemed, and that was a much appreciated relief. Perhaps she really would go home the next day!
Craig arrived about 1100 with Easter flowers and his usual good humor. He chatted with us and Lavonne dozed in and out of sleep. When lunch came, she ate some vegetable soup, and again I ate most of her meal. But while eating and visiting with Craig, she really seemed to improve before our eyes! Her color seemed better; she was more animated and seemed to really enjoy the visit. While Craig was there, the surgeon’s assistant visited and declared her fit to return home the next day. After the assistant left, Craig put Lavonne’s other son, Allen, on the phone and she chatted some with three family members in the Denver area. The visit was tiring, but she enjoyed the time chatting with family. Soon after the phone visit, Craig left and Lavonne was visibly tired. I helped her get comfy, and then watched her drift off to sleep. The meds were finally working again.
Craig and I discussed the logistics of her return home. She wouldn’t be able to walk the five steps up and into the coach, and I would have to drive it home early enough to get the house hot water, heater, etc. turned on. Craig would bring her home in his car when she was discharged. His Acura sits low and would make the trip easier for her.
X-ray sent for her in the afternoon and they wheeled her in for a back X-ray. I asked the surgeon’s assistant for a copy, and he assured me that he’d send one. She made several very short trips with her walker away from her bed to the bathroom and to the sitting chair for dinner. She did just fine, but seemed very tired after the activity. While I was in the coach in the afternoon for a while, a physical therapist came by and walked her, too. It was a busy afternoon but she held up well, all things considered. I left about 1830 to spend the night in the coach. She was tucked in and bolstered by pillows to help her sleep in whatever was the most comfortable position, almost always on one side or the other. She also laid on her back from time to time, but not often.
I returned to the coach for what would be the last night there! It would be so good to get back home – and to a big shower that I can run as long as I wished – and to my recliner and my spa and… well, HOME with my Baby!
Over a month later Lavonne’s recovery had been all we could have hoped for. She was moving about very well and could do light chores around the house. She did well with the most challenging feats of her recovery which were getting in and out of bed and showering. She was not to drive for a while yet, but she could have if she had to. She could get into and out of the car just fine. We looked forward to her complete recovery and a coach trip to Oregon together during the following weeks!
Over the years I have posted many exciting fishing and boating stories here, but now in my seventies, it was time to sell the boat and find less demanding pastimes. All the fishing stories are still here! I will now post my travels aboard the motorhome and other activities. I hope y'all will still enjoy the fishing and boating adventures and perhaps peek in on my post-boating activities on occasion. Thanks for dropping in and I hope you enjoy your visit.