We are literally in the hospital’s shadow, but can’t get there from here

See this map?

IMG_5266

This map is why we chose to stay at the Fort Sam Houston RV Park for Tim’s surgery (detailed here, if you missed it).  Brooke Army Medical Center, BAMC, is circled in purple. The RV park is circled in red. See how close they are? Doesn’t it look convenient?

And here’s the view of the hospital from our site.

I am standing at the end of our parking spot. No zoom.

I am standing at the end of our parking spot. No zoom.

Looks like we could walk there — easily. But no. Thanks to fences, train tracks, and barbed wire, it ain’t happening. And because of random road blocks, base security, construction, and mystifying Army logic, we can’t even drive there the quick way.

Instead, the trip takes 9 different turns; exiting one gate and entering another (with the customary armed sentries, ID card check, and slalom course of barriers); and a total drive time of anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on whether or not we have to wait for troop formations to cross the street.

By comparison? When we lived in our house, I could get to BAMC in 30 minutes, from 22 miles away.

Strike 1: shitty commute

Strike 1: shitty commute

But let’s get back to those train tracks. They are active. Very active. Perhaps the most active train tracks on the planet, with locomotives passing by at least once every hour, day and night. And at night, they’re a bazillion times louder, and the sadistic engineers seem to enjoy pulling on the horn for nice, long, ear-shattering blasts. Every hour. All night. It’s really not conducive to sleep at all, much less a peaceful recovery from major surgery, even with regular doses of narcotic pain relievers.

Strike 2: loud fucking trains

Strike 2: loud fucking trains

And to top it all off, no wifi or cable. None.

Strike 3: electronic dark ages

Strike 3: electronic dark ages

Yyyyep. Three strikes and we’re out. We’d originally planned to stay for the 30-day maximum, but that has really become an unattractive — and probably unhealthy — option. If Tim gets the all-clear from the surgeon at his follow-up appointment on Monday, we’re moving out on Tuesday. Hell, I’ll take 0630 reveille at the Air Force base over this business any day. And every day, as it were.

On the positive side of this coin, Tim’s adrenalectomy was a success, and although he had a rough ride coming out of anesthesia, he was able to eat normally and walk around the next day, and had to spend only one overnight in the hospital.

Yes, they called him "Sir," even when he was puking into an emesis basin. Care was top notch, with only one issue. "Just once, I'd like a tech who is over 12."

Yes, they called him “Sir,” even when he was puking into an emesis basin.
Care was top notch, with only one issue.
“Just once, could I get a corpsman who looks older than 12?”

And here at home in the Toad, Nurse Lola is on duty. And by “on duty,” I mean trying to beat me to Tim’s side every damn time, and sneaking into the bedroom when he’s supposed to be resting.

"See? You turned your back for that one second, and I walked in here to stand guard. I win."

“See? You turned your back for that one second, and I walked in here to serve as guard dog and charge nurse. I win.”

But this human nurse has purple streaks in her hair, not to mention opposable thumbs. Pretty sure I win.

But this here human nurse now has sassy purple streaks in her hair, not to mention opposable thumbs.
Pretty sure that means I win.

Important update on things that aren’t working right, one of which involves surgery

Katy Perry had Left Shark.

Tim has Left Adrenal Gland.

It produces too much aldosterone, which is why it’s being ejected from the game next month. Ready for a little medical education in an RV lifestyle blog?

I’ll try to make this very long story (6 months worth of doctor’s appointments, imaging, testing, and waiting, to which I obliquely referred in this post) a little bit shorter:

Although Tim had no obvious lifestyle or dietary risk factors (genetic factors are an unknown because he was adopted), he was diagnosed with high blood pressure a little over ten years ago, in his late 30’s, and has been on medication ever since.

Within the last 3-5 years, he’s also had very low potassium levels, as in, “Sir? Are you sure you’re feeling OK? Because your readings are barely above the mandatory hospitalization mark.” Hello, gigantic horse pill potassium supplements.

Then last summer, right about the time we moved into the RV, Tim internet-stumbled upon a rare condition called Primary Aldosteronism, and asked his doctors to start the testing process.

“In primary aldosteronism, your adrenal glands produce too much aldosterone, causing you to lose potassium and retain sodium. The excess sodium in turn holds onto water, increasing your blood volume and blood pressure”

High blood pressure. Low potassium. Ah haaaaaa.

“Diagnosis and treatment of primary aldosteronism are important because people with this form of high blood pressure have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Also, the high blood pressure associated with primary aldosteronism may be curable.”

Ohhhhhhh. So… curing it means no more meds?

“Options for people with primary aldosteronism include medications, lifestyle modifications and surgery.”

Turns out that surgery is indeed an option for Tim, as the left adrenal gland was determined quite clearly to be the culprit. Had both glands been overproducing aldosterone, then the only recourse would have been daily, lifelong medication in the form of a hormone blocker — because like kidneys, you can live with one adrenal gland, but not with none.

Anyway, once the pesky left one’s out, Tim will be able to discontinue his potassium supplement for sure, and his BP meds can either be significantly reduced or eliminated entirely. So it’s a good thing, and we’re thankful we’ve got the military healthcare benefits to make it happen.

What it means though, is that we’ll be putting off our rolling adventures for another few months. Surgery is scheduled for 3/23, and it’s followed by 4-6 weeks of recovery and follow-up appointments to make sure the remaining adrenal gland picks up the slack, so San Antonio is home through at least the end of April.

Two really cool things

  1. We’re talking laparoscopic, robot-assisted surgery. Robot, y’all. Oh, how I wish I could watch!
  2. Tim’s surgeon is the same doc who saw me for follow-ups after my breast cancer surgery two years ago, and he remembered me when we showed up for Tim’s consult on Thursday. I greeted him with a cheerful, “Hi, Dr. N. You’ve seen me before. Quite a lot of me, actually!” He looked at me for a second and then said, “Oh I remember you. You’re the funny one.”

And then he drew a diagram for us, right there on the examining table paper:

The four dashes on the right side of the drawing, at the lower end of the kidney, represent 8-12mm incisions where the laparoscopic stuff goes in. If for some reason things go sideways, the doc will make a traditional incision instead, and take care of things "the old way." This will mean more pain and a longer recovery for Tim, so we're hoping all goes well with Dr. N and the Robot.

The four dashes on the right side of the drawing, at the lower end of the kidney, represent 8-12 mm incisions where the laparoscopic instruments go in.
If for some reason things go sideways during the operation, the doc will make a traditional abdominal incision instead, and take care of things “the old way.” This will mean more pain and a longer recovery for Tim, so we’re hoping all goes according to plan with Dr. N & the Robot.

And what other things aren’t working? As if a human gland weren’t enough?

Lola. She has retired as our hiking dog, and she still willfully ignores her bed in the most in-your-face way possible.

Lola.
Due to her age and kidney deterioration, we opted against surgery for her torn ACL. Thus, she has officially retired as our hiking dog. Also, she still willfully ignores her bed in the most in-your-face way possible.

The RV clock/thermometer. It was in here when we bought the thing, and has since decided to ignore new batteries, and submit us to 105 degrees all the time. "Honey, the thermometer's broken. We need a new RV!"

The RV clock/thermometer.
It was in here when we bought the thing, and has since decided to ignore new batteries, and make us think it’s 105 degrees all the time.
“Honey, the thermometer’s broken. We need a new RV!”