Wednesday, August 19, 2015

We’re in Bellingham, Washington

8/19/15

Once again I’ve had some folks asking for an update on Lorraine’s condition so here goes.  I just checked and it’s hard to realize its been almost a week since the last blog update and 12 days since her stroke.

Last blog Lorraine was still in Settle at Harborview Medical Center, one of the 60 or so Certified Stroke Centers in the nation.  Lorraine was airlifted from Bellingham down there to have a medical procedure but when she got there it was deemed to be too much of a risk to attempt it so it wasn’t done.  

Lorraine did get excellent care while in that  hospital, the doctors and especially the nurses were very professional and treated her with respect as a person, not just another patient.  I would recommend Harborview to anyone if Lorraine’s treatment was normal, everyday treatment for everyone. 

Lorraine had been making good progress with her swallowing, the speech therapist had even upgraded her to a thinner drink.  This was a biggie as that meant her feeding tube could be removed soon.  She was eating so well that they decided to not even feed her via the the feeding tube on Thursday night but left in place just in case as it isn’t a pleasant experience putting it back in if needed.  The doctors were also wanting her blood pressure under control before she could be released too and had just started her normal blood pressure meds. 

I was trying to get a treatment plan from the doctors at the hospital and basically it was “When she is ready, we will transfer her to an appropriate facility”.  They weren’t sure if it would be to a skilled nursing place or a rehab center, it depended on how much she had recovered.  As I understand the level of care it goes from hospital, skilled nursing, rehab, long term care and assisted living.  In her case we are hoping to go from hospital – skilled nursing – rehab – home. 

I was told they have an excellent skilled nursing facility on the 5th floor at Harborview so that is where they really wanted her to go.  But I had been pushing for her to be transferred back to Bellingham so she would be able to see friends and family and I might be able to get away and work at our house some. 

Lorraine was having her headache pain mostly under control, she was receiving three pain pills every 3 hours on Wednesday.  In fact, I asked if we could reduce it to two pills if she wasn’t in pain as I wanted her more alert if possible.  They agreed to let the nurses, Lorraine and me make that decision, up to three pain pills as needed. 

I believe it was on Thursday that they changed her pain meds to three pills every 4 hours, as needed.  That seemed to be enough to keep her pain under control but she did start telling us that she had a pain on the right side of her abdomen.  They said they would keep an eye on this newly developed symptom. 

Friday they once again changed her pain meds,this time to two pills every 4 hours.  I thought this was just at the edge of not keeping her pain under control but she was more alert.  The doctors and I talked about this dosage and agreed to try it for a day or so and she how it worked although the pain in her side seemed to be getting a bit worse. 

But they did remove the feeding tube from her Friday morning YEA.  They were just coming by with the equipment to do this when Lorraine happened to snag the tube as she was moving about and pulled it out about 5”.  The nurse didn’t hesitate and pulled it out the rest of the way.  Boy was that a good improvement for both of us.  To this day Lorraine explains that it felt like they were using a ball peen hammer to insert the feeding tube into her nostril, it hurt her that bad.  

Our friends, Richard and Sandy, drove down from Bellingham to see Lorraine on Friday also.  His sister had been her for over 2 months last year when she had a brain aneurysm rupture.  She was in critical condition and was also airlifted from Bellingham for treatment so he had spent some time there and know his way around very well.  Lorraine was really happy to see them but was tired so they only stayed for a short visit.  Thanks Richard and Sandy.   

Our son, Rich, flew down from Alaska to see his mom on Friday.  He caught the red eye flight from Anchorage and had a screaming kid in the seat right behind his so he didn’t get any sleep.  He did get into Seattle early but couldn’t get to the hospital to see her right away, he had to have some rest first as he knew it would be tough.  But he did get there early in the afternoon. 

Lorraine’s room was directly across from the nurse’s station and when Rich got there, he just walked into her room.  Lorraine saw him and started crying, of course.  But within 10 seconds or so, the nurse came rushing into the room, I thought there might have been a check in procedure or something that I was unaware of.  But no, the nurse asked if everything was ok with Lorraine.  I told her she was fine, our son had walked in the room just moments before.  She said that explained the different action on her heart monitor, I guess the alarms started going off at the nurse’s station when Lorraine saw Rich, funny.  But everything was fine and seeing him definitely helped her.

The nurses were still putting Lorraine into a chair every afternoon for a couple hours or so.  The did this by lifting her onto a gurney type bed that could be folded into a chair.  She said she liked sitting up vs laying in bed all the time, I believe she actually had her lunch while sitting in the chair and Rich helped feed her. 

Susy was also on her way up, driving up from the Bay area.  She left early on Friday morning and had one overnight stop scheduled.  Every time we talked with her, she was making good time and everything was going good. 

I had been talking with the Social Worker at the hospital about Lorraine’s transfer and she warned me that most facilities in Bellingham might be hard to contact over the weekend due to the administration folks not working.  So it was somewhat of a surprise when I got a call from her on Saturday morning that she had found a skilled nursing facility in Bellingham and we could transfer to it that day.  I hadn’t completed my research on what was available or how they were rated but the one that she told me about wasn’t on my short list. 

In our last blog I had asked for information from anyone in the Bellingham area that might have personal experience about the nursing homes up there.  I had a number of folks reply to that request, some telling me which one was good or bad in their minds.  A special thanks to everyone who replied to that request, it’s nice to have friends who can and will help when asked!!

I got an email from  a good friend up there who was a very valuable source of information as she had worked with some of these facility with her job, before she retired.  She said the one they wanted to send Lorraine to wasn’t very high on her list and suggested that they would attempt to send her to the first one that would accept her, not necessarily the best one.  Based on that suggestion and some info I found online, I called the social worker gal and turned down that offer.  She was fine with that decision but once again told me it would hard to find another one on the weekend.  I said I understood and gave her my list and asked if she could attempt to get her into St. Joe’s Rehab Center.

I had earlier called St. Joe’s based on suggestions/recommendations from others and was highly impressed with my conversation with the gal I talked too.  She told me their goal is to get someone who needs rehab through an intense therapy treatment course and get them back HOME as soon as possible.  She said most folks are out and back HOME in 3 or 4 weeks, wow. 

She also said, based on my assessment of Lorraine’s condition, that they had an open bed and would accept her based on her medical record and information from the doctors at the hospital.  She did say that Lorraine would have to be able to do 3 hours of intense therapy per day, 6 days per week, not necessary three hours in a row but throughout the day.  I told her I didn’t think Lorraine was up to that but she said, don’t sell her short as they have had some show up that were in pretty bad shape and they went HOME within a few weeks.

So anyway, the social worker said she would send Lorraine’s medical records to three places in Bellingham.  I once again told her my ratings of these places and hoped to have something at St. Joe’s. 

As I was working on this, Susy got to the hospital once again Lorraine’s heart monitor took off.  But I had warned the nurse so they didn’t respond like when Rich showed up, forewarning is a good thing.  Susy quickly assessed what was happening and got “up to speed” with everything.  With both Rich and Susy there, I could see that Lorraine had settled down a lot. 

Rich has a friend in the area that wanted him to stay at his place as long as needed and Susy had made a reservation at a hotel so they both headed out that evening.  Once again, I stayed by Lorraine’s side, sleeping in a recliner chair at her bedside.  I sure appreciate the hospital allowing family to stay overnight but the other patient in Lorraine’s room sort of took advantage of that and had three folks stay overnight one night (and the guy snored like a chainsaw). 

That evening I got another call from the social worker and she told me that St. Joe’s had reviewed Lorraine’s record and decided she would be better served if she spent some time in a skilled nursing facility, until she could do the 3 hours of therapy.  They had contacted Shuksan Healthcare Center to have them accept Lorraine, work with her until she regained enough strength, keep them informed of her progress and transfer when she was ready.  Wow, great service and they would also be keeping up with her progress. 

So that’s what happened.  They said Lorraine would have to be transported via ambulance and would be leaving the hospital at 10 am on Sunday morning.  It would be about three hours from bed to bed so I worked with the nurses to get Lorraine’s meds set up on a schedule that would give her max pain meds between 9:30 and 10, hoping it made her trip better. 

Next morning everything went as planned, Lorraine had her breakfast, the nurses cleaned her up, gave her the pain meds then the ambulance guys called and said they had mechanical issues with their rig and would have to get a different one.  They estimated it would take about 1/2 hour and they would try to shorten the time as possible. 

It was about 11 when they actually got to Lorraine’s room to transport her to the ambulance.  They moved her over to a gurney and wheeled her out.  Susy was going to ride with Lorraine in the ambulance, Rick had to stay in Seattle for a short while, Mike and I would drive our cars and follow the ambulance.  Wow, another big step for Lorraine, discharged from the hospital one week after her stroke. 

Although the traffic was heavy, it wasn’t too bad and the ambulance and us arrived at here at Shuksan.  The entry door was closed and locked so I walked around to the normal entrance and got a nurse to walk down and open the door for us.  By the time she found the key and got the door opened, the ambulance guys had already wheeled Lorraine up to the same door I had walked in and got her into her room and in her bed. 

My first impression of this place was pretty good, it looked clean, I didn’t see anyone sitting in chairs in the hallway with no one watching them and Lorraine was put into a private room.  She had a couple nurses show up to check her out, they even called in a off duty therapist to check her too.

Everyone seemed very nice, explained lots of things and answered my many questions.  They said they are used to having folks who haven’t been around care facilities before and pretty much knew what I would ask, funny.  Lorraine was pretty tired although Susy said she did appear to sleep a lot on the drive. 

They asked Lorraine what she would like for dinner and even offered us to have a meal too, nice.  After dinner I had a discussion with the nurse and he told me that Harborview doctors had once again lowered Lorraine’s pain meds, down to one pill every 4 hours.  I asked for the on call doctor to review this with us but was informed that we would have to have Lorraine’s primary doctor here in the area write the change for her.  I called her doctor and, of course it being a Sunday evening, got their answering service.  The gal who answered the phone said I could do one of two things, leave a message for the doctor and they would get it on Monday morning or declare an emergency and she would transfer me to 911.  All I wanted was a prescription, not 911, really disappointed in this service for sure. 

Anyway, the nurse here worked some magic and got an extra pain pill for her which made her feel better.  She had a good meal even though it was once again back to the pureed food but at least it wasn’t formed into some dry patty.  Lorraine was able to eat probably about half of her meal that evening. 

I figured Lorraine would sleep deeply that night but she kept waking up about every 15 minutes or so with a question for me.  Mostly she was worried about her sister’s upcoming 50th wedding anniversary and wanted to make sure I knew how to make the salad she wanted, wanted me to get our clothes out of the closet so she could iron them and couldn’t remember if she had wrapped their presents or not.  She has always been a planner and was really worried that the party wouldn’t be a success if she wasn’t able to do her normal activities for this type party. 

Monday morning I continued to ask lots of questions about this place, wanting to know procedures, policies and whatnot.  I found every one willing to answer any questions I had as best they could.  I have not been exposed to a skilled nursing place before and wanted to know about doctor care (our family doctor is in charge and they have doctors come by on Wednesday and Friday), how many LPN/RN on site (no less than 4 at night and up to 7 during the daytime), how they handle prescriptions (they have a deal with a large pharmacy in town and they will make up and deliver meds any hour of the day/night) and other such questions. 

Once again, they ordered up a meal for Lorraine and offered a meal to us if we wanted.  They said they haven’t heard of another place that does this for family members but they wanted to make it as easy for us as they could. 

I called our family doctor as soon as they were open and explained the issue with Lorraine’s pain meds and they quickly sent new orders her to allow Lorraine up to three pills every 4 hours or reduced as needed.  Just what we wanted to hear.  The doctor had also ordered up a urine test to see if Lorraine may have a urinary track infection.  The preliminary results are that she does in fact have an infection and they’ve started her on an antibiotic series of pills for seven days to knock it out.   

Lorraine really likes this doctor, when we first changed to having him as her primary doctor, on the first visit he set down eye to eye with her and explained that he had spent 4 hours going over her medical file so he know her medical issues but didn’t know her.  He asked her to tell him what she wanted and everything she wanted him to know.  He spent about 45 minutes with her and really made her (and me) feel good about having him as her new doctor.  And they way he handled this situation is just about what I would expect from him, a good doctor.  He also wants Lorraine to see him in his office next Monday so that gives her a goal, being able to get into a wheelchair for at least 3 hours. 

This place has two dining rooms, one for folks who can feed themselves with no problem and one for those who need assistance.  Seeing as how Lorraine has someone with her basically around the clock, they have been bringing her meals to her room and we can assist her.  They also taught us how to make the thick water or juice that she can have, pretty simple once you know how. 

I made a few calls about our on going house repairs on Monday and had the contractor doing the fire repairs and our real estate agent meeting with me at our house on Tuesday morning.  The contractor was first and we sort of agreed on the amount of work completed and they will be paid for that, guess you can say he’s fired.  The remaining work will be completed by the guy I had already hired to do lots of damage repair and upgrades around the house. 

Plus I had to have a glass company come out to replace three broken skylight fixtures and two broken windows.  I still don’t understand how the skylight mechanisms got so badly broken that they can’t even be closed but whatever, they have to be completely replaced.  In fact, on one of them there is a 3/4 x 4” board that was broken width wise, I couldn’t do that if I wanted.  Sure glad the owner of the glass company is a personal friend of ours, I’m sure he will make sure the work is done right. 

While I was at the house, I also removed some more of the flooring that is going to be replaced along with a few other items I needed to do.  I also took a shower while I was there. 

I drove over to the Water and Sewer service folks and got everything changed back to our names and paid a couple months in advance.  They asked me if I had contacted the Tribes Housing folks to see if they had someone on their list that would qualify to buy our home.  Wow, a possible lead to selling the house.  I told them it would be donuts for the whole office staff if something worked out from their lead, ha. 

Rich had been with Lorraine while I was gone, from about 8:30 till 2.  As I was driving back to here, he called and said Lorraine wanted to talk with me.  When she heard my voice she started crying and wanted to know where I was and when I would be back.  Rich said that was the first time she had cried about it but she had wanted to talk with me for awhile before he actually called.  When I got back, she said she was afraid I had left her, really made me sad. 

When I got back, Lorraine had a couple visitors and for the next couple of hours had about 10 folks show up and visit for a short while.  She was really tired and didn’t participate in the discussions too much but did manage to thank everyone who came by. 

While I was out, the therapists had shown up and worked with Lorraine.  They had her sitting up on the side of the bed for awhile and it really tired her out.  Plus she had a good lunch except she couldn’t eat the hot dog even though it was cut up into small pieces reason.  Not sure if she just didn’t like it or what but Rich said she couldn’t/wouldn’t eat it. 

Anyway, once I got back and told here where I was and what I had done, she was fine once again.  I told her I had to run some errands once again on Wednesday morning and would be at our house for awhile too.  I wanted to make sure she knew when and where I was going to be and hoped she wouldn’t become upset again.  I know it’s going to be tough for her when Susy and Rich leave and I have to leave her side, especially overnight.  I plan on making small moves in that directions over the next few days to see how she handles it, don’t want her to get upset and have a major problem with me being gone when I have to be. 

I had asked for the speech therapist to come by and re-evaluate Lorraine with a new swallow test.  I thought she wasn’t having any issues with food/water going down the wrong pipe and wanted them to upgrade her food from pureed to finely chopped.  But after checking her out that evening, the therapist suggested leaving it as is for a few more days, better to error on the side of caution.  She did say that she understood she was seeing Lorraine at the end of the day when she was most tired but that would be when she would be most likely to have problems.  The speech therapist is also the one that works at St. Joe’s, our next medical center once we leave here.  She wants to check on Lorraine at least two or three times a week. 

Wednesday morning I met with the guy doing the repair work at our house at Home Depot.  We wanted to purchase all the material he needed to work on the house for the next two weeks.  We picked up new flooring material for three bedrooms, three baths and a hallway.  We also had to pick up enough wood trim for all these rooms too plus get a new door for the bedroom where the fire was.  And his wife is going to paint inside the garage for me so we had to get enough paint for that.  I was surprised that all this could fit inside his van but he said he does this all the time.  We then drove over to the house and unloaded all this material. 

By now I had been gone for about 4 hours and I was anxious to see how Lorraine was taking my being gone for this amount of time.  When I got back, I just explained what happened and she seemed fine, although once again, Rich was here with her the whole time I was gone. 

And while I was gone, the therapists had shown up again and this time they got her into a wheelchair.  Rich pushed her around and even took her outside to the patio garden area.  I asked him to take some pictures and Lorraine looked to be happy in all of them, even giving the peace sign.  Rich said she was flashing thumbs up to other residents as she passed them.  Too bad I missed that, she had just been returned to her bed just before I got back.  I think she had a couple of folks come by to visit today too. 

Ok, Lorraine’s condition report.  She knows what happened, where she is and what she has to do to get better.  I tell her everyday that she has to do three things, eat well, sleep well and do her therapy.  She can now repeat that phrase very well.  She has shown many small signs of recovery and that gives us all hope.  Of course, we can’t predict how much she will recover but if she doesn’t get back to 100%, it won’t be from lack of trying. 

She is mentally alert and sharp and still in good spirits considering what she’s going through.   She is usually in good spirits, especially if her pain is under control.  She hasn’t lost her sense of humor or her mothering instinct.  She still gets a bit confused at times, asks to go home to our rig often and a couple of times she has asked me why I’m being mean to her and won’t let her get up out of bed.  But her mental state is mostly good and I don’t think she is depressed. 

She is still unable to move her left arm or hand and very little movement on her left leg although we all have seen slight movement on command in her leg and toes every once in a while.  She does curl her left arm to her chest by herself but doesn’t move it on  command.  We can feel the muscles attempt to work in her leg on command when we are doing range of motion exercises with her.  The therapists are pleased to see that and say it is a good sign to see/feel that at this stage. 

Lorraine was suffering from what is called Left Side Neglect, at least she was suffering from it.  This is when someone doesn’t know anything exists on their left side, not just their body but no awareness of anything on their left side.  I mentioned in an earlier blog that some men only shave one side of their face.  Also, when asked to turn to their left, some people turn to their right all the way around.  But anyway, Lorraine is getting better in this regard too.  She now moves her eyes and head to her left, will point to her left arm and when asked to move her left leg, she looks at it and attempts to move.  Another good recovery sign for her. 

Her last two strokes were on the left side of her brain and affected her speech and vision but she didn’t have any lasting physical issues from either of them.  This time, however, the stroke was on the right side of her brain and appears to mostly have affected her physically. 

She is regaining her ability to swallow although like I said, she isn’t back to normal just yet.  Her speaking voice is very soft, I have to get real close in order to hear her.  She doesn’t appear to be grasping for what word she wants to say, she just has trouble saying it.  I think that is because the muscles in her mouth, tongue and lips don’t work right on her left side.  The left side of her face is still drooping and when she smiles its only on the right side.  She has talked on the phone but with the quiet voice and somewhat slurred speech, she is hard to understand. 

She really seems to enjoy getting up out of bed and can’t wait until she gets a full shower vs a sponge bath.  Susy is trying to talk to her about getting her hair cut to make it easier to take care of and she isn’t totally against that idea.  I know that will be a traumatic event for her if that happens and I would like both Rich and Susy to be here if/when that happens for support. 

She does have an appetite, even though the food is like baby food consistency, guess that doesn’t change the taste too much.  We are letting her sleep as much as she wants, that’s a good thing to do to help with the healing.  One of the nurses told me that her brain is now using as much nutrition as the rest of her body as it tries to heal itself and make new pathways for the neurons to flow.  He said he expects to see lots of recovery within the next 10 days, based on what he’s seen for the past three.  Sure hope he’s right!!

Now for my normal closing here.  I ask for everyone to keep her in your prayers and send all the good thoughts you can her way.  She is able to accept visitors here and because she is in a private room, there is no visiting hours to worry about.  The speech therapist told me today that we need to restrict visitors to no more than two at once in the room and try to keep the visits short and upbeat.  She was impressed with Lorraine’s attitude and says that will really be a good asset to her as we continue going down this recovery road.

So with God’s help, your prayers. good thoughts and visits, we will do our best to get her moving towards recovery as best we can.  I do tell her every facebook, email or phone call she gets wishing her well and she appreciates every one.  So please keep them coming!

Well, once again I didn’t finish the blog until late so I waited until this morning to post it, I was too tired to do a good proof read.  Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t find any mistakes here if you look, so just overlook any you may find. 

Thanks   Chuck

982

Friday, August 14, 2015

We’re in Seattle, Washington

8/13/15   

Well, must be time for an update, I’ve gotten lots of calls and emails asking about Lorraine’s condition.  So I’ll try to get something down here for everyone to know what is happening and how she is doing. 

First, the doctors haven’t been able to determine what caused her stroke.  Like I said last time, this stroke was caused by a blood clot but she has been on blood thinning medicine since her stroke in March.  Plus her two aneurysms have been repaired/plugged and they were considered to be a probably cause of her prior two strokes. 

They have run lots of tests, CT and MRI scans to attempt to find the cause.  The latest suggestion is a PFO (I think that is the correct term) was found in her heart.  I was told most everyone is born with a hole between the two sides of their heart but in most people, this hole closes by their teen years.  But 20 – 25% of people still have this hole and it allows blood that normally would go to their lungs to re-enter the normal, oxygen rich blood stream.  Their suggestion is she might have blood clots that formed in her legs or somewhere and normally they would be routed to her lungs where the clot would be captured and absorbed.  But with the PFO, the blood clot could move through the chambers of the heart without being filtered thought her lungs.  This would allow the clot to travel to her brain where it would become lodged in one of her arteries.  They said it’s a very slim chance but don’t have any other ideas of something more probable.   I don’t doubt this but it seems like you have to find the haystack before you can begin looking for the needle. 

Ok, will put that aside for now as they are still looking at causes.  I’ll go with the PFO idea but they don’t think it is a big enough risk factor to do surgery to close the hole.  I’ve sort of pushed this issue to a back burner for now but I will pursue it with doctors somewhere down the line. 

Another issue that came up was her chest CT scan showed a mass in the middle of her chest.  Now what?  I asked what the plan was to follow up on this issue and they asked if she had other chest x-rays before.  Lorraine has been put under for one reason or another 16 times so the answer to that question was a big YES.  I gave them times and places and they were to check and see what they could find in previous exposures.  Turns out they found the same mass in a MRI in 2000 and another back in the ‘90s.  Best guess at this time is it may just be a small section that remains after she had her thyroid removed back when.  Whew, another one to put on the back burner until later. 

Now for her actual condition.  Last update I said she had her feeding tube put in place.  Without going into too much detail, this is a tube that is inserted into her nostril and threaded into her stomach.  Then they attach a liquid container of something to it and it is controlled into her stomach.  All this because she has been unable to swallow without some of it going down the wrong pipe and causing her to choke and/or cough.  If the food/liquid gets into her lungs she could develop pneumonia which could be a lift threating condition, especially for her now. 

The speech therapist had to preform a “swallowing test” he administers where he has her attempt to eat/swallow different consistencies of liquid.  Lorraine had trouble so they wanted the feeding tube and still wouldn’t allow her any food or drink by mouth except for a very small sip of water from a sponge on the end of a stick, about the size of a toothbrush.  Even with that small amount, sometimes she would still have trouble and it could cause her to cough. 

The day shift nurse inserted the feeding tube before he went home at 7 and they had to have a portable x-ray machine come by to make sure it was in her stomach and not in her lung.  Now this is something I don’t think I would like and for sure Lorraine didn’t either.  She was constantly trying to pull it out, saying it hurt and asking me to take it out.  Broke my heart to stop her and tell her no. 

That night I woke up about an hour after I laid down and saw where she had pulled the tube out about 8”.  I got the night shift nurse and informed her and she reinserted the tube, not pleasant.  She also put a glove on Lorraine’s hand, about like a boxing glove.  This was to keep her from being able to grab the tube.  But about 2:00 am the nurse came in to check on her and found she had removed the tube completely.  Somehow Lorraine had managed to get her hand out of the glove and grab the tube. 

They had to reinsert the tube because they were giving her her meds through it.  Lorraine fought it pretty hard, I even had to help hold her hand to allow them to work on her.  Finally they got it in place and got the glove back on then tied it to the side of the bed.  Lorraine didn’t fight that restriction TOO bad but sure didn’t like it.  She must have asked me 20 times to remove it so she could scratch her nose.  Again, broke my heart to tell her no and not untie her.  And once again, they had to have the portable x-ray check it out before they could give her meds through it. 

Next morning I did untie the restraints but kept her glove on in the morning.  By the afternoon I was taking her glove off while I was at her bedside which was most of the time.  She did attempt to pull the tube but soon gave that up as I was there to stop her every time.  But it was nice that she didn’t continue trying to pull it out, wasn’t as heart breaking for me either.  But we did put the glove and restraint on that night and even then she was able to pull the glove off during the night.  What an escape artist!

I was given the ok to continue with this small sips of water even after the feeding tube was in place.  And she has been getting better with this, in fact, I talked to the nurse and doctors yesterday and told them I thought she was ready to eat real food.  They wanted the speech therapist to do another swallow test and if she did well, they would consider allowing her to eat. 

I happened to catch the therapist at the nurses desk in the morning and asked for a time on his schedule, he is busy.  He agreed to see her in an hour, good deal.  But just as he was getting set up, he got called away and didn’t come by for 3 hours.  By now its been way over three days since Lorraine has had anything to eat or drink.  Her mouth was dry and she was hungry even thought she was getting some food into her stomach via the feeding tube.  But she did pass the swallow test and the therapist sent a note to the doctors to that effect. 

He also told me the doctors didn’t think she was going to pass the test and were considering putting a tube directly into her stomach, another operation for her that I would just as soon avoid if possible.  And besides, I would want to wait a longer period before I would allow them to do that.  But that will not be happening now as she is able to eat, yea.  .

The doctors did agree to allow her to eat some, they have what they call “thick water”, applesauce and yogurt that I could help her to eat.  But they didn’t even start feeding her through the tube until the afternoon, something about making sure she didn’t have any major problems with it.  But finally she was able to get food into her stomach and wasn’t as hungry.  Three and a half days without any food and very little water, damn that’s a tough way to lose weight. 

After she passed the test, the doctors did agree to let her have a dinner delivered.  It was some chicken thing ran through a blender, pureed and formed into some sort of dry patty.  Lorraine wasn’t as hungry but did eat about 1/4 of it, most of the applesauce and all of the yogurt.  I would have thought she would eat more but guess the stuff from the tube had filled her up. 

Wednesday night she had a fairly good night.  I did put her glove on but didn’t tie it down and she promised not to pull the tube out.  I woke up a few times and she had not attempted to pull it out even though once again she managed to free herself from the glove somehow.  She had a good night’s sleep, finally. 

Lorraine had been complaining of a headache, even in the emergency room here on Sunday.  The doctors don’t like to give a stroke patient anything that would mask them having more issues so they didn’t give her anything too strong.  By Wednesday it was so bad she was crying almost continuously.  Every time someone would ask her to put a number to her pain she would hold up five fingers.  By Wednesday, I figured out she was actually trying to show 10 fingers but couldn’t move her left arm/hand.  I finally saw one of the neurologist walking by and called her into Lorraine’s room and showed her how bad it was.  She agreed to give her a one time dose of something strong and if it helped, would put her on a maintenance dose. 

Boy, what a difference.  She has settled down even though she still says her pain level is at 5.  In fact, I’ve asked them to not give her the full dose during the day as she was sleeping too much, I thought.  But at night I wanted her to have enough to allow her to fall into a good, deep sleep.  So that’s where we are on her pain control.

She is still not moving her left arm or leg, in fact, she pretty much ignores anything on her left side.  She will not follow the doctor or nurse’s finger when they move it from right to left, she stops somewhere straight ahead.  Her eyes don’t appear to be focused, her left eye doesn’t look like it used to.  But she had passed the short eye test she was given and the doctors don’t seem to be too concerned yet. 

She has asked me numerous times when I was taking her home to our rig.  I’ve told her that she can’t go home yet and after this hospital stay she will have to go to a recovery place.  But she continues to ask anyway.  And a few times she has tried to get out of bed and go to the bathroom, of course all she can do is swing her leg out, the rest just doesn’t follow.  I can’t tell if she is disorientated or just what is going on.  In most everything else, she seems to know what is going on, what happened and where we are. 

She got her breakfast this morning but didn’t care for it, it was again something pureed and pressed into a patty.  She also had the feeding tube going on all night so she wasn’t too hungry.  The doctors said they would just feed her at night with the tube and let her eat all she could during the day.  But this afternoon, they decided she was eating good enough that they won’t even be feeding her through the tube at all, may even remove it tomorrow depending on how much she can eat, yea.  They are however, still giving her the meds through the tube as they don’t know if she can swallow pills yet. 

This morning Lorraine was very emotional and cried about most everything.  She also was scared when I when down to the car to get a clean shirt, when I came back she was crying and asking for me.  She said she thought I had left her.  This is the first time she’s been doing that although she has cried over the severe headache she had a couple of days ago. 

I mentioned it to her nurse today and she said it might be from a new medication the doctors have put her on, started yesterday.  No one mentioned this to me and I found out it is an anti-depressant but it can cause mood swings for the first couple of weeks.  I intend to find out more about this in the morning when the team makes their rounds. 

We’ve had lots of different folks come through to check on her during the night time and during the day too.  Today in walks this young girl who introduced herself as a psychologist or something.  She said the doctors wanted her to evaluate Lorraine and asked if she could as her some questions. 

Lorraine can’t speak too well so the gal asked what I term as leading questions.  She asked if she was sad, felt guilty, depressed and such type questions.  But when she asked her if she felt suicidal I stopped her and told her that was enough.  I didn’t want anyone coming in her giving her negative thoughts.  The gal got a bit snippy and said the doctors had placed an order for her to do this evaluation.  I told her to change this line of questioning or I would have her leave and she could call the doctors and explain why.  She said she would go to a different set of questions and only asked three more.  Guess what, she didn’t even shake my hand when she left, made me feel bad –not.

Later I saw one of the neurologist walking down the hallway and stopped her to discuss this and ask if it had anything to do with the anti-depressant medication.  I told her I didn’t want anything put in Lorraine's record about her being depressed or such.  I told her she had gone through lots of medical issues and always fought her way through recovery and I fully expect to see the same this time.  She told me that “modern day medicine” requires these questions to be asked and I told her I was still old school and didn’t want it in her records.  I fully expect to loose this battle but that doesn’t mean I’ll go quietly. 

Lorraine had a physical therapist come by on Tuesday.  She managed to get Lorraine up and sitting on the side of her bed for a short while.  She also noticed that the joints on her left side were already showing signs of getting tight, she was having “drop foot” also.  She ordered up a special boot that Lorraine is supposed to wear for two hours on/two hours off.  It is to designed and fitted to hold her foot in an upright position, trying to teach her brain the correct position once again. 

The nurses have also had her sitting up in a chair for two hours yesterday and today.  They moves her onto a stretcher that folds into a chair so it’s pretty easy to get her upright.  She was in the chair when lunch came today and it was nice for her to eat sitting up vs laying down.  

The nurses here have been, for the most part, really nice, friendly and well trained.  I have only had a couple of times when I’ve had to discuss things with them and they are quite open to my input.  They check in on her regularly and do their job willing.  All in all, I am impressed with the place. 

I am started to research some skilled nursing homes in/near Bellingham for what will apparently be Lorraine’s next transfer.  If anyone has any input, good or bad, on places up there, please let me know.  I’ve talked with the neurologist that saw Lorraine in the Bellingham emergency room and with her family doctor in Ferndale for advice too.  But nothing would be as good as what someone who has been, or had family members, to one or more of these places. 

Our son, Rich, is flying down from Alaska tonight, will be here early in the morning.  Our daughter, Susy, is driving up from California starting early tomorrow morning.  Lorraine is really looking forward to seeing them but I know she will cry when she sees them. 

I had intended for this to be a short note but here it is bedtime and I haven’t got it posted yet.  I’ll get it out in the morning after I prove-read it.  Without Lorraine able to do her proof-reading, no telling what I’ll miss but this is it. 

Sorry about the length but I wanted to make sure I got most of this down on paper so I can review it with her at a later time. 

Thanks   Chuck

881

 

Monday, August 10, 2015

We’re in Seattle, Washington

 

In our last blog I talked about us driving back to Washington so we could work on our house.  My buddy, Tim, got the necessary parts and made up a 50 amp hookup for us.  When we are plugged in, we are also able to get water but unfortunately, no sewer hookup on that side of the house.  But we wanted to be at the house instead of staying at 1000 Trails in Birch Bay, about a 45 minute drive one way. 

We moved the coach over on Saturday, finally got it leveled and set up.  Our friend, Richard, happened to be driving by and stopped to visit.  He was driving his pickup truck and also agreed to make a dump run, I have been removing stuff from the house.  We had a very good visit then went to Lorraine’s sister’s house for dinner with her and her husband. 

Once again we had a good visit with John, Thelma and their son Carl.  We headed out about the time it was getting dusk and sure enough, we saw a number of deer either alongside or crossing the road.  Maybe they are used to cars because we didn’t have any close encounters, that’s a good thing. 

Sunday morning I woke up earlier than usual and after my shower and taking Misty out for her walk, I decided to go into the house and start working on my to-do project list.  I managed to get a couple of items marked off the list and was heading to the shop to get a large garbage can to put some flooring material in when I saw Lorraine coming out of the coach.  She had recently got up and said she had a good nights sleep.  I talked with her for a minute or so then walked on to the shop and got the garbage can. 

When I came around the corner about two minutes later, I saw Lorraine standing in the driveway, moving her right foot but not going anywhere.  As I got closer I could see she was having some sort of issue.  I ran over to her to see what was happening and noticed she was showing signs of a stroke, her left side wasn’t cooperating, it seemed.   

Background here, Lorraine has had two previous strokes and during her recovery process from the second one, the doctors found and repaired two brain aneurysm.  When we saw the surgeon the last time, he said he didn’t think she would ever have another stroke caused by the two aneurysm as they were now plugged.  So based on that information, I was extremely surprised to see her in full stroke symptoms.  But the aneurysms were on the left side of her brain which controls the right side of her body and these symptoms were on the left side, indicating to me that the problem was on the right side of her brain. 

I got to where she was standing and grabbed her just as she was falling, her left side was failing her.  I was able to get her to the car, about 20’ away and into the passenger seat.  I closed up and locked the house and motorhome then headed out to the hospital in Bellingham. 

Bellingham has a very good hospital, especially well known for their heart department.  But it isn’t one of the 60 plus stroke certified care facilities in the nation.  We got to the hospital and they almost met us at the door to get her into the emergency room.  I first noticed the stroke symptoms about 9:03 and we were at the hospital about 9:45. 

They got her set up for a CT scan and called in the on-call neurologist.  By the time I was allowed back in her room, she was hooked up to IVs and monitors and ready for the CT scan. 

More background here.  Strokes can be caused by either uncontrolled bleeding into the brain or by blood clots in the arteries to the brain.  Both of Lorraine’s previous strokes are believed to have been caused from blood clots and she is on blood thinning medicine to help prevent blood from clotting as easily. 

The CT scan showed that Lorraine had indeed had another stroke, this time on the right side of her brain, caused by a blood clot.  There is a medicine they can give stroke patients who have had a blood clot caused stroke if they can administer it within 3 hours of onset of symptoms.  We were well within that window but I’m not a fan of this medicine, called TPA.  It is a powerful blood thinner and although it can help, when it has side effects they can be devastating.   We know of at least three people who were given the TPA and it made the stroke MUCH worse.  I have not allowed them to give Lorraine this medicine for her prior strokes and both times the doctors said it was a good decision, looking back at it anyway.  I did, however, ask her neurologist in San Jose about it and he said he is a big believer in it and would recommend its use if the symptoms were severe.  I never expected I would be considering this medicine but just wanted his input just in case.    

Lorraine’s symptoms were pretty bad, she couldn’t move her left arm or leg, her face was drooping on the left side, when she stuck her tongue out, it drooped to the left and she could only smile on the right side of her face.  She was pretty unresponsive to orders from the doctors and when she tried to talk it was very slow, quiet and slurred.  I talked to the doctors about the TPA, of course they wanted to administer it but I told them I had to be convinced first.  We talked about her recent aneurysm repairs and the doctor decided to call the specialist in Seattle to get their opinion. 

The neurologist in Seattle recommended against TPA therapy because of the recent aneurysm repairs just about the time I agreed to let them give it to Lorraine so that option didn’t happen.  They also reviewed her CT results with the Bellingham neurologist.  There is one more option they have to remove the blood clot and that is to go inside the vein in her leg with a camera and coil-spring looking deally thingy (a proper medical term for a layman).  They get to the blood clot, insert the spring thingy into the clot and mechanically remove the clot, allowing blood to flow normally through the arteries. 

The problem with this procedure is it had to be done within 6 hours of the symptom onset.  Also the clot has to be accessible from the inside and in a big enough artery for them to get their “tools” through.  The hospital in Bellingham doesn’t have a doctor trained in interventional vascular surgery so the local doctor called and talked to the one in Seattle.  They agreed that there wasn’t a good chance to gain access to the clot for removal so that option was taken off the table too.  I asked the doctor in Bellingham if the doctor in Seattle had seen the actual images or just taken his word about the blood clot and he said it had been just verbally so far but he would send the images to Seattle for their eyes on review. 

About 20 minutes late the doctor came back to Lorraine’s emergency room and said after reviewing the images, the doctor in Seattle said he thought he could get to and remove the clot.  By now it was close to 4 hours so things started moving rapidly, they needed to get her out of the emergency room, into an ambulance and over to the helicopter.  The trip down was about 45 minutes, giving them plenty of time to prep her for the procedure.  Unfortunately I couldn’t ride down in the helicopter plus I needed to go back to our coach to get some clothes for our stay in Seattle. 

I hung around just long enough to see the copter lift off then headed to our place.  I called my good friend Tim to see if he could/would go by and get Misty and keep her until we got back to town.  Our friend Richard also called and said he would meet me at the house where he hoped to talk me into letting him drive me down but that would have left me without a car.  He even said he could call his wife, Sandy, to see if she would be able to drive down and pick him up after he drove my car down.  I refused to allow him to go to that much trouble but he was still trying to talk me into that when I got into the car, ha.  Thanks to both of you two for jumping in to help, much appreciated for sure. 

I started driving and it wasn’t long before I got a call from the hospital in Seattle that Lorraine had safely arrived and they were sending her out for a new CT scan.  The doctor had a few questions about her care so far and needed to get more info and would call me back soon.  About 30 minutes later he called and said the new CT scan showed more brain damage than the one from Bellingham and they would not be doing the procedure to pull out the clot, shoot. 

They said they would keep her in the emergency room until I got there then we would talk about further care.  The doctor said she would be kept there for at least a couple more days.  I asked about sending her back to Bellingham, in fact, I asked about her riding with me.  I must say, he did a fairly good job of hiding his laughter when he said “NO”. 

I got here to Harborview just after 4 pm, the traffic was horrible.  I found a place to park and headed for the entry.  The security guy wouldn’t let me enter there, said I had to walk all the way around the hospital and enter through the emergency room door.  Well, OK then. 

I got to emergency room entry and had to go through a metal detector screening, which I failed.  The buzzer was going off as I walked through the gate and I was prepared to go around and do it again but the security guard asked if I had any knives or guns and when I said no, he let me go through.  Surprised me, guess I don’t fit the profile of a terrorist. 

I checked in at the desk and they escorted me back to Lorraine’s bed.  She was happy to see me, the nurse said she had been asked for me the whole time.  I did a quick check of what I could see and it appeared that Lorraine’s condition had worsen since I last saw her, three hours ago. 

I couldn’t get a doctor to come over and talk with me but I told the nurse about my observations and she said she would let the doctors know.  I sat with Lorraine for about 4 hours before they could get her a room in the acute care area of the hospital.

Lorraine was having a tough time communicating with them but I could understand her better so I acted as her representative.  She had pain in her right shoulder/neck and a bad headache on the right side of her head where the stroke had happened.  I told the nurse about this and asked what pain medications she had been given.  She said no one had given her any pain meds.  That’s when I asked (demanded) to see a doctor.

It didn’t take too long before a doctor came by, listened to me and left to order some pain meds for Lorraine.  That has been my only complaint about this hospital so far but I know they couldn’t understand Lorraine when she tried to tell them. 

The emergency room was a busy/noisy place and I was glad when they finally moved her to her regular, shared room.  We got her settled and I had a talk with the night nurses, three very nice nurses who took excellent care of Lorraine all night long.  They even found me a recliner chair that folds down into a semi-bed, not very comfortable but at least I was at Lorraine’s side all night.  I must say that I had almost forgotten that you don’t get much uninterrupted sleep in a hospital, they were in/out at least once an hour. 

So far, I could tell this stroke episode was very different from her two previous ones.  Previous symptoms were she couldn’t find her parts of her body, they would say touch your forehead and she would touch her nose or elbow.  She have speech problems but it seemed to be hard to come up with the correct words she wanted but her physical issues cleared up within a day or two. 

This time her speech difficulty seems to be more a function that she just couldn’t form the words with her mouth/tongue/lips, not that she doesn’t know the word she wants.  This time the physical problems are bigger and more severe although she has been moving her left arm and leg just a bit this afternoon.

The speech therapist came by this afternoon and ran a couple of tests.  They have not allowed Lorraine to have anything to drink or eat because they are worried about her ability to swallow.  Lots of times stroke patients have problems swallowing and the liquid/food gets into their lungs.  This can cause pneumonia and become a lift threating problem.  Lorraine does have difficulty swallowing so they still won’t let her eat or drink anything.  They said a doctor would come by later and talk to us about the next step, I assume a feeding tube.  

The occupational therapist came by too.  She worked with Lorraine for awhile and found that some of her joints on the left side are already becoming hard to move/stiff.  Also, her left foot is drooping.  My job is to help Lorraine exercise these her arm and leg periodically throughout the day.  She also gave Lorraine a boot to keep her foot in a more upright/natural position.  She is to wear the boot for two hours, off for two hours throughout the day.  And this is only after two days, wow.  She also was able to get Lorraine to sit up on the side of her bed, the first time she hasn’t been laying flat for two days.  Lorraine said it felt good to sit up. 

They are, naturally, running lots of test on Lorraine, CT scans, x-rays, an upcoming MRI, blood test, neurological test and such.  So far, they can’t tell me why Lorraine had a blood clot caused stroke when she on Plavix/Aspirin therapy since her last stroke in March.  These two are supposed to thin her blood so she doesn’t form clots as easily but yet here we are.  Tough trying to make sense of this one for sure. 

Lorraine seems to be taking this one in stride pretty well, she knows what’s happened, where she is and what her symptoms are.  She is sleeping quite a bit but that’s a good thing, her body needs to repair itself and sleep is a good help in that.    

The neurologist in Bellingham told me that Lorraine’s symptoms were not uncommon, in fact, he said sometimes patients don’t recognize their effected side, they call it “called neglected side syndrome.  He suggested that Lorraine may be in that category.  He told me of a guy who would only shave the left side of his face, he didn’t recognize the right side as belonging to him.  He said sometimes they won’t even turn to the effected side, for example, when asked to turn to their left, they would turn to their right 270 degrees vs turning to the left only 90.  Sure hope that isn’t something Lorraine has trouble with as I almost always walk on her left side.  We have seen that Lorraine doesn’t want to look to her left as readily as to the right.  

Not sure of how long she will be here but the doctors don’t want to transfer care to Bellingham until she can swallow on her own and her blood pressure and other signs are normal.  Then she will probably be in a rehab center for some time period, who knows how long.  I’ve told them I want her back in Bellingham for that, whenever it happens and they said they know of good centers there too. 

I’m thinking we are in for a long haul on this recovery and once we get our house sold, we will make the decision to stay in the Bellingham area or head back to the good doctors she had in the Bay area.  But that’s down the road, right now its almost one hour/thing at a time. 

Lorraine is out for an x-ray right now so I will check this over and try to get it posted. 

Well that didn’t happen, she got back before I finished.  We’ve had the nurses do a change over, night shift is back.  Two of the neurologist stopped by and we talked about probable causes for her stroke and they are still working on that.  But I did get them to increase her pain meds so hopefully that will help. 

The day shift nurse just left, he gave Lorraine a feeding tube so she can get some nutrition, she hasn’t had anything for two whole days.  The tube will stay in place until she is able to swallow and they are hoping that will only be two days but no promises. 

Once again I find myself asking for your good thoughts and especially prayers for Lorraine.  She certainly has gone through a lot in the past few months and it appears this episode could last for awhile too.  Here’s hoping she gets back to 100% and as soon as possible!

Thanks  Chuck

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

We’re in Blaine, Washington

August 1, 2015                                                                                                                     Lorraine’s report

Hello Washington!  Yes, we made it thought, even thought it rained on us before we hit the WA border.  I want to report that while we did have problems, we managed to get them cleared up and were able to move on.  Thank you Lord for that.  I was sure we would/could still be stuck some where in WA headed home.   But we did make it. 

Of course I had to see my sister, Thelma.  It was wonderful to see that they are okay, but still have lots of problems ahead of them they.  Please pray daily for them, they need all the help they can get.

Yesterday we went to the Arco/BP picnic for Friday night.  It was so nice to see and meet come of friends.  It was like old home week for us; we enjoyed the heck out of meeting and greeting them all.  Thank You for it all!

Thelma’s birthday is August 4th and my birthday is August 6 and we usually celebrate together.  It should be fun.

So now I am getting us ready to go to my sister,Thelma’s home for a big get together with the family.  I’m sure it will be fun, lots of food, fun times, and lots of visiting.

I am still missing Susy and Kaitlyn, but we will just have to wait until we see them again. 

Chuck has a lot to do to fix up the house, but we will endure that also..

That’s it for me.  Hope you enjoy the week. 

Hugs to all,

Lorraine

8/1/15                                                                                                                                         Chuck’s report

Before I forget, Lorraine and her sister both have birthdays this week, Thelma on the 4th and Lorraine on the 6th.  Happy Birthday to both of you.  They are planning on a combined celebration tomorrow at Thelma’s house. 

Last Sunday we left the Salem, Oregon area and continued our trip North.  Our plan was to stay at the Rochester, Washington Lucky Eagle Casino for the night.  As were were driving up, Lorraine called her high school friend and we met Judy and her husband Bruce at the casino buffet.  It was nice to get caught up on their lives since we last saw them, they are sure busy folks.  Thanks for taking time to drive over and visit with us, we enjoyed it. 

Next morning I was out walking Misty and asked one of the maintenance guys if it was ok to wash our rig.  He said it was no problem so we made plans to do that.  Our experience at this park is it is mostly just for overnighters and it empties out pretty quick in the mornings.  But just our luck, our neighbors on both sides decided to stay one more day so there we were, in an empty park except for the three of us. 

I didn’t really want to get their rigs wet when I washed ours so we decided to move to a different site to wash the coach.  Before we did that, I took all the throw rugs outside to wash them while Lorraine started doing a load of laundry.  We’ve stayed there before but I had forgotten they don’t have sewer hookups at each site.  Usually that isn’t a problem as our holding tanks are large enough to hold three days worth of water with no problem but with the extra water from doing the laundry we would just drive over to the on-site dump before returning back to our site.

It’s been awhile since we’ve washed the coach, the Elks lodge in Santa Clara doesn’t allow it and we were there for 4 months so the coach was really dirty.  I washed the roof first, boy was there lots of chalking from the fiberglass up there, it doesn’t have a clear coat.  Of course, all that chalk stuff runs down the sides and it really looks bad.  But with Lorraine helping, we washed the side that was in the shade and followed the shade to do the other side.  But we were facing South and unless we wanted to wait until dusk, we had to wash the front portion in the full sun.  No problem as we use a squeegee to dry the windshield and dry the rest with wash cloths.

It took us just over two hours but it looks pretty good once again.  I’ve said it before but the only time I would like to have a smaller rig is when we are washing it and when we are buying fuel.  I took a couple aspirin as I figured I would be a bit sore but it wasn’t too bad although I did sleep well that night. 

We then drove over to the dump site and emptied our black and grey tanks.  We had to leave the park area to turn around and the best place was to drive through their gas station so we filled the tank while we were there so now we were almost ready to travel. 

We pulled back into our original site, set up and headed over to the casino for dinner.  We just went to the cafĂ© as the buffet would have been too much two days in a row.  

Of course while we were there we had to play the slots.  The first day was a good one for Lorraine, she had a couple of machines that treated her pretty nice.  I was also able to walk away with some of their money, just not as much as Lorraine had.  The second day Lorraine couldn’t find a good machine but she was still up for the trip.  I won $2 but better than losing. 

Tuesday we were heading out for a short day’s drive, only going to Mt. Vernon, Washington.  I had an appointment at the Freightliner shop to have our rig worked on.  We have a Spartan chassis and they notified us of a safety recall that we needed to have done.  I had it scheduled at a place in California but they went out of business.  I had the part with us and I checked with the shop and they had the instructions from Spartan so we should be good to go. 

We drove up to 1000 Trails in Bow Hill for the night.  This was our first time there so we had to drive around a bit to find a spot that was large enough, level enough and hopefully had enough open area through the trees to get satellite reception.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get TV reception, even repositioned the coach three time but no luck, it’s been a long time since we have been unable to connect.  No problem however as we have a good collection of movies with us so we would just watch movies for the night.  Once again, they don’t have sewer hookups at each site here but having just dumped our tanks, we were good to go. 

We unhooked the car and headed out to the shop to see what their procedure for check in would be.  They told us where they wanted us to park in the morning and we filled out the paperwork while we were there.  They told us they are open 24 hours/day this time of the year and they had a tech assigned to us who has done this recall work before. 

We needed to be at the shop by 10:00 and it was about 15 miles away.  We left in plenty of time, got there about 9:40 or so and got checked in.  The recall papers said it should take about 3 1/2 hours to complete this job but because this place doesn’t work on Spartan chassis often, they told us it might take longer. 

We hung around for an hour and the coach hadn’t been moved into the shop yet.  I asked why and was told the tech was finishing up a job that was taking longer than expected but he would get to ours as soon as he was finished with the one in the bay.  So we headed out to IHOP for breakfast. 

Our friends, Joe and Alice, had called to let us know they were driving down to a doctor’s appointment nearby and wanted to know if we would meet them for lunch after their appointment.  I told them we would unless they finished up with our repairs and would talk with them later. 

We got back and sure enough, the coach was in the repair bay.  They told us he just got started and it was now his lunchtime and he would get on it after lunch.  I always disliked someone standing/looking over my shoulder when I was working and didn’t want to bother them too much so we left once again and drove over to Camping World.  As luck would have it, Joe and Alice were there too, they were early for the doctor and spent some time at Camping World.  We had a quick visit and told them we hoped to see them for lunch. 

After leaving Camping World, I drove back to the shop to see what progress had happened.  The recall is to replace a power steering box and to get it out, they had to basically dismantle the whole power steering system and remove some of the front suspension parts.  They assured me nothing they were doing would affect our front end alignment, I was worried about that. 

Well, they didn’t even have it  apart yet, it was welded in place and they were trying to figure out the “best way” to do the job.  I asked what the instructions from Spartan said so they checked and sure enough, there was their answer.  Bad sign, not reading the instructions. 

By now Alice was finished with her appointment so we agreed to meet them for lunch at one of the local casinos.  Joe suggested going to Swinomish Casino to their sports bar.  He said they have a great hamburger special as well as a full menu.  We got there, met up with them and headed for lunch.  I had the hamburger special but Lorraine noticed they had fresh halibut so that’s what she ordered.  We had a good meal and a great visit, thanks Joe and Alice. 

I called the shop while we were there and they told me things were progressing nicely.  I asked if they had a guess on the time they would finish and they told me if we got there by 4:30 or so, they should be finished. 

We got there about 4 and checked in at the service desk.  Well, they had another problem and escorted me back to the shop to show me what was happening.  They had removed all the parts but couldn’t get a bracket to come off a shaft, it was seized.  They tried lots of “tricks” but it wouldn’t move.  The instructions said to NOT use heat so they were a bit limited but they had it in a 100 ton press when I saw it.  The tech activated the press while I was there and the bracket did start to slide off the shaft, yea.  They were pleased and suggested we leave again and return back in a couple of hours.

So off we went to another local casino, Angel of the Winds.  Lorraine has always liked this place so it wasn’t hard to get her to agree to go there.  We checked in and they gave us $10 in free slot play, good deal.  Lorraine managed to turn her $10 into a hundred while I only won $7 but once again, we were both up, Lorraine way up, almost made the waiting worth it. 

After playing the slots for a couple of hours, we headed back to the shop.  We found they had most of it put back together but hadn’t started the welding yet.  The foreman told us things were going well (a common phrase from him I found out) but he doesn’t/won’t give finish times.  We went to the customer’s lounge and watched TV for awhile, by now it was 8:00.  I kept checking in with the foreman and always got the same reply, things are going well.  About 10:30 I asked to go back and see what was happening and found the tech was unable to get one nut back on.  He said he wasn’t sure if the threads were bad on the nut or on the shaft and he didn’t have a large enough thread tap/die to clean it up. 

The foreman said they would probably have to order a new piece, tie rod I think, in the morning and it wouldn’t arrive until Friday at the earliest.  Now why couldn’t he have offered that information a few hours earlier so we could have made some decisions?  So at 11 pm, we grabbed a few things from the coach and headed out to a hotel for the rest of the (short) night. 

Next morning I called to see what was happening and the gal told me the coach was finished, had been test driven and everything was good to go.  What a good surprise.  But I was worried she might have made a mistake so didn’t really get my hopes up too high.  The hotel had a fairly good breakfast so we ate there before going to the shop.  Once we got there, I couldn’t find our coach, it wasn’t in the parking lot or in the service bay.  I drove around the shop and found it on the backside, plugged in to keep the batteries charge.  I checked it over and everything seemed to be back in place and the weld looked good. 

We went to the service desk and they said the night tech was able to get the tie rod connected once he found a new nut.  Whew, that was good deal, no more waiting.  I wasn’t sure what this was going to cost us, they had worked on the coach for about 12 hours and the recall said 3 1/2 hours.  When we got the paperwork, they only charged $400 something for labor, it was all covered by Spartan on the recall and all we had to do was sign and leave.  I bet they don’t like those kind of jobs but except for not keeping us informed of the problems at all times, they did a good job and we would return to them if/when needed in the future.  I don’t know if Spartan will pay for their extra hours or not but I do know they worked on it for a long time. 

We hooked up the car and got ready for travel, again a short drive.  We are staying at 1000 Trails here in Birch Bay and they have two sections here.  The old section has lots of trees and have the utilities set up such that four sites share them.  There is one 50 amp hook up at each set up and is taken by the first one who connects to it, the others get 30 amp.  The other section is pretty open, no trees and they have it set up with the utilities shared by two people, one in each directions.  But this section doesn’t have any 50 amp power, only 30 amp. 

We checked in and I walked around to see what site we could get that would allow us to connect to 50 amp and get satellite reception through all the trees.  The place is pretty full but I found two sites that might work and returned to get the coach.  I unhooked the car and drove over to the first place I wanted to try.  As luck would have it, a better site opened while I was gone and we snagged it.  We are able to get TV reception, have full hookups with 50 amp power, water and sewer.  So we can run both of our air conditioners and do laundry here. 

Once we got set up, Lorraine called and we went over to visit with her sister, Thelma and husband, John.  John has been going through some serious medical issues but was having a good day he said.  We had a good visit but when John appeared to be getting tired, we left.  I would like to ask everyone to put John in their prayers and we hope for a good outcome. 

Friday I called the guy who had been working on our house and he agreed to meet me at the house.  I drove over early but I had him change the locks a couple of weeks ago so I didn’t even have keys to get inside.  I did look over the new decks he had built for us and saw he did a good job with them.  He also had do a LOT of cleaning up outside, even had his wife and son working in the yard. 

Tom got there at 8 and we walked through the house.  I was very disappointed to find the contractor working on the fire damage repair had not been to the house in over two weeks.  They have finished the major restoration in the bedroom where the fire was but haven’t started replacing the flooring, in fact, they haven’t even removed the old laminate yet.   They also have to replace one window and a whole door, frame and all. 

Tom has done lots of good work in/around the house but it still needs lots of work to get it ready to put on the market.  The house sure doesn’t show any pride of ownership for sure but after being rented for the past 7 years, I guess I didn’t expect it to look like we still lived there. 

I plan on making some hookups and moving our motorhome over there so we can get things going.  I called the contractor doing the restoration and his boss to let them know I was disappointed in their work.  They did do a good job getting rid/covering the smoke smell however.  The boss said he would have the project manager meet me at the house on Monday to address my complaints/concerns.  We’ll see how it goes, hoping they get going now that we’re here and I don’t have to get a different company. 

When I got back to the coach, Lorraine told me she had made an appointment at her hair dresser.  The last time she went to a salon she was not satisfied with the outcome so she really wanted to see her normal gal.  We made a quick trip to town then I dropped her off.  I went over to fill the car with gas then waiting until she was done, much better this time and she was happy too. 

We returned to the coach to feed/walk Misty then went to the refinery annual picnic.  This is a two day affair but we usually only attend on Friday, seems to be more old-timers/retirees on Friday.  When I started working at the refinery back in ‘72 there was less than 200 people working there.  Now they have about 1000 I heard, including the marketing department that moved in after I retired.  With that many people working there, on Saturday there are so many folks who I don’t know that we are almost lost.  Plus Saturday is the busiest day, they have the big BBQ.  They cook a whole calf, whole pig, tons of fresh salmon, lots of salads and the like. 

Anyway, we did get to see a bunch of the folks I worked with before I retired.  The retirees have cooked hamburgers and hot dogs at the Friday picnic for a lot of years and it’s good to see them.  Plus lots of other retirees are there too. We had a good time seeing some of our friends and coworkers as always.  It’s always sad to hear the names of folks who have passed in the last year, this year being no exception. 

All of the folks we talked with told Lorraine they couldn’t even tell she had a stroke a few months ago.  She has a homework book but she hasn’t opened it since leaving the Bay area.  But daily living is also a good therapy and she didn’t have any problem with the crowd at the picnic yesterday and of course the slots were no problem for her either, ha. 

Susy is recovering well too, she is working 1/2 time now.  Her work is all on a computer so she is able to do that half time at home this week so she isn’t having to drive during the rush hour traffic down there.  Lorraine mentions almost every day how she is missing Susy and Katie. 

We did get some bad news about one of my good friends.  Glen and Jan’s grand daughter graduated high school last month and was in a car accident yesterday.  She was killed in the accident.  We are so sorry to hear about that and offer our condolence and prayers to you and your family.  May God be with you during this very trying/heartbreaking time.  I can’t imagine what you are going through but if we can help in any way, please let us know. 

The weather has been very warm this past week.  We were in the upper 90s in Oregon and not much less now that we are in Washington.  There have been more 90 degree days this year than I can remember, in fact, the TV news said the most since ‘58.  Plus they had a comparably warm winter with very little snow.  Yesterday the temp was in the upper 80s and it was HOT.  The forecast is for a bit lower temps but no sign of rain in the near future. 

We have found that almost every time we return to Washington it rains on us as we cross the border.   This time we actually got some rain in Oregon the day before we left.  It didn’t rain on us as we crossed the border but it did rain on us it at mile marker 12.  I guess the rain is sort of a “Welcome Home” to us or something. 

Like I said, our travel plans are only to move over to our house after we get hookups there.  I don’t know how long we will be in the area but do plan to see old friends and lots of family while here along with working at the house.  I don’t think I can do a full days hard work but I sure plan on giving it a shot. 

A couple of my friends have offered to help when I need some extra muscle, I’ll take you up on that I’m sure.  Plus our friend Tim is going to meet me at the house on Monday to see what he needs to do for hooking up the electrical power for us.  Thanks Tim, I’m sure not good on that electrical stuff for sure as you well know.   

I’ll check our camera and add some pictures Lorraine has taken lately. 

Showing the difference between an irrigated field and one that isn’t. 

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Here are some pictures of Lake Shasta showing how low the water level is.  In a good year, the water level is up to the trees. 

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It is good to see the mountains and trees. 

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Proof of the rain, this was an accident that stopped traffic for about 20 miles or so. 

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Thanks   Chuck

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