When we retired in October of 2019, we began a journey that we knew would be filled with adventure and surprises. On our very first RV journey, back in the 90’s, we had learned this lesson. We were driving from Yellowstone National Park to Stanley, Idaho. While driving across southern Idaho, all of a sudden there was a dramatic change in the landscape. We found ourselves in the middle of this barran rugged place that felt like it should be on some other planet. It turns out we had discovered Craters of the Moon National Monument. We had never heard of this park. It was an unexpected delight we had found on our journey. The day after Thanksgiving 2020 we embarked upon a journey we had not anticipated. It was totally unexpected.
We were enjoying our time at Park Place Estates RV Resort. But gradually I began to realize that I was not feeling right. I lost my appetite, became weaker every day, and was experiencing quite a bit of swelling in my legs. The day after Thanksgiving I decided it was time to do something.
But what do you do when you are hundreds of miles away from your primary care physician? A quick Google search revealed that there was a stand alone emergency room only about a mile away. So off we went thinking the doctor would take a look, write out a prescription and we would be on our way back home (home being our RV).
After a few tests, an x-ray, and a CT scan, the doctor discovered there was a problem with my liver. It was serious. I was transferred to the Valley Baptist Medical Center by ambulance. I figured that a Baptist Hospital could fix up a retired Baptist pastor in no time. They decided that I had cirrhosis of the liver. An odd diagnosis for a Baptist pastor who was definitely not a drinker. After a week they felt like I could go home. I was to keep an eye on things and follow up with the Hepatologist.
I was no better. I continued to gradually get worse. Finally, on December 23, we returned to the Baptist Medical Center where I was admitted once again. I would remain there for the next thirty-one days. Fairly quickly they determined that not only was my liver failing, but my kidneys were also failing. My condition was critical. My Nephrologist was also the Medical Director of the hospital. He was no slouch. He told us that in his experience he had not found dialysis to be effective when both the liver and kidneys were failing. Which meant that life would be short.
I spoke with my Hepatologist about it. I told him I would rather try something than do nothing. He agreed and the nephrologist agreed to do dialysis as long as I understood the risks. The main risk was that my blood pressure could go so low that I might not survive it. Obviously I did survive. But we had some really big decisions to make.
We were hundreds of miles away from our daughters. Even though I had made improvements I was nowhere close to well. I couldn’t even get in our RV. So there was no way I could hitch it up and tow it hundreds of miles. I was so sick that Mary would need help with my care. We concluded that living and traveling full time in an RV just wasn’t possible for us. We needed to move near one of our daughters for the support they could give us. Ultimately we decided to return to Warren, Michigan where we had lived before becoming full time RVers. But how could we get there?
Before we started our full time journey the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) opened their membership to RVers with towables. The membership was reasonable and we decided to join. At the time we had no idea how important that decision would be.
We not only had to figure out how to get me, who was just barely well enough to travel, to Michigan, but we also had to get our home and possessions to Michigan as well. FMCA membership comes with a variety of benefits. We didn’t even know what they all were. One of the benefits is FMCA Assist. FMCA Assist is basically an insurance that will get you and your rig to where they need to be if you become critically ill or worse. They would fly Mary and me to Michigan accompanied by a nurse and have a professional driver transport or rig to Michigan. I had learned about this benefit, only after joining FMCA, while reading an article in Family Rving, the FMCA magazine.
Because my condition was so critical both of our daughters had traveled to Texas to be with us. What a blessing they are to us! I am so thankful for their help and for our sons-in-law for making such a sacrifice. Our oldest daughter became our contact with FMCA on our behalf. Once our case was opened FMCA kept track of my health and were in continuous contact so that when I would be released for travel everything would be in place for our journey.
Finally my doctors decided I could travel. I was transferred by ambulance from the hospital to the airport. FMCA Assist had arranged for a nurse to meet us at the airport and he met us at the ambulance and helped me to the plane. The nurse and I would fly first class from Texas to Michigan. Mary and our daughters were in coach. We were met at the airport in Michigan by another ambulance which would transport me to a rehab facility which was about fifty miles away. The next day the driver began the journey bringing our RV from Texas to Michigan.
I couldn’t possibly overstate how important FMCA Assist was to us. We would have somehow gotten back to Michigan. But it wouldn’t have been easy. For example several people offered to come to Texas to drive our rig home for us. But there were things yet to come in this journey which made FMCA Assist’s role even more important.
If you are planning on becoming an RVer or already are RVing I highly recommend a FMCA membership. There are several benefits to a membership with them. But FMCA Assist is the only reason you need to join. You can purchase insurance to cover the kinds of things that FMCA Assist provides. But they cost hundreds of dollars. The current membership fee for FMCA is $85 a year. You will never find a better value!
When we made the decision to come off the road and return to Michigan there was a lot involved. In my next few blog posts I will explore some of the other issues we faced. I hope you will continue to follow along.
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