Two hours ago we returned home after our 2600 mile (4184 km) trip to the MD Anderson Medical Center in Houston. We are very tired. There is a lot to say. Much of it is interesting, but we are going to have to leave most of it for later, because Ellen will need to have chemotherapy here in the morning and we must get some rest.
This trip was a considerable challenge for a number of reasons, among them the current epidemic. Gunnison has a very high infection rate. This cause some people to have doubts about us and why we were traveling.
We took all of our own food and water with us. And mostly camped along the road. And interacted with as few people as we could manage. We even disinfected the gas pumps when we had to stop for fuel. We took several kinds of disinfectant, hospital gloves, and masks. And we used them. Ellen has had a year of chemotherapy, while her immune system has been remarkably resilient she is not in a position to get this disease.
Nevertheless, we wanted to make this as happy a trip as we could. We love each other very much, and a chance to be together for eight days is not to be missed. And we wanted to make the journey interesting and enjoyable in our MSIU (“Mobile Self Isolation Unit”), also known as Griseldo, our pickup truck.
We went through the southwest corner of Kansas, where Luke’s great grandparents homesteaded in 1885. We tried to find the precise homestead in which his great grandmother raised the children in a sod house, while her husband worked in town.
We spent a night camping in the Palo Duro Canyon, where Georgia O’Keefe started her painting career.
Our friends James Wood and Felicity Hannay lent us their ranch home near Mason, Texas. This was an almost unimaginable luxury, as no one had been in the house for a couple of months, and no one lives very close. So we were confident that we were not infecting anyone else, and no one else was infecting us. Hard to imagine what a good feeling it gave us to be there.
Plus is is springtime in the Texas Hill Country, and simply lovely. Flowers blooming everywhere.
Our attempt to relax was interrupted by some very difficult news. Among other things, when we were ready to spend the afternoon among the flowers, the medical center called at 1:00 on Friday and cancelled Ellen’s Sunday morning appointment for a CAT scan, because they were cancelling all their appointments, as a result of the virus epidemic.
Her doctor said he was still willing to have their appointment Monday, (by telemedicine) but that without the test data he would have nothing much to say.
So we spent five frantic hours trying to find someone in Texas who would give Ellen a CAT scan. And while we were making these calls, the Governor of Texas gave a press conference and announced some new policies that were interpreted by the hospitals as providing that no one coming to Texas for medical tests could get the tests without first being subject to a 14 day quarantine in Texas.
So we decided this was just not going to work, and started planning to return to Colorado.
Yet somehow long after working hours, and after we had pretty much given up, we got a call from MD Anderson saying they they were making a “compassionate exception” for Ellen and we could proceed. We were so happy about that.
And then we got a call saying that Ellen’s insurance company had “withdrawn approval” for all of this and was not agreeing to pay for it.
Have you ever tried to contact a health insurance company on a week end?
Needless to say, our hope for a day of peace among the flowers was “shot to doll rags,” in the Texas expression. We are convinced that we are not destined to have a day of rest again, any time that will matter.
Ellen did get the tests. We did go to Houston. The environment was quite strange and uncomfortable but in the end it all worked. And while we would not call the news great, it is at least the first news we have had in the last year that was not negative. The chemotherapy Ellen is now on seems to be effective enough that they want to continue it.
So that is what we are doing tomorrow.
Many thanks to so many people for so much. There was dinner waiting for us on our arrival, for which we are deeply grateful to Maryo and George.
On to the next challenge.