I promiss to tell the hole, stooped, sorded trooth about it…
Today is Wendy’s birthday. I always try to make it a special day for her because she so deserves it. This year its going to be a little different.
Astoria, Oregon was just supposed to be a quick stopover on our way up the pacific coast. Its a picturesque town set at the mouth of the Columbia and Youngs River on the Pacific coast of Oregon. With a beautiful waterfront, trolley cars, bike trail, restaurants and a maritime museum that I wanted to tour. We’d spent a couple of nights at the Ft. Stevens State Park out on the coast and didn’t really have a place to stay in Astoria because calls we made to an RV park in town were not returned. Maybe it would have been better to just move on down the road, but that’s iffy history and not what happened anyway.
So we stopped by the Pier 38 RV Park to inquire about space for a couple of nights. For convenience, you can’t do better than this as it is on the waterfront immediately next to the bike trail and trolley tracks. We could hear the sea lions barking at each other from the wharf! If this were a movie, an ominous soundtrack would accompany Chad, the proprietor, as he exits his trailer where we inquire about accommodations for the next two nights. Chad had a glazed look and heavy bandages around his right hand and had not returned our calls because he was recovering from surgery on his hand. Apparently, he’d had a late-night encounter with the door to his trailer and surgical reduction was required. Ohh, the irony! He had room for us so we committed to stay. This park is a little pricy, especially considering the look of the place and the long terms that have obviously been here awhile… Still, we’re flexible and it fit our needs for the moment.
It was a level spot and no levelers were required, so while Wendy got stuff set up inside I pulled out the bikes and we got ready to explore the town. We have been loving the fresh seafood available along the coast so we had a plan to find some fresh fish to grill while we discovered Astoria. Unleashed dogs were evident, so we postponed walking the cats for later and took off west down the bike trail.
Most of the trail is wide and paved, but it abuts the shore and is parallel to a set of old railroad tracks. So you have to cross the tracks to get off the bike trail. Fortunately, the Riverfront Trolley that runs on that track is slow and Astoria has done a fairly decent job of safe egress to/from the trail. However, in some spots the bike trail and tracks run contiguously across the wooden wharf and there are deep channels that run along the tracks – just fine for trapping a wayward bike wheel. Warning signs are frequent. I really didn’t give it much thought, but it gave Wendy pause so she walked her bike around some of these.
We have seen the result of logging all along the coast mainly in the clear cuts and the logging trucks. In Astoria, we found the destination for most of this timber. A huge, sprawling processing facility that was unloading the trucks, skinning off the bark and piling the logs onto ships. There were piles of logs awaiting loading hundreds of feet tall. I don’t know where that timber was bound, but very likely to China and Japan. We also found some ships ‘on the hard’ and took a few pictures. Most did not appear to have moved in decades and I can’t imagine any of them ever under way again. We found a fresh seafood shop at the western end of the trail, but no halibut so we made a plan to return the next day. On the way back to the bus we stopped in at Josephson’s Chowder House and picked up some freshly smoked salmon. We had a great ride although short and looked forward to touring the maritime museum tomorrow.
Back at the bus we got cleaned up and took the kitties our for a walk. I played the uke for a while and then we decided to head back into town for dinner. Woulda, shoulda, coulda done it all differently. Yelp had a few recommendations so we jumped back on the bikes for a short ride to The Urban Café. Dinner was a delightful and delicious seafood selection with a couple glasses of wine. We headed back towards the bus just as the sun began to set.
We were on a wide, paved section of the trail just east of the museum and I noticed a stern-wheeler on a trailer parked right next to the Peacock – a restored pilot boat on display in the parking lot. It hadn’t been there earlier in the day and I was thinking about getting a picture of it. A brief momentary loss of focus is all it took and I sideswiped a low curb that sent me flying off the right side of my bike onto the railroad tracks. Instinctively I reached out and took most of the force on my right hand and felt or heard something give. Wendy rode up just as I was standing up and I told her I had just broken my wrist. She thought maybe it was just dislocated, but one glance told me it was worse than that. The shock of that moment is still with me as I replay the fall in my head over and over. That image accompanies my own internal dialog, but I can’t print those words here. I also knew instantly that all our plans had changed.
A very kind gentlemen stopped to see if I was alright so I asked him about an ER nearby. Apparently we were just a couple of blocks from Columbia Memorial Hospital ER so we walked our bikes over to it. The next few hours are a blur while we tried to make sense out of what had just happened and what we were going to do about it. I was definitely in shock and not thinking clearly, but Wendy just stepped right up and took charge. She’s been rock steady through this whole thing: supportive, encouraging, positive – a warrior! I always knew I was lucky to have her and I told her that on a regular basis, but this has me singing her praises like never before. It could have been worse and we decided that night in the ER we were going to be OK. Move forward, think positively, trust the loving universe.
X-rays told the tale and Daniel the ER nurse filled in the details. Fracture of the distal radius of my right arm probably the ulna too. The ER could only splint the injury. I would need an orthopedic surgeon to fix it. An open reduction or surgical repair most likely requiring a metal plate and screws. That to be followed by physical therapy. That was hard to hear. There was just no way to be ready for that news. The ER splinted my wrist hiding my hand entirely and arranged a taxi, medications and the names of some orthopaeds in the area and sent us back out into the world. It was early Wednesday morning by then. We went back to the bus and I tried to get some sleep. I don’t know what time Wendy finally came to bed.
Later, I woke up and started making phone calls. We had several problems: Pier 38 was kicking us out. Fishing season had just begun and he had reservations to honor. We needed a place to park and I needed to get into see a surgeon. We needed a car. There was an ortho group in Longview, Washington but they wouldn’t see me for at least 5 – 7 days due to swelling. That was 30 miles away too. Naturally, I wanted it fixed NOW! The local orthopaedic surgeon called back that afternoon and got me in on Thursday. Maybe it was going to be OK.
Parking was a big problem. Every RV park for miles around was filled to bursting due to end of summer and fishing season that runs through September. The only thing we found was a 20 Amp site near town, but no sewer and water connection. Another park 30 miles away had space, but no phone or internet service and outside of Enterprise Rental Car pick up zone. Of course we didn’t know how long we were going to be in the area, but no phone, no internet and no car would never work. There was an Elks lodge in Longview, but I really did not want to wait a week just for an office visit – then an appointment for surgery? A week or two weeks later? Throughout all of it, there’s Wendy feeding me, encouraging me, supporting me making calls and searching the net – WOW what a woman she is.
Chad at Pier 38 relents and lets us stay another night. That’s when I find out the Doc that worked on his hand is the same guy I was scheduled to see on Thursday! Ominous music crescendo here.
Dr. Bales inspires confidence at my Thursday appointment and he wants to do surgery on Monday! We’re so glad we decided to stay here in Astoria rather than head to Longview. I figured it was a crap shoot either way, I might as well not start completely over again. Wendy finds us a place to park for a week which will get us through the surgery and a couple of days for recovery. On Friday, we move the bus to The Klaskanine River RV Park. No phone service, very weak internet, but our neighbors are friendly and I convince Enterprise to bring us a car even though we’re outside their 10 mile zone.
We really needed some downtime, but we both knew we couldn’t relax until we had the parking situation managed. So on Saturday instead of relaxing we got in the car to go find a place to park for at least a month. Dr. Bales confirmed the most likely schedule and PT would not start for at least two weeks after surgery. As soon as we got back into town we started making calls to parks up and down the coast. The story was the same at all of them – Booked full through September. Don’t come to the Oregon coast in August without a reservation! Finally, we took our long shot – the 20 amp site w/o hookups I mentioned above. It was still available. YES! It was 50 amp not 20. YES! It was three miles from town and we had excellent phone and internet service! That was huge! We had a good place to stay, near town, the hospital, PT, grocery and Enterprise – Finally.
Sunday we finally got that downtime we needed. Prep for surgery on Monday involved a surgical scrub shower Sunday night, another on Monday am and no food or drink after midnight. Clean sheets, clean towels and clean clothes and we were at the hospital by noon. Hurry up and wait until they came to take me into surgery around 4 pm.
They parked me on my gurney outside the OR and I waited some more. Finally, Dr. Bales came out, leaned over the cart and said “We have had to reschedule your surgery to 11:30 am Tuesday.”
“You’re kidding me right?”
Not kidding. It seems that there was a problem with the hardware set (those various plates and screws) they needed for my surgery and it wasn’t a complete set or not sterilized properly or whatever. It was a big disappointment! I asked the obvious – don’t you check these things ahead of time? Nevertheless, that was it and they rolled me back to the outpatient room. I could hear one of the nurses talking to someone on the phone and it sounded difficult. I knew instantly who she was talking to – Wendy! They had called her to come back to the hospital and then told her why. She was giving them all a good ‘what for’ believe me. What a warrior and in my corner too! Their apologies were profuse, but in the end there was nothing we could do but accept it.
Later we find out the set comes from the manufacturer, sealed and sterilized, but there was a hole in the packaging and it needed to be re-sterilized. We got a few meal vouchers, so we had dinner and went home.
On Tuesday we are back at the hospital by 9:15 am and this time it goes according to plan. I don’t remember anything after leaving the room for the OR. When I wake up, its over. A metal plate, ten screws and I am ‘fixed’. We are moving forward again. I’m being a good patient. I am highly motivated. I really want to get back to playing the uke, rolling down the road and eventually ride my bike again. On the positive side, since I’ve been unable to help with the ‘boy bus stuff’ Wendy’s been picking up all the outside stuff that I usually do: making the electrical connections, starting the compressor, dumping the black tank, putting the awnings out, leveling the bus, doing all the driving and parking, adding fresh water, checking the oil! Amazing.
I’ve decided that I’m going to have to take a more conscious approach to being careful and paying attention. I’m not going to be able to depend on my ‘luck’ or ‘balance’ or ‘experience’ so much as I have. The cost of a mistake is just too high.