Health Issues on the Road

by Julie and Kel Kohlhaas
(Paw Paw, MI)

Kayaking in Lake Superior in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Kayaking in Lake Superior in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Kel and I (Julie) have been retired (at 50) and have been RVing for 13 years. We pull a 20-foot travel trailer with a F-150 pickup, loaded up with kayaks and bikes, and are on the road for about 5 months total of the year. Since we have a solar panel installed on our trailer, we are self-contained and boondock camp almost exclusively. We are leaving January 22 for our usual 3-month trip throughout the southwest.

Our major challenge on the road has been health issues--make that heart issues. I had by-pass surgery March, 2000 at Phoenix Memorial Hospital. Going through major surgery 1,500 miles away from my family in Michigan made a difficult situation even more so.

Dealing with the on-going issues of heart disease has not stopped us very often from making extended RV trips. Visits to emergency rooms (and, consequently, hospital stays) have interrupted and/or cut short some of our trips but our love of the RV life and living in natural settings keeps calling us back. What we have finally come to is that heart issues may happen whether we're at home or on the road.

The main reason we took early retirement was to live this traveling life and, even though emotions run high during a crisis, we have learned to live one day at a time and not to make decisions out of fear about how to live our lives.

After my bypass surgery, my children weren't exactly happy to see us get back on the road again but, over the years, they have gained more confidence that we can stay safe on the road. They also know how much we love our travel life.

Even though we have had our share of health issues, they have not stopped us from doing what we love.

Comments for Health Issues on the Road

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Jan 02, 2011
Dealing with emergencies
by: Danang_doc

I'm a semi-retired ER nurse who has practiced many years in NYC. My sweetie and I are RV nomads so we appreciate the issues here.

Reality, as I see it; There is no guarantee that, if you have a major medical problem and you are in or near a major city, that you will get better care but that's the way to bet. Having said that, the meaning of "near" has changed with helicopter transport, sophisticated communication of word and data (ecg tracings, life support parameters, etc)., superbly trained people.

With a major cardiac event, survival depends, roughly, on three things, in this order:
What happened; with some events you will not survive no matter what, with others you have, perhaps, hours.
How fast you receive EFFECTIVE CPR, if this is required, immediately after the event occurs.
How fast you can get to a facility that is a "cardiac care center".

To survive, it is vitally important that you are not alone and that the person with you knows how to perform CPR EFFECTIVELY. Get certified by folks that present a tough, no nonsense, demanding course that teaches effective CPR. It's not that hard.

It is equally important to have effective communication to summon professional help. Effective communication requires that the means of communication is ON YOUR PERSON, not back at the car. Effective communication can be as simple as shouting, "Help" in an crowded, urban setting, to cell phone communication, to a SPOT transmitter ( - a device I ALWAYS carry out in the boonies) where no other communication means exist.

If you have emergency medication, make sure it is fresh and on your person. Make a READABLE list of your medications, your allergies, your conditions, your doctor's number. Make two copies, laminate them and put one in yours and one in your partner's wallet; ER people will look there in an emergency. Do not rely on your partner's memory during a crisis. Lastly, when in doubt, go to a medical facility. Half the folks we see have false alarms. This is good. This makes us happy. And remember, "Denial is not a river in Egypt. "Ah, it's only gas" can be lethal.

Now do your "homework", tuck this into the back of your brain and go out and have fun. Susie and I sure do.

Pietro, the nurse from hell

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