The Georges in Peru

Post Op Day #1

29 Jul 2020

Mary Beth is doing well and having a good day.  She's able to stand or sit up without feeling like she is going to pass out. Last night she shed tears of joy when she said that she took what felt like the first deep breath of her life!  We are so thankful that she had the surgery here as her case was more complicated than usual.  The surgeon wrote in Mary Beth's operation note:  "This case was substantially more difficult than usual". Because of COVID I can only visit her once a day, but I don't think there is a time limit to my visit, so I'll be here from 1:30 until 6:00 pm.  She's sleeping right now (3:00 pm).  She will probably go home tomorrow, if they can take out the chest tube today and if she does well overnight.

The kids and I moved from the hotel next to the hospital to a house on a golf course about 30 minutes away.  We feel like we are being spoiled.  

Surgery Day!

28 Jul 2020

The day has finally arrived!  A month ago MB decided, "I want to go to Mayo.  I'm going to tell God that's what I want, even though it doesn't look like it is possible.  He likes to give us what we want if we ask for it."  So she started praying to be able to go to Mayo and here we are against all odds!

We're hoping that Mary Beth will suddenly be able to stand up without being light-headed and having tachycardia (fast heart rate) again.  We were told that it very likely won't be instantaneous, especially since she will be sore immediately after surgery, but we are hoping for a quick improvement.  We were told to realistically expect 3 weeks to 3 months to be back to normal.

I was given a tracking number to follow Mary Beth's progress like a marathoner with a chip in her shoe.  She is the top yellow in the right column ending in '434'.

1:36 pm

Everything went well.  The surgeon said she had to put in 3 bars instead of 2.  She said the heart was being compressed even more than Sunday's echocardiogram had demonstrated.  I'm not surprised, having taken care of her and monitoring her heart for the last 2 months!

8 appointments!

27 Jul 2020

8:45 am

Mary Beth had her echocardiogram.  It took the U/S tech quite a while to get good views of Mary Beth's heart, but it showed that her right heart outflow tract was markedly compromised.

10:30 am

Met with Pamela Valer the international patient coordinator.  Turns out she is originally from Lima, Peru!

10:45 am

Met with Chris from the business office to pay our deductible for the insurance company.  

11:00 am

Mary Beth had blood tests taken.

11:10 am

Mary Beth had a chest X-ray.

12:45 pm

Time for an EKG!

3:15 pm

Met with the surgeon and her nurses.  Surgery is scheduled for 10:30 am tomorrow!

4:15pm

Got pre-op photos taken. 

Whew!   As a physician, I was amazed most by how 'the trains all run on time at Mayo'.  At each of the appointments, we got in a line to check-in and they told us to sit in the waiting room and in every case we never had to wait more than 5 minutes before being called.

And just for fun:

Hottest Mary Beth has ever experienced.

Sunday Update

26 Jul 2020

6:47 am

Mary Beth got her results from her nasal swab test yesterday and they are negative, so she was allowed to go in for her MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram) to make sure the circulation to her head is unimpeded by cholesterol plaques or anatomical abnormalities. 

8:00 am

Attended our Peruvian church by zoom.  They collected an offering for us, which made us feel very loved.  They ask about how things are going daily and are praying for us.

10:00 am

Dropped Mary Beth off at the door of the hospital for her MRA and they swept her away, saying I could go no further than the lobby.   It took them longer than expected and Mary Beth found it surprisingly difficult to hold still in the machine. 

Arrived in Phoenix!!

25 Jul 2020

Yesterday, we got up at 5:45am to get ready to go to the repatriation meeting point at Larco Mar, a park/shopping mall in the rich part of Lima.  We were there before our 7 am appointed time and found a line of 300 people waiting to get on the buses for the air force base.  I parked our Nissan Patrol  near the end of the line and we left Mary Beth lying in the back while Mia and Paul waited in line.  Mati and Titi Rogers  (thank you!!) went with us to take our truck to its parking spot for the next few months.  It was clear that the line wasn't going to move quickly, so they offered to go back home to wait and I'd call them when we were closer to the front of the line so that Mary Beth could lie down in the truck. 

We loaded bus #8 at 11 am, thankful that Mary Beth could lie down nearly the entire wait and thankful we hadn't had to sit in the bus for 4 hours like those who were first to arrive.  But, our bus was the last to unload and we had sat on it until 3 pm when we finally got off and sat in a tent where they checked our documents and temperature. 

We brought along a yoga mat for Mary Beth to lie on while we waited to be processed, which helped a lot.  They had wheelchairs to move Mary Beth from bus to tent to bus/plane, which was a big help too.  She had a sleeping pod in businees class on the jet and Paul, Mia and I sat just one row behind her in steerage.  We had really nice seats though.  We took off about 2 hours late.  Thankfully, Mary Beth's golden ticket (aka wheelchair) swept us through immigrations and customs quickly and we got to our hotel in the airport at about 12:30 am. 

Many people prayed for Mary Beth to have the strength to be able to sit up during the transitions through the airports and their prayers were answered.  A week ago, she wouldn't have be able to do it.

5:40 am

We had to get up again after only 4 or 5 hours of sleep and get on our flight to Phoenix.  Mary Beth had a first-class seat on that flight too, but unlike the Delta flight, these seats didn't recline more than enough to tease you.  Luckily, the entire row in front of Paul, Mia and me back in steerage was completely empty, so she came back and lay flat in it for the 4-hour flight.  She probably missed out on her caviar and champagne but it was the right thing at the moment.

We got our Nissan Pathfinder which has room for Mary Beth to lie down in the middle seat, and went to Mayo with 40 minutes before the deadline for getting her COVID test nasal swab.

She didn't like it.

We were very hungry by the time we got some food, but it was worth the wait:  cheddar cheese, sweet corn, sour cream, Tostitos® with guac and Tillamook icecream!

Thursday Update

23 Jul 2020

Tomorrow is a big day.  We have to meet at the Lima Marriott Hotel at 7 am with all of the other North Americans who got approved for tomorrow's repatriation flight.  They will take us in shuttle buses to the air force base (since the airport is closed to international travel) and we will wait outdoors in the cold and snow (okay, no snow, but it will probably be cloudy and cool 60˚F/16˚C) while they check all of our paperwork.  There is no water or food available while we wait, so we have to pack our own vittles until our flight leaves at 3 pm.   We get to Miami 5.5 hours later.

Mary Beth has been doing the best she has in weeks.  She's actually been sitting at the table and eating meals with us, which is great.  I wonder if it is the increased oxygen at sea level.

Trip to Lima

21 Jul 2020

5:29 am

My phone rang with a call from an unknown number.  Nope.  I wasn't going to answer it as we were getting ready to leave.  It was probably a COVID patient looking for an oxygen tank or someone with a grandfather with COVID.  We were hoping to load the truck and head to Lima before 6:00 am.  

6:09 am

Only 9 minutes late.  After a prayer for a good trip, we're on our way to Lima.  Mary Beth was pretty comfortable lying down.  In fact, she joked that she should always travel that way, lying down on a makeshift bed in the back!

6:15 am

The phone rang again from the same number that called at 5:29. I had Paul send the message, "Sorry, I can't take your call right now, please leave a message."  Undeterred, they called back.  "Well, I guess there's no reason I can't answer patient questions about COVID while I'm driving.  Go ahead and answer it."  It was the highway police.  "Have you left yet?"  "Yes, we're on our way."  "Good.  You are going to be stopped along the way to Lima.  If you have any problems have them call this number."  That was weird.  I tried to figure out what possible type of scam this could be and how some thief would use this to their advantage.  The embassy must have sent them our travel plans they had requested from us to get permission to travel.  Sure enough, 30 minutes later, as we drove by km 48, all the cars ahead of us were waved through the traffic stop and then the policemen suddenly had a look of 'Here they are!' and they motioned us to pull over.  "Your embassy letter." he demanded politely.  Didn't ask for ID.  Didn't ask for a driver's license.  He took a picture of our embassy letter and scanned our license plate and said, "Have a nice drive!"  We were stopped two more times on our 14-hour 45-minute trip, and both times, they scanned our license plate and waved us onward.

8:54 pm

We drove up to the SIM Lima guest house!  Mary Beth did well lying down.  She was a bit dizzy and tired and hopes to recuperate over the next two days before the next leg of our journey.  We are thankful to have arrived well.  The kids did great and commented several times that it wasn't as bad as they expected it to be!

Monday Update

20 Jul 2020

Today Mary Beth had a good day.  She was able to sit up more than she has in weeks.  This bodes well for getting through airport lines.  Today was packing day before our drive to Lima tomorrow.  We gave the house sitter a tour and bought our face shield, which are required to fly on Friday.  We made our food for our trip tomorrow as we won't be stopping at any restaurants.  Some other Canadians made the trip last Thursday and told us that it took their driver only 13 hours, but they thought he was driving a bit fast, so we'll plan on 15 hours.  We hope to leave before 6am.   And more good news, Aetna says they'll reimburse our commercial airline flights for Mary Beth!

9:32 pm

Steve Carnazzo, an old friend from Omaha, found a condo for us to stay in while we are in Phoenix.  The owners are letting us stay there for free!  Praise God for his generous people!

Sunday Update

19 Jul 2020

The US embassy was super quick giving us a transit letter that allows us to drive to Lima, so we are going to go on Tuesday.  Hopefully, we can go all the way to Lima in one day, but if Mary Beth is too tired, we'll stop somewhere along the way, if we can find a place that looks COVID safe.  Arequipa is getting pretty bad with COVID virus, so we are glad to be getting out of here.  I had several patients' family members call today asking to borrow our oxygen tank as they are scarce right now.  Unfortunately, I can only help one at a time.  

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