The Business of Work Camping: Dealing with health issues

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By Sam Suva
Getting sick or injured on the road! We have been on the road for more than a decade and have had some interesting illnesses. How did we make it through that snarl? Grab a seat ’round the campfire and I’ll tell ya.

When we first hit the road, we had no health insurance. We looked around and the plans were outrageously expensive. The bumps and scrapes we received while working we bandaged up and medicated the best we could. It was enough for a time. I had poison ivy really bad once – it covered my hands and face! A few days later with over-the-counter anti-itch/rash cream and Benadryl, I was good to go. The odd splinter, bruise, blister or paper cut we could muddle through without a trip to the doctor.


However, we soon needed major surgery! I had a gallbladder that was trying to kill me. It had attacked me in the summer – I thought it was indigestion and tried to ignore it. When it took my breath away and stabbed me in the back, I reluctantly went to the emergency room. Without insurance I was charged the full amount for the visit, which I expected. When I made an appointment and went to the doctor, I was again charged the full amount and was told that it may not be that bad, that some folks can live with gallbladder attacks. Well, I couldn’t. A few months later and I was in so much pain I couldn’t sit up straight, so away we went to emergency surgery. After surgery, I felt immediately better and after some recuperating, I could carry on.

We did get insurance and we ended up with a few major surgeries after that, including heart surgery and hernias, which I won’t bore you with the details. Each time was an ordeal, because our work is our home. If we are not working, the bills are piling up and they are literally right outside the door.

It was immediately personal when I could not work: I felt like I was letting down those around me that were continuing to work and were even picking up my duties. What I hadn’t realized was that the campground owners and staff, even the guests, were very accommodating, allowing us time off to recover and then coming back with a reduced workload. The owners of the campground understood major medical emergencies and we were good workers, so they even paid for our recovering hiatus.

With all of the unplanned medical events in our travels, I can honestly say that it wasn’t that bad. The advice I can offer is, “Don’t delay.” The longer the wait, the more trouble there will be, the longer the surgery, the longer the recovery. My life is about preventive maintenance now: I have more pills to take, and that’s a bummer. However, all of the major issues have been rectified and the anxiety about lurking problems is now more of a shadow than a fully formed actionable thought.

As with the occasional tire or water leak, the human body breaking down is initially surprising and difficult to figure out how best to repair. Do your homework: If you have a need, get to know the doctor who will be working with (or on) you. Consider all your options then get to work fixing you – There are still the hedges to trim and the recreation hall needs another coat of paint.

See you down the road,

Sam

Sam Suva and his wife are work campers. They began work camping more than 10 years ago and have spent a lot of time working as they traveled. In this new weekly feature, they will share their experiences with you, with an emphasis on how to incorporate work camping into a full time RV lifestyle.

Read more articles about Work Camping.

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BWO

Medical emergencies on the road is my biggest fear. My husband was in emergency medical care for years, but when he gets sick, I panic! Here is what I have learned from experience. First, it is a good idea to carry your medical records with you, particularly list of medicines, medical issues, surgeries, etc. on a card in your wallet so that you can present it easily to an emergency provider. The first thing we do when we pull into a campground (or hotel when we are taking side trips) is to program the closest emergency care facility into our GPS. Sounds a little over-anxious, perhaps, but we have had the worst cases of flu and food poisoning while on the road!

Just last summer we found ourselves in a hotel in a strange town (work camping side trip so we left the MH at the campground). We were both sick as dogs from food poisoning. My husband became dehydrated and obviously needed attention. I had a porter help me get him to the car, rode to the first urgent care I found — only for them to tell me that he needed fluids and they couldn’t do those — so they sent me to another facility. Thank goodness they took him right in and started an IV. Meanwhile I had my barf bag with me, trying not to be sick myself. Absolutely miserable few days.

Lesson learned: don’t hesitate to ask for help or to call 911. An anxious and stressed spouse trying to find a hospital in a strange town can be a danger to self and others. The monitoring provided during an emergency transport can be life-saving; the professionals also know the best facility to care for your particular emergency; they are trained to care for both the patient and family. In this case, leave the driving and trip planning to them.

Safe travels!