Emergency Healthcare While Traveling…My Story

By Steph | Healthcare

Mar 29

There are many reasons that people fear our lifestyle. We usually have a clever answer for every fear that someone raises. But in September of 2018, we were faced with a very scary situation that I never could have imagined...finding emergency healthcare while traveling.

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In The Middle Of Nowhere

Our very first EVER week of boondocking (that means no hookups in the wilderness for the non RV crowd) had arrived!

We found a spot literally in the middle of nowhere, between Sterling and Fort Morgan, Colorado at Prewitt Reservoir. It was beautiful! Like a little oasis in the middle of the Great Plains. We had a great week!

We had been there for 5 days and knew that we were getting low on generator fuel. It was also almost time to dump our tanks, and we were completely out of groceries and clean laundry. We had planned to pack up and move so that we could take care of all those glamorous RV life things. However, our plans don’t always go as planned…

I had been having lower abdominal pain and cramping on and off for the last two weeks. I kept ignoring it thinking that it would go away. Until Thursday night. Derek was putting the kids to bed, I was cleaning up after dinner, and all of a sudden I felt a very sharp pain in my lower abdomen. I tried to lay down but couldn’t get comfortable. I tried going to the bathroom. I tried walking. But nothing was helping the pain. I started to get light headed and told Derek that it was time to go. I needed help.

Healthcare While Traveling

I have never thought about what we would do if we needed healthcare while traveling. Call me naive, but we are super healthy people and I really just had not worried about it.

We were parked about half way between two small towns and so we picked the one that was about 5 miles closer than the other. When we arrived at the Sterling Emergency Department, my pain had escalated off the charts!

They took me straight back and I was given Morphine for the pain, a pelvic exam, made to pee in a cup, had blood work taken, and then had an ultrasound.

After a short wait, the doctor came back in the room and says, “Well, I wasn’t expecting this…but, you’re pregnant.”

The next few moments were filled with lots of questions, and lots of emotions. We had no clue. We were not trying, and I was on birth control.

Wow! A baby. That was unexpected! But, we have three kids, what’s one more? I just kept wondering, but why am I in this much pain? Why have I been having awful symptoms for two weeks? Is something seriously wrong?

No Answers

When the results from my ultrasound came back, the doctor informed us that they couldn’t see anything. No baby, no sac, no nothing. He told us that it was still probably too early to see anything and that I needed to rest, and follow up with an OB the next day. 

We left the hospital with more questions than we arrived with. I was pregnant according to the blood tests, but because of the amount of pain, I could be miscarrying, I could have an ectopic, or it could just be a normal pregnancy, and something else was causing my pain. And was our insurance going to cover our healthcare while traveling?

The one thing we knew is that we would not be leaving the next day to head north.

I went to bed that night, tossed and turned, wondered what on earth was wrong, and what I was going to do.

Do NOT Leave Town

On Friday morning, I followed up on the phone with a local OB. They were a little confused, (and very intrigued) by the fact that we were only seeking healthcare while traveling through the area and did not have a family doctor. I explained that we travel full-time and we were only planning to stay one more day.

They reiterated that now we had to stay until we figured out what was wrong with me. Their fear was that I could put myself in a life threatening situation and be out in the middle of nowhere.

The doctor told me to rest, and to return to the ER in two days for follow up bloodwork. That would hopefully tell us what was going on.

What Now?

On Saturday, we were out of generator gas, needed to dump our tanks, and were running low on groceries. We loaded up the RV, and hauled it to the nearest dump station. We filled up with gas, grabbed some groceries, and took our kids to the park.

While we were out and about, I felt my body getting weak. I slept in the truck on the way back to our site, and then went to bed. When I woke up the next morning, the pain was gone!

I thought I had gotten over whatever it was, and that life would be going back to normal. 

Little did I know, there was a lot happening inside that I couldn’t feel or see.

Not Our Plan…Again

Before heading into town on Sunday to have by blood drawn, we let the kids play in the water. I went about doing all my normal daily chores.

 While picking up outside, I was suddenly hit with a strange pain. But it was different then before. It was sharp in my left side, and was running down into my left leg. We started heading to town, and I started getting short of breath.

I told Derek that I would be checking myself back into the ER and to go straight there. At this point, I was almost passing out from the pain.

I had another ultrasound and more blood work. As a respiratory therapist by trade, I knew something was wrong when they came in to get a second round of blood work, and I could hear the doctor on the phone with another physician.

No One To Help

The doctor pulled up a chair, and told me that I had an ectopic pregnancy. He was concerned that it was already in the process of rupturing, which is life threatening. It needed to be taken out, and fast.

There was a problem though. The little hospital had only one OB/GYN Surgeon, and she was out of town.

We were given two options. Go to a small hospital 40 minutes away. Or, go to a larger hospital that had a trauma center and more resources, but it was an hour and a half away. We didn’t know what to do and asked the doctor what he would do if it were his wife.

He said to go to the smaller hospital. I was in so much pain at this point, I felt like I was dying. They were able to get my pain under control for the ambulance ride, and I was sent on my way.

So Little Time

When we arrived at the hospital in Fort Morgan, Colorado, they immediately went to work getting me ready for surgery. I told them that my husband was on his way, and I would like to wait for him. But, they told me that might be a bad idea, and we should just start the surgery without him.

I called Derek and let him know that they were already taking me back, and that I would see him when I woke up.

The next thing I remember was waking up with the Doctor standing over me.

“It had ruptured,” she said.

She said that had we waited even five more minutes, or had I chosen to go to the other hospital, I may not have made it. It’s still hard to believe that I could have died that night.

It was only by the grace of God that things worked out the way they did. We may have been in the middle of nowhere, but we were in the perfect place. He had the right team of doctors, and nurses, and other people in the right place, at the right time.

5 MORE MINUTES.

I still just keep saying it in my head over and over. He was watching out for our family that day, as He always does.

Recovering On The Road

Two days after surgery, we decided that it was time to move on. We would be better off at a full hookup site while my body recuperates and so we decided to come back to Buckley AFB and stay for a few weeks at the FamCamp here.

I am bruised from the internal bleeding, and really sore, but mostly am emotional over the loss of that little life and the thoughts of "what could have been."

We plan to head to Texas for the winter in a few weeks, and hopefully, I will be back to my normal self by then.

My Thoughts

If you have ever had a health scare while far from home, how did you handle it? How did you get healthcare while traveling? We are lucky enough that our health insurance is accepted pretty much everywhere, and we are able to access care without jumping through any hoops.

If you are an RVer, have you had an emergency while on the road? Have you had a hard time getting healthcare while traveling?

There really wasn’t anything we could have done to be prepared for a situation like this. But, I am reassured now, that no matter where we are, there are good people. There are good hospitals, and caring doctors, and loving nurses. And two of them happen to be in northeastern Colorado.

I am thankful for the amazing staff at Sterling Regional Medical Center, and Colorado Plains Medical Center. You both have outstanding people working for you, and I will always be grateful.

Together, they saved my life.

About the Author

Stephanie (Mom) is the crafty one. She puts up with everyone's nonsense with a smile...and a glass of wine.

  • 3tailsNtow says:

    Wow what a scary story, so glad things worked out and you’re still here. We’re just getting going ourselves but this is something we hadn’t thought about. Certainly will keep in our minds. Thank you for the insight into your personal life while traveling.

    • Steph says:

      It’s sometimes hard to open up about our personal lives, but this was part of the journey. Safe travels to you…maybe we will see you on the road!

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