Thursday, August 2, 2012

Staying Healthy on the Road

Sometimes staying healthy and finding the time for checkups, treatment and followup with doctors is a challenge for full-time RVers and their pets. Both Shadow and I have had some challenges in this regard.

(Note: Sorry if this blog is too detailed and lengthy for some of my readers. You have my permission to stop reading now! But I had several requests for information, and this is the easiest way to distribute it to everyone.)

Shadow has been suffering from an infected salivary gland since early March. We first discovered the swollen gland when he was groomed by his favorite groomer, Terri of Terri’s Pup House in Benson, AZ.

We had already scheduled his annual checkup that afternoon at the Benson Animal Hospital. Dr. Paula Tyler determined the cause of the swelling and prescribed antibiotics. However, she found him to be otherwise healthy. The medication worked for a while, then the problem recurred.

As we traveled from Benson to Wickenburg, AZ, to Stockton and Lodi, CA, the problem recurred and we took Shadow to a veterinarian in each of those locations. Each doctor gave the same diagnosis, with a slightly different treatment, but all prescribed antibiotics.

The Stockton visit was the most expensive and intrusive, as the sudden return of swelling turned into an emergency on a Saturday night in April, just before the start of the big Western Area Rally for Escapees (WARE) that Don and I were hosting in Lodi. After the surgical insertion of a drain under anesthesia and being brought home around 3 am, Shadow wasn’t happy to be wearing a ‘lampshade.’


I couldn’t get a clear picture because he was constantly trying to shake off this awkward thing, and he kept running into chair legs and other obstacles that never presented a problem for him before. He seemed befuddled by the situation, trying to figure out why he was being punished when he didn’t think he’d been bad!

As we continued our travels, the swelling came back and we had more visits to more vets along our travels up the California and Oregon coastal cities, inland to the Portland area, then into Idaho and Wyoming. I’m sure Shadow was very tired of being poked and prodded.

He looks happy in this picture, even though he was still supporting a drain, because he managed to take over Bella’s bed when she wasn’t looking, while we were visiting Don’s late wife’s parents Dottie & Frank Azlin in Modesto.


Fast-forward through several other locations and veterinarians. Finally, now that we’re able to spend some time at our home base Hart Ranch Resort in Rapid City, SD, we’re getting to the end of this struggle. The vet at Black Hills Animal Hospital drained the swollen gland (again) and recommended surgery to remove the gland. She also highly recommended a surgeon experienced in performing the procedure, located in Sturgis, about 40 miles away.

Surgery is now scheduled for Monday, with expected recovery about 2 weeks. The only challenge will be driving to the vet’s office in the full throes of Sturgis Bike Week! Dodging thousands of motorcycles will be tricky, at best. But it will be great to finally have this problem solved!

Meanwhile, I’ve been struggling with pain in my right wrist, stemming from my thumb whenever I bend it or twist any part of my lower arm/hand. It first started hurting about the same time as my shoulder injury on the dune buggy in Oregon around the last week of May. I thought it might be related, but my shoulder got better and my wrist/thumb didn’t.

Dr. Goodhope in Rapid City referred me to Dr. Bolson, a hand orthopedic specialist. She diagnosed the problem as de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, a form of tendinitis, where the tendons around the base of the thumb are constricted and/or irritated and become inflamed and painful. The exact cause isn’t known, but repetitive movements (such as knitting/crocheting, both of which I love, or even gardening or racket sports) can aggravate the condition. Women are far more likely to be affected than men, for some reason.

There are several non-invasive treatments, including immobilizing the thumb and wrist with a splint or brace, and avoiding movements that cause pain. Here’s my current restrictive splint held on by wide Velcro straps. The gauze is just to make it a little more comfortable in hot weather.


I wear this 24/7 except for showering and doing exercises as prescribed by the therapist. Although I’m right-handed, I can do many things with my left hand, such as using a computer mouse. Having grown up with two left-handed sisters, I learned to do a few things left-handed, like ironing, since the ironing board was set up for lefties. It comes in handy now that I need my left hand to be the dominant one.

Anti-inflammatory medications, icing and cortisone injections can also help. So far, all of these treatments have been tried, with minimal improvement. I’m hoping that continued therapy will work so our travel plans won’t have to be changed again. The permanent resolution is surgery to release the tight covering of the tendon to eliminate the friction. It is simple, performed as an out-patient, but not recommended until all the non-invasive treatments have been given time to take effect.

Time is slightly limited for us, since we’re committed to serve on staff for the Escapade, to be held in Sedalia, Missouri, Sept 16-21, and we need to arrive a few days early. But as full-time RVers, we always say our plans are set in Jello and can be changed with just a shake of the bowl.

Meanwhile, I have a good excuse not to wash dishes! And, because of good health insurance, my treatments are far less costly than Shadow’s.