Our last post for a week or more...

Ironically, we arrived in South Africa, one year ago today. Its been a fantastic year and we're both grateful for the stunning experiences we've had in the bush.  Now, let's see if South Africa can deliver me good health!

This will be the first time since March 2012 that we'll have been incommunicado on this blog for a week or longer.  However, we're so looking forward to sharing the good news that my recovery process is in place and all is well after tomorrow's triple coronary bypass surgery.

Tom will be posting notices on Facebook that are open to the public so feel free to check there if you'd like.  I'm easy to find my name with a few clicks. 

As mentioned in yesterday's post, we decided to leave Marloth Park to come to Nelspruit one day earlier than planned.  The water and power outages weren't something either of us felt like dealing with especially in the hot weather.

As it turned out, the power was out all last night.  That would have been one tough night. We are glad we left.  We spent the night at the lovely Leaves Lodge and Spa, a few minutes drive from the hospital, giving us peace of mind for being so conveniently located.

Today, at noon I'll check into the hospital for the prep required for this type of surgery which includes x-rays (for placement of the heart), blood tests (as a baseline) and a litany of other pre-op procedures you can well imagine.

This morning we headed to a Vodacom store to purchase a SIM card for Tom's phone.  During this past year in South Africa, we never had a need to call one another since we were always together making the SIM in my phone sufficient. 

But, now with him living at the hotel and me in the hospital, we'll need to be able to phone and text one another although he'll be with me most of the time.  Once I'm out of ICU, he'll bring dinner some nights since I'm certain the hospital food won't fit my way of eating. 

When I stayed overnight in the hospital last week after the angiogram, after not having a morsel of food all day, they brought me one chicken leg and a cup of plain spinach, not quite enough nourishment for this patient.  We'll see how that goes.

Now, the waiting game is on regarding the insurance company coming up with the money on time.  With a two-hour time difference between here and the UK, they may only be getting into their offices now and, it takes a few hours to process the funds.  I won't be admitted in time for the noon pre-op until after the insurance provides the funds.  We wait.

And so, dear readers, I wrap this up now again thanking all of you wonderful people for your thoughtful and kind well wishes and prayers.  Please keep an eye out for a post in about seven days or, if I'm healing quickly, perhaps even sooner.

Take care...


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Photo from one year ago today, February 11, 2018:
Due to a poor wifi signal, I'm unable to add the year ago photo.

No water in Marloth Park...Electricity teetering...The insurance challenges...

Due to problems with the electricity supply from the provider, Eskom, the water processing plant in Marloth Park is unable to function.  They are working on a solution but it could be days.  Also, it is possible we'll lose electricity as well over the next few hours.

Today is a scorcher, well into the 37C, (99F) range, with high humidity and tonight could be another one of those impossible-to-sleep nights without any relief by taking a shower without the water supply. TIA (this is Africa).  It's the way it goes.

I won't say, "thank goodness' we're leaving here tomorrow morning at 9:00 am for the hospital for triple bypass surgery.  That's not exactly how we feel.  Fortunately, we were able to take quick showers this morning using some of the remaining water in the tank.  Thank goodness that yesterday, I'd done all the laundry for items to bring to the hospital along with clothes for Tom for the week or more ahead.

As I was writing the above few paragraphs the power went out and came back on. about an hour later.  Subsequently, with no water and most likely no power we decided to spend the night in Nelspruit instead of heading out tomorrow morning.

Now back at the lovely Leaves Lodge and Spa who so kindly, have provided us with a discount for the long term stay, we have power, water, and good aircon.  We're set for the night.  Tomorrow, we have to check into the hospital by noon to begin the prep for Tuesday's surgery.

Somehow, I feel better being in Nelspruit three minutes from the hospital.  Now that I know that three of the four main arteries to my heart are 100% blocked, there's a smidgen more peace of mind until tomorrow.  Plus, I'm on medication to prevent a heart attack and, I have an ample supply of nitroglycerin in case of an emergency.  Wow!  Who knew?

Now aware of my situation it makes all the sense in the world to me.  In the mornings when I'd shower and dress for the day, I found myself feeling tired from these simple tasks.  At times, merely walking to the laundry room with an armful of dirty laundry made every step feel as if it were a chore. 

When we had dinner parties, I found myself wondering how my energy would hold up with all the cooking, prep and serving required for such an event.  Now I know and yes, I am grateful but none the less, a little terrified.  This is big surgery and I'm not any stronger, braver or tougher than the rest of us.

As for the insurance...on the day of the angiogram, at a cost of ZAR 80,000, (US $5871), the insurance company turned us down claiming I had an undisclosed pre-existing condition which was not the case. 

At the time we applied for the insurance over six years ago, I provided our 20-year family physician's contact information and copies of our medical records as requested including the three prescription medications I was taking (Tom takes no medication), one of which is a low dose hypertensive mediation.

The rep at the Nelspruit Mediclinic worked very hard with the insurance company, along with the doctor to no avail.  They wouldn't approve the claim before the procedure.  As per the hospital requirement, payment must be made in advance of treatment with or without insurance company approval. 

We paid out of pocket using our debit card since we wanted to avoid using regular credit cards.  We use credit cards to pay for all living expenses and future travel costs.  We didn't want to put such a large charge onto any of our cards.

Once we paid, we began the six-hour wait for our turn for the angiogram.  When the doctor discovered the magnitude of the blockages, he knew he couldn't do any stents.  The only option was triple bypass surgery. 

I stayed in the hospital overnight and in the morning before we left the hospital we met with the wonderful billing rep Trudy, to see how much the bypass surgery would cost and, ultimately how much money we'd have to come up with.

The estimated cost for the surgery was ZAR 700,000, (US $51,370) including some but not all of the doctor's fees. (We see how that rolls out).  With the rejection on the angiogram, we certainly didn't think they consider this added cost and again, we were declined.

Our only option was to liquidate assets immediately to ensure we'd have the funds in place by Tuesday morning.  The financial institution has a three business day turnaround in releasing funds. 

We called and spoke to the rep and for the first time in our lives stated, "This is a life-threatening emergency. We need the funds to be available immediately." By midnight Friday, the money was in our account.  Whew!

In the meantime, Friday night, Kathy and Don, had invited us to dinner at their lovely river view home in Marloth Park with friends Linda and Ken also in attendance. 

Before we left the house, I decided to call the insurance company one more time as well as write a letter I'd consider one of my better uses of the English language.

At this point, we were on pins and needles waiting for the money to come through in time but we had a good evening together with our dear friends while they all fussed over me, more than I'd ever imagined possible. 

Toward the end of the evening, I checked my phone as I had several times, and there it was...the insurance company instructed me to log into our account to find a letter waiting for us...they approved the bypass surgery!  They included a claim form for which we could file for reimbursement for the angiogram.

Sharing this news with our friends, as we sat around a bonfire in their garden, only added to our sense of relief.  Last night, the six of us went to Jabula Lodge and Restaurant for dinner and once again it was a celebratory occasion in support of my upcoming surgery on Tuesday. 

They presented me with gifts, hugs, and kisses, as did Dawn and Leon, owners of our favorite restaurant who provided a bottle of champagne and Amarula shots. I enjoyed a glass of champagne while the others tossed down the sweet shot.

Again, this morning before we headed to Nelspruit, Kathy, Don, Linda, and Ken stopped by to offer more support and love.  How did I ever get so lucky? Couple this with Tom's love and attention and zillions of comments and email messages from our readers, family members, and friends, I couldn't feel more loved.

May these warm wishes and prayers result in a positive outcome and I will be the happiest and most grateful person on the planet.  The pain and discomfort afterward will pale in comparison to my joy.

Thank you everyone... thank you with all of my heart!


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Photo from one year ago today, February 10, 2018:
After all the whale watching trips we'd done on tours these past years, to finally see plenty in Antarctica was a dream come true.  For more photos, please click here.

Finally a diagnosis and..we don't like it...Oh, my!..

Ms. Bushbuck always appears to have a smile on her face.  Love her and her offspring!
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
The four piglets certainly have grown over the past six months.  They are so fun to watch.
Sorry I didn't post yesterday.  With the news from the doctor on Thursday after the angiogram, I just didn't have it in me to sit down and write on my phone's small screen.  My laptop was in a repair shop in Nelspruit while I stayed overnight in the hospital.  Thankfully, they got it working again. There was an issue with the electrical plug-in.

I'll get to the bad news first, to avoid drama and anticipation.  I have three 100% blocked coronary arteries including what is called the "Widow Maker" (in this case, the 'Widower Maker).  Basically, I am a walking time bomb. I need coronary bypass surgery and I need it fast.

It's scheduled at the hospital with a thoracic surgeon that works with the cardiologist I've been seeing.  They both will perform with the surgery.  I feel as if I'm in good hands based on the number of positive comments from locals who know them well.  I have no choice. At this point, I cannot fly on an airplane or even be active for that matter...too risky.

We are both shocked.  How did this happen? The doctors say there was nothing I could have done to prevent this situation.  Heredity is the driving force and as hard as I've tried to stay healthy my entire life there was no way I could have prevented this outcome.

Of course, we are very grateful a diligent doctor, Dr. Theo Stonkquist, a GP in the little town of Komatipoort had the insight and expertise to insist I have an exercise stress test at his office last Saturday when I complained of intermittent jaw pain which was later described as angina. 

Although I breezed through the stress test with relative ease, barely out of breath, the printout didn't look good.  Dr. Theo immediately contacted Dr. Fanie in Nelspruit on "Whatsapp" and sent him the report.  He was adamant we get to Nelspruit to the Mediclinic first thing Monday morning for more tests.

For the early morning appointment, we booked a hotel near the hospital and stayed two nights. On Tuesday I had a CAT scan of my arteries and failed that test and others miserably.  An angiogram was scheduled for Thursday. 

We returned to Marloth Park, spent one night and called Dr. Fanie the following morning at 9:00 am.  He was short and to the point.  I definitely needed an angiogram promptly when the CAT scan showed one artery had a 100% blockage.

In the cath lab the next afternoon, after a many hour wait for my turn, I was told I'd be awake for the angiogram with only a mild sedative placed under my tongue.  Actually, it was quite interesting watching all the monitors showing my heart and its arteries.  The doctor, anesthesiologist and about seven support staff were informative and supportive.
Ms. Bushbuck's baby has sure grown over the past many months as well.
We'd hope he'd insert a stent and I'd be done.  But, not the case.  The angiogram revealed, before my own eyes, that three of my coronary arteries are 100% blocked. If I'd had a heart attack, he explained, I wouldn't survive it.  I'm so grateful this was discovered before we left for Kenya, known for not-so-good medical care.

Toward the end of the hour-long angiogram, the doctor explained (and showed me) why stents were impossible to place.  The only alternative was a triple coronary bypass which is scheduled for Tuesday next week, a mere three days from now.

I'm on medication in the interim and was told to avoid anything strenuous or stressful.  The strenuous part is a breeze.  The stressful?  Well, I can't imagine anyone on the planet not feeling a bit stressed over such a thing as open heart surgery, including striping arteries from their legs to replace those blocked in the heart. 

However, we are both so grateful this was discovered in time and pray for a safe and good outcome and speedy recovery.  As they say, "we may be down but we're not out."  Hopefully, six weeks from the time of the surgery, we'll be boarding our ship from San Antonio, Chile.  No pressure, just wishful thinking. 

No doubt, I will be a good patient and do everything I can to recover as prescribed and we'll continue on with our world travels.

As for the posts??? We will continue tomorrow, Sunday and again on Monday while I staying overnight in the hospital for Tuesday's surgery.  As of Tuesday, February 12th the posts will cease for five to seven days until I'm well enough to report.  I can't wait for that day!

Tom will be regularly posting updates on my Facebook page which is open to the public.  Please start checking back here by next Sunday.

Tomorrow, we'll be sharing the news on how this situation has been handled by our annual international health insurance company which information may be helpful for those traveling the world, expats and those contemplating traveling.

No words can describe how grateful we are for the outpouring of love and prayers from family, friends, and readers from all over the world.  We simply can't keep up with the email messages, comments, and texts.  We'd love to respond to each and every one of you but there simply isn't enough hours in the day.  We can only be humbled by your love, prayers, and kindness.

A special thanks to friends Kathy, Don, Linda, and Ken for inviting us for dinner last night (which was the originally planned night of our going away party - since canceled) and making the evening so filled with caring conversation, love and laughter.  Tonight, we all meet up again at Jabula, our usual Saturday night out.

Thank you...from the bottom of my "heart."

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Photo from one year ago today, February 9, 2018:

A sea of penguins.  For more details and final photos, please click here.

Sorry, no regular post today!

Tom and I are patiently waiting for my turn.  Tomorrow will be a new and brighter day and we'll post the outcome of today's findings.

Again, .thanks for all the prayers and we'll wishes!  Astounding!  We are so lucky to have all of you rooting for us!

Back to you no later than 24 hours from now.
Be well.