Sep 9, 2019 – Breaking from Normal

Our first evening on the beautiful White River.

This part of our trip began with great anticipation and much preparation building up to one thing, the White River in Bull Shoals Arkansas. But that all ended just as quickly as it began. Let me start by describing how the preparation played out.

Much of Vivian’s spare time (when she is not fishing) is to prepare for and learn about different fish species she will encounter on our travels & how to lure and catch them. And she is learning how to tie flies. In addition to watching an inordinate number of YouTube videos narrated by slow talking fishermen who are willing to share every last infinite details of their fly tying skills, Vivian collects animal parts and tries to make them look like insects. And often as she is hunched over the table with said animal parts and lots of shiny twine, I can hear mumbling words like “I am going to need new eyeglasses”.

Fly tying takes up some space in the RV.

Her skills go beyond the challenges of manual dexterity. Vivian, who speaks fluent Spanish and English has picked up a third language. And through association by proximity, I have necessarily expanded my vocabulary as well; although many of the words seem nonsensical, like “wooly bugger”, “Chernobyl ant”, “hippie stomper”, and “the hunchback scud”. This is the language of fly fishing and it is spoken often in our RV.

The White River in Bull Shoals Arkansas is famous for its trout fishing and would be our greatly anticipated next destination following Bennett Spring State Park in Missouri. And with a ridiculous spike in luck, Vivian secured a one-week reservation for a riverside campsite at the Bull Shoals State Park. In the afternoon, we arrived at our campsite, one of the premier spots on the river. But something was wrong in paradise. The water level was extremely high and the current was wicked fast. We watched drift boats motor against the current past our campsite and then minutes later drift downstream as their fishing occupants attempted to catch a fish. Boats repeated this pattern several times as the evening set in. There were no fishermen wading these waters.

This presented a problem for Vivian who has been anticipating wearing her waders and boots to walk into the White River from our campsite. With sheer resolve in her heart, Vivian would try her luck casting a line from the shores of the White River. After Bull Shoals, we had three more fishing locations, so if the White River did not work out, there would be plenty of opportunity for Vivian to quench her flyfishing thirst. Both of us had much to look forward to during the next few weeks in Arkansas.

The stairs the lead to the scene of the crime.

The next morning, I hiked briskly up a rocky path through a steep forested ledge. Coming from the Everglades, I was not use to this kind of terrain and so I used extra precaution negotiating rocks and inclines. Like any other RV traveler, Vivian and I have thought about worse case scenarios and how we would manage them. One of those scenarios is getting injured while hiking. So, I walked carefully through the woods and periodically checked my phone for assurance of a signal. Eventually, I hiked back to the campsite to grab my bike and explore the rest of the park.

My phone rang as I was putting on my helmet. It was Vivian. I couldn’t think of any good reason why she was calling me since she was out fishing. I answered and immediately knew something was wrong. “I need you to come help me, I think I might have broke something”.

The long haul back to the truck.

Vivian is probably the most careful person I know when it comes to any form of physical activity, so I could not imagine what had happened. As I drove the truck to her location, I reckoned the worst case scenario was a strained muscle and with some RICE, she would be fine in a few days. When I saw her sitting on the steep steps that led down to the watery banks of the river, I saw it was a bit more serious, most likely an ankle sprain since her left ankle was clearly swollen. “Must be a sprain, broken bones don’t cause that much swelling, do they?” My attempt at rationalizing that it was not as bad as it looks was not getting us anywhere because it became very clear that Vivian could not walk. I had to get her up those stairs and into the behemoth truck.

Luck is a mysterious thing. Of course, breaking one’s ankle in two locations is not lucky, but what happened next can only be construed as pure luck. At best guess, Vivian broke her ankle at about 7:30 am. With the help from strangers, I got her in the truck and we arrived at the Baxter Regional Medical Center in Mountain Home by 8:30 am. Visions of small town health care inadequacies and insurance denials were dancing through my head. But we had to do what we had to do.

Relieved to learn our insurance covered the facility, we found ourselves in the examining room by 8:45 am. Vivian was doing well so far and later we read the doctor’s report which included the following description of his patient, “She is a pleasant and positive female”. I never saw her wince in pain.

A bimalleolar break.

By 9:00 am, Vivian was wheeled to X-ray and by 10 am, the report from the on-call physician came in. Expecting to hear the word “sprain”, we were harshly jolted into reality when told Vivian had not one, but two breaks in her left ankle. Vivian attempted to reconstruct the event in her head and seriously could not remember what happened except walking slowly on the grass near the river and then laying on the ground. She did hear a ‘snap’, which was not the sound of her fishing rod breaking after all.

Screws & plate in place.

Without skipping a beat, the doctor told us Vivian would need surgery. Oh, this just keeps getting better! Now, I was thinking about our living and traveling situation. Staying on at the state park was not an option, we would have to move to another campground after our 1-week reservation ended and I would have to do the moving. But before we get to that part, back to the surgery. Since it was a Tuesday, we thought that at best, surgery might be later in the week, maybe Thursday or Friday. Instead, the doctor gave us a most sincere apology and said “We can’t schedule your surgery until 1 pm today because you ate breakfast.” Both feeling bemused and relieved, Vivian was whisked away for surgery preparation. During that time, we met the orthopedic surgeon who by reputation is one of the best in the area. Did I mention having luck? The surgery went well – plates and screws inserted with no problem. I had Vivian back home by 4:30 pm.

Vivian receives a crash course in crutch walking before leaving the hospital.

We were faced with the spectacular task of getting out of the truck and to the RV door, up the RV steps and up the steps to the bedroom. This was going to be interesting. All I wanted was to get Vivian comfortable and not moving for the next couple days while I could frantically figure out what needed to be done and where to go next, make phone calls, cancel upcoming reservations and make new ones, acquire necessary medical equipment, etc. As luck would have it, Vivian was not in pain. But she was incapacitated. And as she lay in bed after overcoming the challenges of using the tiny bathroom, it was at that point we were hit with the reality of how dramatically our RV travels had changed in one day.

8 hours following the break.

RV Tips and Issues

The obvious tip here is be prepared for anything, especially if you are full time living in an RV. You may be an optimist but you do have to consider the possibilities and be ready to deal with them. As you prepare for travel, begin your sentences with “What if…?”, and then think through how you would deal with it. This may require putting certain things in place ahead of time, like purchasing insurance that will cover you if you need to have the RV transported back home. Of course, health insurance is a big deal and not having consistent coverage state to state can be a huge problem. In short get your belongings, finances, insurance, family members, etc on board to help anticipate and minimize the fall out from any event that might happen.

2 thoughts on “Sep 9, 2019 – Breaking from Normal

  1. Vivian made the broken ankle look like so much fun that Lorraine just had to go and mimic her!! Very well written story. Having your bases (and basics) covered before starting out on your journey is wise advise. It leaves time in your schedule for the “unexpected surprises”. We are glad she is making such a speedy recovery.


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