Skip to Content

Emergencies are just a bump in the road

| Updated Jun 12, 2017

You all know Jennifer and I believe in serendipity travel, or not planning everything out down to the last mile so, as opportunities present themselves, we can pull over and stop and experience something new without worrying about reservations or a timetable.

But I can honestly say that Rochester, MN and the world famous Mayo Clinic was NOT even on our serendipity plans for this trip.

And yet that's where I spent Friday through Sunday, as a patient undergoing emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder.

Emergencies are just a bump in the road 1
St. Mary's Hospital at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN

We were on our way west, traveling out I-90 on our way to a Roadtreking gathering at Glacier National Park when pain forced me off the road to the nearest hospital – which just happens to be top rated hospital in the whole world.

It first opened in 1889 as St.Mary's Hospital and run by the Sisters of Saint Francis. They enlisted local physician W.W Mayo as their first consulting doctor and soon his two sons, William J. and Charles H. Mayo, joined. The excellence of care and the emphasis on research led to a medical school and clinic that has grown and expanded and become the nation's premiere health care facility, consistently ranked as tops not nly in the U.S. but the world.

Emergencies are just a bump in the road 2
This painting hangs in a display off the lobby, depicting the Mayo brothers doing surgery near the turn of the last century. Note the nurse in the middle, holding something like ether under the patient's nose to keep him asleep

That's where I found myself Friday noon.

The first dilemma we faced was where to park the Roadtrek as we wheeled into the hospital. Our 10-foot high, 24-foot long 2017 Roadtrek CS Adventurous XL 4X4 would not fit in the designated parking ramps and garages. Jennifer talked to security and they literally made a spot for it, right in the ER driveway. No problem, they said. Jennifer could have spent the night out in the parking lot in the Roadtrek, but they wheeled in a cot and she stayed in my room with me.

At the admitting desk I was surprised that as soon as I gave them my name and date of birth, they had all my personal and medical history with just the tap of a keyboard. How could that be? Then I remembered that several years ago, Jennifer had the idea that we would do a double date to Mayo, to have one of their famous comprehensive, two-day physicals. Is she a romantic or what? Well, anyway, we never got around to that date. But the hospital still had all our info in their system and I was saved lots of time having to fill out medical history as a new patient.

The second dilemma came with the diagnosis and was of my doing. After hours of tests, an abdominal ultrasound in the ER showed a 5 mm gallstone almost completely blocking the 7 mm neck of the gallbladder. Surgery was advised as the risk of infection was high, But I balked. We had an RV trip to take and I was due at Glacier in a little over a week's time. I did not want to let a little pain delay the trip.  Okay, make that a lot of pain. But still, I was on the way to Glacier.

The docs tried as diplomatically as possible to convince me of the urgency of the situation. I was not convinced. Then Jennifer undiplomatically took over. I was convinced.

They admitted me just before midnight Friday night and did the surgery late Saturday afternoon. It probably would have happened a little earlier but there was a big motocross race not far from here and the ER was filling up with injured bikers from the day's  festivities. They took me into the OR at 4PM. Fortunately, they did it all laparoscopically, meaning there was minimum trauma to my body. Just four little holes, one for a miniature camera, two for the equivalent of surgical chopsticks to tie off and put the gallbladder into something resembling a zip lock bag, which was then pulled out through the fourth holes. They had fancier sounding names for it all but that's essentially how it went.

That's a vast improvement from the way it used to go. In the lobby is a display featuring items from the hospital's storied past. One of them is a spoon…. a spoon!… used by Dr. W.J.Mayo to scoop out gallbladder stones.

Emergencies are just a bump in the road 3
This is the way they used to remove gallbladder stones

Anyway, such has been our serendipity this weekend. On Sunday afternoon, they discharged me.

We're going to follow the hospital's advice and not travel too far for the next couple of days, just to make sure there are no post-op complications. But come Tuesday or Wednesday, with the blessing of the docs,  we will fully resume our trip west. The only restrictions I have are not lifting anything over 10 pounds and avoiding strenuous hikes that are uphill. I'll be able to do most everything else. On a photo hike to a little lake I know where we can take pictures of moose, I'm sure I can get someone to help carry my photo gear.

All is well. And we learned five valuable lessons about the RV lifestyle.

  • Emergencies can and will happen. But they can be handled.
  • Take things a step at a time. Count setbacks as part of the serendipitiness (is there such a word?) of life. Stuff happens. You deal with it.
  • Help is never that far away. Between the two of us over the years, we've been in hospitals across the country in our RV travels for such things as a broken bone, a bad case of pneumonia and now my gallbladder. We've been to big city hospitals and small, rural 10-bed hospitals. Excellent medical care is always available.
  • Worrying about what might happen is the silliest waste of time there is.
  • Life is an adventure.  There's something to be learned and appreciated from every experience. And for me, there's always a story in it. Like this one.

See you in Glacier!


Mike Wendland

Published on 2017-06-12

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

4 Responses to “Emergencies are just a bump in the road”

June 19, 2017at2:57 pm, Connie Brady said:

I also had emergency surgery, with complications, on our recent camp trip. Mine was my appendix (with gall bladder to follow once this is healed.) My complications were a mild heart attack and pulmonary Emboli (blood clots) that came the day after discharge. We were in the mountains in western Colorado and thankful for good medical care with 50 miles. My lesson, if it hurts and symptoms don’t ease, trust your instinct and check it out! Thankful to be 6 days post op, and looking forward to our next adventure.

June 19, 2017at7:29 am, Pat H. Otto said:

Glad you were in the right place at the right time! We live 90 minutes away from Mayo Hospitals and Clinics and have had need of their services in the past. We’ve always considered ourselves lucky to live so close to such great medical facilities.

I also enjoyed your blog on my hometown, Hannibal, MO. and the caves and 3 lost boys. De De Hoag was in my graduating class and it was a very sad time for Hannibal when those boys went missing. Your link to the Hannibal Courier Post article brought it all back.

June 12, 2017at12:31 pm, John DiPietro said:

The fact that you were near a GREAT facility is a big time bonus. Glad that everything “came out” OK!!!

June 12, 2017at10:17 am, Carol said:

Best wishes for a quick recovery! Sounds like you’re in excellent hands there.

Comments are closed.

Back to top