Health Emergencies While RVing

When we set out on our RVing adventure we didn’t consider how we would handle health emergencies. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to us. Jim had a terrible pain in his chest and we were scrambling to find the nearest emergency room. (What would we do without Google?)

I drove back and forth from campground to hospital, taking care of Jim and our two dogs and cat. Our reservations were up at our current park and there was “no more room at the inn”. That meant I also had to locate a new RV park and move our RV, all the time worrying about Jim.

Jim in Emergency Room

Finding a Hospital Emergency Room

We all think we’re invincible, but as senior citizens we have to face the fact that our bodies are wearing out. Health emergencies are just around the corner for most of us. Our emergency was serious and required a full-fledged hospital with all of its services. All larger cities have hospitals and a lot of small towns do, too. We were lucky enough to be at the outskirts of a fairly large city and, with Google’s help, we found a major hospital nearby. (Again, thank you, Google.)

But what would we do if we were dry camping on some remote BLM land? Would we be able to get to a hospital in time if we had a serious health emergency? Several months ago, Jim tried to cut off his thumb while we were dispersed camping in a National Forest. We had no phone service and were 13 miles down a Forest Service road. That road that was definitively a 10-mph road, but I managed 40 mph driving out to the nearest hospital, another 20 miles away. 17 stitches later, we decided we wouldn’t camp quite so remotely in the future.

Jim's Cut Thumb

What about minor health emergencies?

When we lived in a sticks-and-bricks house we had a primary care doctor who could take care of our health issues. But, as full-time RVers, we have to consider that we’re often far away from that family doctor.

It seems like walk-in clinics are popping all over lately. If you’re dealing with a cut that needs stitches, or the flu, these might be good places to go. Check first to make sure they take Medicare and your insurance. Also, read the reviews on the clinic. Stories abound of walk-in clinics that are a little unscrupulous.

Our Primary Care Doctor

Like us, you probably have a family doctor, but that family doctor may be hundreds or even thousands of miles away. When Jim was released from the hospital, we were told to follow up with our primary care physician. Luckily we were less than 500 miles from our old home and our family doctor. Going back there put a kink in our plans but at least it was a reasonable distance to travel. It did make me wonder, though, what we would do if we were 2,000 or 3,000 miles away from our family doctor. As a new patient it could take weeks to get an appointment with a new doctor. I honestly don’t know what we would do and I plan on discussing how to handle health emergencies with our doctor when we see him in a couple of weeks.

Insurance for RVers

We’re over 65 so we have Medicare and we have an additional supplemental insurance plan that covers what Medicare doesn’t. With our plan we can see any doctor that takes Medicare. Some HMO’s or PPO’s require that you see in-network doctors and may not cover doctors and hospitals out of your coverage area. I have no insurance background so please don’t take my advice. Talk to your insurance agent before you start your full-time RV adventure and make sure you’re covered.

Also, check your RV insurance. Many plans have coverage that includes the cost of hotels, flights “home”, towing, etc., if you need those things.

RV Parking at Hospitals

Here’s something I learned when this health emergency popped up: some hospitals, particularly larger ones, allow RV’s to park in their lots. Baylor, Scott and White Hospital in Waco, TX, actually has full hookups for RV’s. They understand that family members want to be near the hospital and are very accommodating. It never hurts to ask if they allow RV parking.

Report on Jim

I’m happy to report that after five days in the hospital, Jim was released (probably earlier than he should have been). He didn’t have a heart attack, thank goodness! He had an infection in his blood that started with a dry cough. He was having trouble breathing. The doctors weren’t able to diagnose the problem but treated him with a cocktail of antibiotics and he slowly recovered. We spent another two weeks or so hanging out in the general area so Jim could recover. This happened in early February, 2020. Hmm. . . No one was talking about Covid-19 at the time, but it sure seems suspicious.

I hope you never have to deal with this scenario, but a scare like this made me start thinking about other health emergencies that could arise. It’s something to consider when you start living on the road. Jim is particularly accident prone and we aren’t getting any younger!

 

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