Many have asked which of the kids are traveling with us. I guess a picture from yesterday's trip will quickly show that Mia and Paul are with us.
My phone rang with a call from an unknown number. Nope. I wasn't going to answer it as we were getting ready to leave. It was probably a COVID patient looking for an oxygen tank or someone with a grandfather with COVID. We were hoping to load the truck and head to Lima before 6:00 am.
Only 9 minutes late. After a prayer for a good trip, we're on our way to Lima. Mary Beth was pretty comfortable lying down. In fact, she joked that she should always travel that way, lying down on a makeshift bed in the back!
The phone rang again from the same number that called at 5:29. I had Paul send the message, "Sorry, I can't take your call right now, please leave a message." Undeterred, they called back. "Well, I guess there's no reason I can't answer patient questions about COVID while I'm driving. Go ahead and answer it." It was the highway police. "Have you left yet?" "Yes, we're on our way." "Good. You are going to be stopped along the way to Lima. If you have any problems have them call this number." That was weird. I tried to figure out what possible type of scam this could be and how some thief would use this to their advantage. The embassy must have sent them our travel plans they had requested from us to get permission to travel. Sure enough, 30 minutes later, as we drove by km 48, all the cars ahead of us were waved through the traffic stop and then the policemen suddenly had a look of 'Here they are!' and they motioned us to pull over. "Your embassy letter." he demanded politely. Didn't ask for ID. Didn't ask for a driver's license. He took a picture of our embassy letter and scanned our license plate and said, "Have a nice drive!" We were stopped two more times on our 14-hour 45-minute trip, and both times, they scanned our license plate and waved us onward.
We drove up to the SIM Lima guest house! Mary Beth did well lying down. She was a bit dizzy and tired and hopes to recuperate over the next two days before the next leg of our journey. We are thankful to have arrived well. The kids did great and commented several times that it wasn't as bad as they expected it to be!
Today Mary Beth had a good day. She was able to sit up more than she has in weeks. This bodes well for getting through airport lines. Today was packing day before our drive to Lima tomorrow. We gave the house sitter a tour and bought our face shield, which are required to fly on Friday. We made our food for our trip tomorrow as we won't be stopping at any restaurants. Some other Canadians made the trip last Thursday and told us that it took their driver only 13 hours, but they thought he was driving a bit fast, so we'll plan on 15 hours. We hope to leave before 6am. And more good news, Aetna says they'll reimburse our commercial airline flights for Mary Beth!
Steve Carnazzo, an old friend from Omaha, found a condo for us to stay in while we are in Phoenix. The owners are letting us stay there for free! Praise God for his generous people!
The US embassy was super quick giving us a transit letter that allows us to drive to Lima, so we are going to go on Tuesday. Hopefully, we can go all the way to Lima in one day, but if Mary Beth is too tired, we'll stop somewhere along the way, if we can find a place that looks COVID safe. Arequipa is getting pretty bad with COVID virus, so we are glad to be getting out of here. I had several patients' family members call today asking to borrow our oxygen tank as they are scarce right now. Unfortunately, I can only help one at a time.
After a long day of chasing dead ends, Allen was finally able to book us a repatriation flight to the US of A for July 24th. Thankfully, spouses of American citizens are allowed! He got the very last fully-reclining seat on the plane for me which is exactly what I needed. This is my first time traveling business class and might be my last, so best enjoy it! Aetna, the insurance company, wrote us an e-mail right after he booked to tell us that they are unwilling to help us out on this venture, so we are extremely thankful we found another option. I must admit that this progress has me extremely excited and nervous all at the same time. You can pray I'll get well enough to sit up during transitions and for our 15-hour trip to Lima (we'll have to drive since the airport in Arequipa is still closed). This afternoon, Allen ingeniously came up with a travel arrangement for me!
Good news! Mary Beth was feeling so much better today that she sat and ate the first half of her dinner before going to the couch to finish her runza (if you aren't from Nebraska, a runza is bread dough filled with cabbage, spices and hamburger (or bacon!) and baked in the oven). This is the first time she's felt good enough to sit at the table for a couple of weeks.
The insurance company called to say that they talked to the surgeon in the States and will have a meeting tonight to discuss how to get her there. It was pretty non-committal. My first impulse is to write that I'm not expecting much to happen because the Arequipa airport is closed, but I'll ask you to pray for a miracle flight instead!
I find it interesting which things have become scarce in Peru. Like everywhere, toilet paper flew off the shelve at the start of the pandemic. There are actually studies to explain why that happens! Thankfully, TP has reappeared in Peruvian stores with no more limits on buying it. But other things that you might not expect to be scarce have also become hard to find. I asked at about 10 stores over the last week if anyone had mustard or ketchup and finally found both today. (I got my share of 'Mustard?! Seriously? NO! Nor do we have any European white truffles!' looks from store owners) Borrowing a Cuban tactic used to give the impression that stores are full of goods, the local supermarkets fill all the space that varieties of ketchup and mustard used to fill with what they have on hand. In this case, Mayonnaise!
We spoke with the thoracic surgeon at Mayo today after a week of anticipation. She said that Mary Beth absolutely needs to have the surgery but at the moment we can't schedule a surgery because of the COVID pandemic. So pray that it will be possible earlier rather than later.
This afternoon, we had an appointment for a phone call with Meagan, the nurse for the thoracic surgeon at Mayo. Everytime Meagan called, we could hear her but she couldn't hear us. Finally I ended up calling the Mayo switchboard and got transferred to Meagan's department and we could hear each other! She went over all of the risks of the surgery, pain control, pre-op, surgery and post-op timeline, and recovery time. She said that normally there was a 4-5 month waiting list to get the operation! But with the COVID pandemic she wasn't sure what we can expect. We should know more tomorrow.
And now for something completely different:
Our oven of 20 years quit two days before the lockdown started. Since I have replaced several parts on it over the years and it still leaked a bit of gas at times, we decided it was finally time to get a new one. We are so glad it was then, as we have had to cook all of our meals at home since March 16th. Our old oven has been sitting in our back yard since then since we can't take it to the junk yard.
Before lunch, I was riding my bike to the outdoor vegetable market and saw a pickup with a bunch of junk in the back, including an oven! "Hey!" I yelled, but the driver didn't hear me, so I turned around and chased him until he slowed down for a speed bump. "You want to buy an old oven?" "Let's see it!" "Follow me!"
He followed me to our house, loaded up the oven and even paid me $3 for it! If only Mary Beth could sit at the dinner table and look out over the back yard and see that it is gone!
A doctor in Tacna (four hours away) that I've been corresponding with by email, called me today. As far as I can tell, he is the only doctor in Peru that does this surgery on adults. He learned the procedure in Spain. He does 3 to 5 cases a year on adults and seems very careful, competent and was nice to talk to on the phone. So there's another option if things with Mayo don't work out.