Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #104 Reconnecting And Disconnecting

And so another three months have passed. Our last log back in January suggested that we might be back on board Caloosa Spirit by early March, but such is not the case. By now we’ve accepted that plans for future cruising are nebulous fantasies which may or may not come to pass.

You may recall that a few months ago we were waiting for testing results to assure us that the boat’s water system wasn’t contributing to my lung problem, with the hope that we could get back aboard for some late-season cruising. The water system passed the test with flying colors! Needless to say, we were elated with that news. In the meantime, however, I had developed another cough reminiscent of the start of the mycobacterial infection some two years ago, so we needed to get that checked out before heading back south. The long and short of the continuing saga of recent visits with both my pulmonologist and my infectious disease doctor, several x-rays and CT scans, and a couple more bronchocospies is that my lungs are once again compromised.

For another month I underwent three-times-per-day IV treatments at home—the same drug treatment I had last summer. I was constantly tired during those weeks. The last bronchoscopy a couple of weeks ago really wiped me out, because my doc kept me awake during the procedure so that I would cough up the gook he was cleaning out of my right lung. I wasn’t a happy patient. For the last couple of months I’ve learned what it’s like to actually feel sick with this lung infection. For more than a year I was blessed to be symptom-free, but I guess the disease finally caught up with me. I’m feeling much better presently, but the off-and-on coughing regularly reminds me that all is not well.

The current status is both good news and bad news. The good news is that I’m presently off all my antibiotics and the mycobacterial infection seems to be gone. While that status is certainly cause for celebration, the bad news casts a significant pall over any consideration of festivity. A fungus has replaced the bacteria, and it’s destroying my lung tissue. So today I’m waiting for a new antibiotic to arrive in the mail—a rare (read: very expensive) drug to fight off the fungus—and a call from a surgeon to schedule surgery to remove the diseased part of my right lung. I’ve gotten the impression from both my docs that this surgery should happen as soon as possible.

Once past my surgery I expect to undergo some testing and exploration of my immune system. Getting the rare mycobacterial infection was one thing, and my docs were willing to treat it as an anomaly and move on. But having this fungus take hold is something else again. The fungus is everywhere, and everyone gets exposed to it at some point. So why has my immune system allowed both of these diseases to attack my lungs? I have no risk factors for a compromised immune system, and yet my body is acting as though that may be the case. We’d like to get some answers, rather than constantly wondering what’s next.

Throughout the last several months we’ve come to accept the loss of the vision of returning to liveaboard status. It has become clear that, due to the high probability of ongoing medical care around my lungs, we must maintain a home here in Indianapolis. After some minimal research we rejected any idea of transferring my medical care to Florida. It’s too apparent to us that the medical community in Indy produces and is a magnet for retaining top-notch providers, and that’s not something we take for granted. Also, our church family is a solid support system for us—one that we really can’t replicate elsewhere. We hope to be able to hold onto Caloosa Spirit if it’s financially possible, but we expect our cruising life to be restricted to a few weeks or months at a time. If keeping the boat becomes a financial and/or maintenance nightmare, we’ll know it’s time to find her another owner. Between hospitalization and recovery at home, I expect to be out of commission for at least half the summer, and then there’s the immune testing. Caloosa Spirit hasn’t been out of her slip in Gulfport, FL, since last July (for a brief motor in Boca Ciega Bay), and it appears that she’ll sit for several more months—at least through another hurricane season. Other than the bimini and dodger canvas that Jim put up last fall, she’s still hurricane-prepped, so that’s some help.

We’re still living in our one-bedroom, 630 sq.-ft. apartment. We still love the location and the view, but we know that the apartment is just too small for the long term. We’ve looked into larger apartments, but so far we haven’t found anything that we like enough to make a move. We’re still paying for a storage locker that’s only about 1/3 full, so it makes sense to find something big enough to accommodate all of our stuff. Presently, though, moving just isn’t in our time frame, so we’re satisfied to stay here for a while longer. At some point we’ll start to consider whether we want an apartment, a condo, or a house, but those decisions are beyond us right now.

I was finally able to get started on the new antibiotic, Vfend, and so far there have been no noticeable side effects. I don’t expect anyone out there to have heard of it, since most of the health care folks don’t recognize the name either. It turned out that my mail-order prescription service (thank you, God and MVCSC, for the service) overlooked the “urgent” and “overnight shipping” notices applied to the order and sent the med by standard shipping. So it’s not likely to arrive for another week or so. Because we and my docs are very concerned about controlling this aggressive fungus, we broke down and got a week’s worth of the drug from a local pharmacy—for almost $700!! The price of the mail-order 3-month’s supply that’s due to arrive? A whopping $12!! What’s wrong with this picture?! Who says we don’t need health care reform?!

Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now. While we’ve been sitting here waiting to see the surgeon in a couple of days, we’ve been enjoying our new crop of kidlets. Their mom brings them regularly to scavenge what the birds drop, and we always enjoy their visits. They seem to get bigger by the day.

New residents
This year’s newbies. Aren’t they cute?

We’re hoping to see some goslings someday soon. Several pairs of geese also visit our backyard regularly.

Well, the date has been set. We met my surgeon for the first time today, and my surgery has been scheduled for May 10. Between now and then I have to undergo some pre-surgery testing, such as a cardio-stress test and a pulmonary-function test. Yay. More poking and prodding. As I listened to the surgeon describe the incision, the pain, and the possible complications, I had to weigh the options. Have the surgery and take on all the pain and possibilities? Or not have the surgery and wonder how much of my lungs I’d eventually lose to this aggressive fungus? Losing a part of my lung now in hopes of keeping the fungus under control in the future seems to be the best choice, but I certainly dread going through this. The surgery lasts about three hours with recovery in a specialized unit for a day or so, then on to a room for the duration of 4-7 days, depending on how everything goes. I’ll be recovering at home for another 2-3 months. I’m sure that after a week in the hospital, I’ll be quite happy to get back to our little apartment home.

Presumably, it goes without saying that we greatly appreciate all prayers and concerns among our readers. Jim will attempt to post updates on my progress after surgery, and I hope to be back in touch in another couple of months.

Fair winds and a faithful wake until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford
s/v Caloosa Spirit

Posted Friday April 30, 2010

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  1. Dear Alice and Jim,

    We are SO SORRY to hear of all of your medical problems. We do concur with you all that you have made the right decision to go ahead with the surgery. In fact, I think it is the ONLY thing to do. I know it is difficult to make yourself do something like that, but you will not regret your decision. You will come out of this a “new person” and then can get back to CALOOSA SPIRIT!! Don’t you worry about a thing! Just know that we are thinking of you and you are in our hearts, thoughts and prayers.

    We are currently in Brunswick, Georgia and will return to the Chesapeake Bay for the summer – should be leaving here in a week or so. We look forward to hearing all about your recovery. Keep your chin up and keep smiling!!

    Your friends,
    Sherri and Clyde
    Aboard MORADA
    — Sherri and Clyde Leatherwood    05/02/2010 07:19 PM    #
  2. Oh, Alice, you need to catch a break! We’ll be thinking of you and hoping that all goes well with your surgery. Obviously, anything we can do for you in terms of Caloosa Spirit – just ask. We’ll be back in Gulfport tomorrow (May 3). Good luck and good health!

    — Gail Carroll    05/02/2010 07:28 PM    #
  3. Praying for you both; we can’t wait to hear the good news that the surgery was successful, you’ve recovered, quickly, and all symptoms have disappeared.
    — Jay and Nancy    05/04/2010 07:26 PM    #
  4. Both of you will be in our thoughts and prayers. We hope for good news soon.
    —Lowell & Judy Markley
    — Lowell/Judy Markley    05/07/2010 07:16 AM    #
  5. Alice and Jim, just caught up with all this, plus Jim’s email that the surgery was an hour shorter than expected, so that sounds good. So, so sorry that this has all happened to you. But keep the faith and one day we’ll see you out there again on CS. We were in Marathon again for 11 days and thought about you guys. We will pray for you. You have a wonderful spirit and you will get through this.
    Maureen and Dan O’Brien
    s/v Trinity (Catalina 42)
    — Maureen and Dan O'Brien    05/12/2010 10:19 AM    #
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