Friday, October 17, 2014

Yum Family Reporting for Duty

So we fell into a pretty sweet camp hosting deal at a State Park in California. For those of you who are not familiar with camp hosting it’s basically a person who sells firewood, collects camping fees and helps campers get settled in. We also help fill in gaps for the rangers who patrol these parks by being a set of ears and eyes at the park. We had applied to work at this park and a bunch of others before we hit the road and never really got anywhere. Then, a couple weeks ago we got a call saying their current hosts had resigned and they were in a pinch. We agreed on an arrival date and it was a done deal.  We were just making our way out of the Hoh rainforest when we got the call. We headed back to our campsite near Seattle and discussed a game plan. We had seen MOST of what we wanted to see in the area so we packed it in the next morning and headed to Portland to kill a few days.
Burnside Skate Park - Portland, OR
Nice park on the north side of Portland. 
Portland is a REALLY cool town. The show Portlandia is an exaggerated yet mostly accurate depiction of what the place is like. There is a really famous donut shop downtown that has a line around the building ALL DAY. No Oregonian has been able to explain to me WHY this place is so busy. The boys and I went there one afternoon and gave up waiting after 5 minutes. They also have a ton of food carts. I am not just talking about a guy with an umbrella selling hot dogs on the corner either. There are entire corner lots filled with carts selling everything from Korean and Indian food to trucks selling crepes and corn dogs. Portland is a foodie’s paradise.
We have been eating a LOT of pizza. 

I went out the the bar one night. I met up with Dominick, a quasi-cousin of mine that I have known my whole life. He met me at a craft beer bar with some co-workers of his and we proceeded to tie one on. The bar closed early and we retreated to a karaoke bar full of locals called ‘Chopsticks’. Luckily, I took a taxi downtown because eventually my companions left and I stayed behind and the night ended with me screaming Pearl Jam songs into a microphone. I kept saying random things to hype up the crowd “My friends left me. I’m from Detroit and this is my only night in this town. Let’s party Portland!” to which the equally inebriated crowd responded with howls and cheers. By the end of the song, there were about 10 other dudes with arms around me screaming along ”OOOOOOOOH IIIIIIIIIII BUUUUUUUUUUUT I’M STILL ALIVE YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH.”
(L to R) Me, Alex, Dominick, Dave and dude whose name I forget but easily the most 'Portland' guy in our posse. 

While we were in Portland I spent a lot of time with just me and the kids. Jessica was in a really bad place because of her Ulcerative Colitis (UC). UC is an intestinal disease that is similar to Crohn’s Disease. The immune system attacks the cells in the intestinal track and causes bleeding, excruciating pain, fatigue and an overall miserable existence. These attacks can be controlled with immune blocking medication and a slightly modified diet. Unfortunately, it had been so long since Jessica had had a flare up, she had stopped taking the medication all together. This presented us with a HUGE problem because she would have to see a doctor to get a prescription. I called our insurance company and learned that our HMO doesn’t cover us anywhere except Michigan (with the exception of E.R. visits).  So, she was lying in bed in a horrible state and our options were few. I had honestly considered driving back to Michigan and calling it quits.

Fortunately, I am a resourceful and persuasive guy so I put my skills to the test. First, I called the GI in Michigan and said we needed a refill. I said her symptoms were really bad and that it was urgent. They had just started going into their speech about how she needed an appointment when I said that I was working in another state and we wouldn’t be home for a few months. After a little bit of arm twisting, I got them to call in a prescription to a local WalMart. Problem solved…or so we thought.

The total cost for a 30 day supply of these meds was $500 because it is an excluded medicine on our insurance. So, now we had an option to pay $500 and hopefully get the symptoms under control within a month but if she needed to continue these meds, we would not be able to sustain this on a monthly basis. So, I asked if there was a generic, the pharmacist said no. She said there were similar drugs but we would have to get another prescription from the doctor. Great, I just called them and sweet talked this deal and now I have to flip the script. This was going to be a test of my persuasive abilities. Before going through all the trouble of calling the GI again, I had the pharmacist make a list of all the drugs that my crappy insurance DOES cover.

I tried to call the doctor, on a Friday evening, temporarily forgetting about the 3 hour time difference and I got a recording. It gave an emergency number that I knew would be an answering service. So now, I had to sweet talk an answering service into paging a doctor who I could hopefully convince to call in a prescription for a patient he had never seen on the other side of the country on a weekend. You got all of that?

I won’t go into detail but I strung together one hell of a con to make it happen and after two phone calls and a lot of sad stories I was on the phone with a doctor. He had called me from his cell phone and he was NOT happy with me. He smelled right through all of my bullshit but, in the end, I somehow convinced him to write her for a 5 month prescription of a drug that our insurance covers. He had me text him her info and the pharmacy number and within a few hours, WE HAD MEDICINE! I am happy to report that she responded to them and is looking and feeling MUCH better.

FUN FACTS: 1. Oregon does not charge sales tax on anything. 2. All of the gas stations in Oregon are full service.  

We left Portland and headed to California, our new place of work. This state is so effing big that we had to stop and camp TWICE just to get to our state park which is still considered to be in Northern California. We drove through San Francisco and down the Pacific Coast Hwy to our new jobs at Butano State Park (pronounced byoot in oh).
San Francisco from the Bay Bridge (with random skeleton reflection)
FUN FACT: It costs $20 to cross the Oakland/Bay Bridge with a two axle trailer.

 We were told to just find the host site and setup camp. The main perk of being a host is you get to camp for free on a full hookup site while the campers around you are roughing it. So we hooked everything up carefully and got the trailer leveled real nice and just hung out. We went into town for pizza and when we returned we met Ranger Tiffany. She was super friendly and was grateful to us for coming on short notice. She met the kids and the dog and kept telling us to just relax and have a good time. We went back to our camper for the night and did just that.
Learning the ropes
The next morning Ranger Carrie, our immediate supervisor, came over and introduced herself. She was very pleasant as well. She said she would be back in an hour or so to do an orientation so we relaxed outside and drank coffee. The campers directly beside us had three kids. One was about 10 and he was extremely polite. I found out after talking to them that he was actually the uncle of the two other kids, a girl that was Noah’s age and a boy that was Sam’s age. The youngest boy was named Wyatt and he was adorable. He carried around a stuffed dog that he called ‘dog dog’ that his sister explained was his special friend. I brought out my dog and let the kids pet her and was having a great time entertaining these kids.

You may have noticed that I only remember the name of the smallest boy. Normally I am good with names but Wyatt stands out so much to me I can barely remember the faces of the other people. When Wyatt’s sister was telling me about ‘dog dog’ the mother came over and mentioned that his stuffed puppy had gotten him through some tough times recently. She then covered the little girl’s ears and whispered to me, “Wyatt has terminal cancer.”

She then went on to explain that they had just camped in this park a few months ago and the reason they came back was for Wyatt. My immediate reaction was one of true sadness. At that moment I had just lost a dear, sweet friend. I wanted to ask why and how and I wanted to hug them, all of them. Suddenly I could feel the sadness this family was harboring and I wanted to console them but I could also sense what they were trying to do. This was a camping trip and it was one of their last happy moments with their dying son. After processing all of these emotions for a moment, I said something like, “Oh no…” and gave a solemn look to the mother. After a brief pause I went on talking about dogs and Legos with the kids and tried to enjoy my last few moments with them…and Wyatt.

Eventually, Ranger Carrie came back and inundated me with information; books, papers, keys and things. Things like a walkie talkie, my cool new jacket, keys to all of the buildings, a chainsaw and a badass John Deere Gator. She showed me how to check in campers and explained the procedures and specifics of the job. Lots of info but easily the coolest job I have ever had. I relayed everything I had learned to my co-host, Jessica. We gave some small jobs to the junior hosts, Noah and Sam, and they are visibly excited about this new responsibility of ours.

Our Home!
When I returned our site, Wyatt and his family had left. Looking at their empty campsite left me with a feeling of hopelessness. I keep trying to tell myself that I misheard her and she was talking about someone else with terminal cancer, someone older, not this special adorable boy who runs around the woods with a stuffed puppy.  I wondered if maybe they call it terminal when the odds are really bad but there is still a chance. After realizing I was just going through stages of grief, I started wondering how much time he had left. Was it 1 year? 6 months? Had they just found out?

The forest gets dark around 4pm when you are in the middle of a redwood stand near the Pacific coast. As the last few beams of sunlight sprayed through the forest canopy I sat in front of the camper waiting for customers to sell wood to while cooking our dinner over the campfire. I could hear the boys giving their mother hell inside of the camper and instead of getting up and yelling at them, I just smiled and thought about how fortunate we are to be here, with them, in this place where people spend their final days together.

No comments:

Post a Comment