Resolving current issues…Letting go…

Big Daddy was contemplating his next move.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

And, here are our girls!

I can’t wait to get back to Marloth Park. Our animal friends filled our days and nights in awe and wondered while our human friends enriched our lives in more ways than we can count.

Still in the hospital, dealing with the insurance company who’s yet to pay the hospital bill of ZAR 80000, US $5518, for the angiogram (we paid out of pocket), the hospital bill for ZAR 700000, US $48,185, and now yesterday’s prepayment for this current hospital stay at ZAR 130000, US $8967, for which we also paid out-of-pocket.

Undoubtedly, all of this has added to the stress and concern over my recent triple coronary bypass surgery. Add the fact that our two debit/ATM cards have been issued and then re-issued when on two occasions they’ve been lost in the mail and by Fex Ex International according to our bank in the US.

Currently, we’re living in a foreign country with no working debit/ATM card and have no way to access our bank accounts for cash. We reordered the cards yesterday to be sent to our mailing service in Nevada, and we’ll have them ship them to us via overnight delivery by DHL. 

Frank and The Mrs. sharing pellets with the guineafowl who’ve recently returned to our garden after being away for a few months.

In reality, there’s no such thing as overnight delivery here in South Africa. We expect it will take a week to receive them. I could go on and on about other recent issues primarily fueled by incompetence and neglect by various entities. Still, the reality remains clear in my mind. It’s time to let all of this go and return to the issue of our happy, fulfilling lives on the move.

We always knew that health issues would halt our travels either permanently or for a while at some point. The period occurred upon us on February 2nd when Dr. Theo did an exercise stress test on me to discover I had severe heart disease a mere two months ago.

It’s been a whirlwind since that date, a whirlwind of surgeries, complications, tons of medications, and an amount of worry and concern experienced by both of us.

Even when we tried to check into this hospital on Friday, we sat at the check-in counter with a rep calling our credit card company, wondering why the above-referenced ZAR 130000, US $8967, charges for prepaying this portion of the bill when we knew the card was sound. 

Mom and Baby mongoose huddled together on the lookout for food.

After a stressful hour sitting at that desk, wondering what we were going to do, only to discover that the handheld credit card machine wasn’t working, with a different device, it went through in seconds. After all, TIA (this is Africa). We should have known. 

Within hours I was in “theatre” having surgery on my legs. I may go in for a second surgery, depending on the results of the culture done after the last surgery. We’ll see how it goes.

In any case, it’s time to let all of this go, to focus on recovery, to focus on the opportunity we’ve been given to continue to live our dream. In a mere 41 days, we’ll leave for Ireland to live in a lovely home on the sea in beautiful historic Connemara. 

What an excellent way to roll into the next phase in our travels, a little wiser, a little more cautious, and a lot more grateful than we ever imagined possible. In the past, our gratefulness revolved around the opportunity to travel the world and make it work financially; to have one another to share it with; to have the ability and resourcefulness to cohesively make it meaningful and important as it enriched our lives.

Kudu, bushbuck, and wildebeests were relaxing in the garden.

But, now the gratefulness has gone beyond the above in an entirely new way…the gratitude for another day of life having dodged not a bullet, but a cannonball that gives me, gives us, another chance.

What we do with this chance is entirely up to us; we can treasure it as the gift it is, or we can fall back into our pleasant routine of planning, booking, and traveling. We chose the “gift” for all that it represents, for all that it inspires within us, and for all that we’ll share along the way.

Thank you for being on this journey with us. In many ways, it’s just begun.

Photo from one year ago today, March 31, 2018:

She’d nibble on the pellets, but we never saw him take a single bite.  He was more interested in her than he was in snacking. For more details, please click here.

Oh, oh, I’m back in the hospital…We love the new gnu…

They were content to stay seated for several hours, occasionally standing when we tossed pellets to other animals.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush

Young males gnu (wildebeest) have blondish hair on their heads, so mature males will leave them alone and not fight.  Due to the blond hair, the older males perceive the young males as females and have little interest in harassing them.

 I expected him to say my legs looked better, but perhaps prescribing another round of a different antibiotic would be beneficial.

After eating pellets, they all needed a nap.

When we took off the bandages, I could tell by the look on his face, he didn’t like what he saw and quickly informed us that we needed to see the plastic surgeon. Most of us non-medical people assume calling a plastic surgeon would be for cosmetic reasons.

Not the case. Many plastic surgeons have extensive skills and training in “wound” treatments and subsequent healing. Within 30 minutes from leaving Dr. Naude’s office, we were face-to-face with Dr. Noelene Du Plessis in her office at Mediclinic Nelspruit.

In minutes, we knew we were in the right place. It took no more than a few a quick look at my legs for her to inform us that I needed to check into the hospital for which could be multiple surgeries and a stay of up to 10 days.  
They don’t seem to mind being up close and personal with one another.

She insisted the first surgery would be as soon as I was checked in. Enough time had passed since I’d last eaten and had something to drink (I had a small cup of unsweetened Greek yogurt before we left the house at 8:00 am and had finished a bottle of water around noon).  

Noelene (doctors go by their first names here) explained that the surgery had to be done “today” most likely transpire around 6:00 pm. We were nervous and worried. Tom in his usual manner tried to stay upbeat for me while I, on the other hand, was numb in disbelief. 

How could this be? I’d done everything right to aid in my recovery but apparently, it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t think of one reason to blame myself for being in this position.

Two out of three wildebeests posed for the shot.

The only thing I could think of was the fact I’d taken a few showers upon returning to the house after the surgery, only to discover a few days later than the water supply in Marloth Park was toxic with bacteria, including E-coli.

Could it be the water on my open wounds was toxic enough to precipitate the infections? The doctors seem to think it was entirely possible. Once I became aware of this I immediately stopped taking showers and did “sponge baths” with bottled water which although messy worked out fine.

Eventually, the water quality improved, but I still avoided the shower with the wounds not healing properly. Thus, the infection raged on in the past few weeks while I took substantial doses of antibiotics the doctors prescribed. I sent photos of my legs for days and still they agreed I could be treated at home until a few days ago, it took a turn for the worse.

We were lounging in the garden after a hearty midday snack.

Last night at 1730 hours (5:30 pm) I was wheeled into “theatre” for what may have been the first of two or three surgeries over the next 10 days or so. As I write here now in my private room Tom has gone to check back into Leaves Lodge and Spa where he stayed weeks ago.

He’d considered driving back and forth, but after moving back in the dark last night, he reconsidered and is staying only minutes away from me during whatever time is necessary for me to get through this challenging phase.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with some of the obstacles we encountered checking me into the hospital, including some nagging insurance issues. Please check back for more.

Be well. Be happy. Thanks for being “here” with us during this challenging time.

Photo from one year ago today, March 30, 2018:

On the way to the petrol station. For more details, please click here.

Mongoose mania…Funny little characters…

Three mongooses were checking out the veranda and what treats we may be offering. As carnivores, they particularly enjoyed some rare leftover steak we cut into tiny pieces.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

“Don’t get too close to my baby.”

This is the first holiday in the past 13 months when we’ve continued to see lots of wildlife when the park is filled with tourists, often offering them food they like but shouldn’t eat.

When they are fed leftover human food, sweets, chips, and marshmallows, they tend to hang around those properties and stay far away from us. Alas, it’s been different this time. They keep coming and coming.

The bush is lush with greenery and vegetation, although, due to the late rainy season, without some of the important grasses, the wildlife need for nourishment. As a result, they may still be looking for pellets at the houses of those who freely offer them regularly.
“Umm…smells good here.”

Of course, it’s a concern to us when we leave Marloth Park in a little over six weeks. They’ll come here repeatedly looking for us and the nutritious treats we regularly offer; pellets, apples, carrots, and other appropriate fruits and vegetables they can easily digest.

It breaks my heart to think of how often, after we’ve left,  Little will climb the steps to the veranda, wondering where I am and why I don’t come outside to greet him.  

We don’t sit on the veranda as much as we used to since I need to keep my still painful legs up.  But from my vantage point from the sofa, I can see what’s going on in the garden, and I get up dozens of times a day to see who’s here. Getting up and down is good to avoid sitting too long in one position.

More and more mongooses climbed the steps to the veranda.

We’ll still dine on the veranda each evening with the yellow container of pellets ready to be tossed to whoever stops by while we eat.  We no longer do 1700 hours, 5:00 pm, “happy hour” since I’m not drinking wine anymore. And Tom doesn’t drink by himself.  

Watching the wildlife while we dine has continued to be a highlight of our day. There are often four or five species in the garden simultaneously, all clamoring from the pellets or whatever treats we may have to offer.

Yesterday was no exception. All-day, we experienced a steady flow of our wildlife friends from Frank and The Mrs. to bushbucks, duikers, kudus,  zebras, warthogs, and an array of birds.  

A mom protecting her offspring.

But, the highlight of our day was the band of mongoose, many of who were so excited for a treat that they, like Little, came up onto the veranda as shown in today’s photos.  

We couldn’t stop laughing as we watched their brazen behavior, literally at our feet, along with their playful antics as they mosied around the veranda with intense curiosity.

For the first time in almost two months, I was excited to be taking photos of these adorable little creatures and for a while, found myself back to my old self, wrapped up in nature and taking photos. What a good feeling!

Another mom looking out for her baby.  They stay very close to one another.

Right now, we have three wildebeests in the garden, two lounging for a possible nap. It appears to be one older male and two younger males. The older male may be the dad of one or both of them. 

Usually, Wildebeest Willie is the only wildebeest that visits our garden other than the occasional Dad & Son. Today’s visit of the three boys is a rare treat indeed,

Today, we’ll continue to lay low. Tomorrow morning, we’ll be leaving the house to drive to Nelspruit, where I’ll have the second after-surgery appointment with the surgeon.  

“We’re here.  What’s next?”

After the appointment, we’ll stop in Melalane, the halfway point, for a few items from the Click’s Pharmacy (that reminds me of Walgreen’s in the US) and grocery shopping at the Spar Market, which is bigger than our usual Spar in Komatipoort.

Once we return to the house, we’ll prepare the day’s post with updates on how I’m progressing after the surgery.

Have a spectacular day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 28, 2018:

A lizard-like gecko was found on the veranda. For more details, please click here.

It’s a new day…It’s a new dawn…A practical warning…

Big Daddy, so majestic.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This particular oxpecker is different from those we’ve seen with orange beaks.

It’s not over. I still have a long way to go to be fully recovered. However, yesterday everything changed when I hit the six-week mark (since the triple bypass surgery) and was able to stop wearing the compression stockings.

No words can describe the relief I felt when as of yesterday, I didn’t have to wear those tight impossible-to-put-on compression stockings constantly pressing on the still open incisions in my legs, especially near my ankles where the infection has been the worst.

Now, I’m only wearing the bandages, applied after cleansing, and applying antibiotic ointment twice a day to keep dust and dirt away from the incisions. I only remove the applications for a few minutes each day and stay far from the wildlife’s dust kicked up in the garden until I complete the treatment and cover the wounds.

Zebras stop by almost daily.

The infections are gone. My right thigh is completely healed, and I expect my two legs from knee to ankle will entirely close within a week. While the incisions are still open, it’s still painful but not nearly as bad as it was a few weeks ago.  

I take only two non-narcotic pain tablets a day, one in the morning upon awakening and then again at 10:30 pm before I go to sleep. No pain medication is needed during the day.  

My chest will take months to heal entirely. Ribs had been cut on the left chest during the surgery and the sternum to freely access the heart. I feel no rib pain at this point, but the sternum, a large bone, is still on the mend.  

When riding in the car, the seatbelt across my chest is painful. We bring a pillow along to strap in front of me. This helps on bumpy roads as well. The dirt roads are filled with potholes and way too bumpy for me. During our remaining 45 days in Marloth Park, I can’t imagine that our former almost daily drives to the Crocodile River will be possible.

Baby piglet, estranged from his family, visits daily now that he’s on his own.

However, Tom takes the best route to avoid as much bouncing around as possible when visiting friends. Again, with the pillow pressed to my chest, it’s doable.

As for energy…I have more than my body will allow. Thus, I do as much as I can, pushing a little harder each day. The walking is now back up to 30 minutes a day and will reach 40 minutes by the week’s end. Within a week or two, I’ll be able to walk 60 minutes each day on flat surfaces.  

For now, I’m walking into the house. Here again, the bumpy dirt roads aren’t a safe option for anyone to walk, let alone me, during this period. When we’re in Ireland in 45 days, I’ll be able to walk on the beach or the local roads. Surely, in time I’ll be able to navigate some of the hilly roads they are in our new neighborhood.

This morning, when I fell back to sleep at 4:00 am, I had a dream. I was having trouble breathing and thought (in the dream) I was having an asthma attack. Asthma is another of those hereditary conditions I developed as a child but have had under control as an adult.  

Check out the muscles on this huge animal.

Before the surgery, I used preventive daily steroid medication Advair since I’d noticed I was having trouble breathing. This helped a little but not entirely. I assumed the dust kicked up by the animals was the culprit.

Since the operation, I haven’t had to use the inhaler once. I wasn’t able to breathe because my heart wasn’t pumping enough blood into my lungs. It was logical for me to assume it was asthma.  

As time goes on, I’ve begun to remember more and more situations where I thought my symptoms were something else, when in fact, it was my heart, unable to do its job entirely.  

While working out at a health club all those years, I often struggled with a fast pulse and breathing issues. Little did I know, nor did I ever think, that my arteries were clogged. The doctors say the progression of the three 100% blocked arteries took place over many years, often as much as 30 years. I had no idea.

Heart disease isn’t always about sudden chest pain and one thinking they have a heart attack. As my case illustrates, it was insidious with few distinct symptoms.

I share these details, hoping to inspire our readers to see their doctor arrange a stress test.

From this site:
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. and also the leading cause of death worldwide. Heart disease is a term used to describe several conditions, many of which are related to plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries.  As the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow. This makes it more difficult for blood to flow and creates a risk for heart attack or stroke.

Ms. Kudu wondering when more pellets would come her way. We see several forkls of kudus each day.

Cancer is the second cause of death, but some are proactive in having various tests to determine if they’re at risk: coloscopies, prostate screening, pap smear, mammograms, biopsies for suspicious lumps, and skin checks.  

Without apparent symptoms of heart disease, most people don’t bother to see if they’re at risk. Heredity is a considerable risk factor in both of these dreadful diseases, but so are numerous lifestyle choices.

My case is a perfect example of how easy it is to assume there’s no reason to have a stress test done to determine if further tests are necessary. How many people know what an angiogram is, the gold standard of determining how badly heart disease has progressed?

This invasive and costly test is not necessary if one’s stress test results are promising. Mine indicated an issue but not the detail needed to determine the extent of the damage and future risk.

From this site:  “Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart and other parts of your body. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows your arteries.”

Stents are a great life-saving option for many with partially clogged arteries, done during an angiogram, subsequently called an angioplasty.  

From this site: “Stents help keep coronary arteries open and reduce the chance of a heart attack. A stent is inserted into the clogged artery with a balloon catheter. The balloon is inflated, and the stent expands and locks in place. This holds the artery open and allows blood to flow more freely.”

The male kudu is a distinguished animal with considerable grace and ease as he moves through the bush. He’s well aware of his massive rack and taps it on the ground near any other wildlife attempting to provoke him.

Please note, I do not intend to scare our readers. But if one reader is inspired to get checked, all this “heart” talk in many posts will have been worth it.  

After reading many comments in various online forums, for those who experienced coronary bypass surgery, many have said if they’d know how hard the recovery would be, they would have taken their chances and not have the surgery.

We’re talking about saving one’s life. This operation is not done willy nilly as a preventive means. It’s always about dealing with a life-threatening situation. For me, it was a no-brainer, surgery or die. I chose Life.

And as hard as these past six weeks have been, I’d do it all over again. It’s not over yet. The boost I’m getting from one great day, starting yesterday, could ultimately prove to be a teaser with many more months of recovery on the horizon.

But each day, I’ll carry on with sheer will and determination, taking extra care, following doctor’s orders, and striving to have many more years of adventure and world travel with my lover, partner, and friend, Tom.

Oh, oh, must go. Little is looking for me!

Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 27, 2018:

We didn’t recall seeing a warthog this tiny since this post in Kenya in 2013. when a mom placed her babies in a hole to protect them from lions in place for the kill, please click here for more details.

Paperwork overload…How does everyone do it?…

This is my boy, Little. How does a human being fall in love with a pig?

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A young male kudu and Little are watching the mongoose eat some meat we tossed out. Kudus and warthogs are herbivores, although warthogs will go after a bone now and then, mainly for the nutrients in the bone marrow.

This morning I received an email from Jury Duty in Clark County Court in Nevada. I’d written an appropriate letter explaining my recent surgery and that I couldn’t leave South Africa in time to meet the April 15th call to jury duty.  

In most cases, being out of the country is sufficient cause for dismissal. Apparently, I needed better proof than my sworn statement. What’s the purpose of a sworn statement if they don’t believe you?

This morning I sent them two letters from the cardiologist, hoping this would suffice. If it doesn’t, a warrant will be issued for my arrest. Gee…would I have had to die to be excused?
Young kudus in the garden.
With a problem with the connection with our two-year-old portable scanner, it took me no less than 30 minutes to get the letters scanned and sent by email. What if I didn’t have a scanner and was housebound for medical reasons?  

Not everyone has someone who can help them with such tasks. Of course, we’re fortunate to have access to technology that can expedite such a situation, even with its current technical difficulties.

Paperwork slays me. There’s no escaping it, is there? I often wonder how folks who don’t speak English, seniors with dementia, or other medical issues can complete all the paperwork required in their daily lives. 
When the pellets were gone, they trotted off.  Kudus tend to leave when there’s nothing left to eat while others can hang around for a while, especially warthogs, who are patient and know someone else will be coming soon, and more pellets will be tossed.
Next, as soon as the insurance company pays the hospital bill, supposedly, at the end of this month, I have to get to work to complete complicated forms and scan more documents to submit a claim for reimbursement from the insurance company for the angiogram part of the hospital bill.  

We paid the angiogram bill out of pocket on February 7th, which was a separate claim from the bypass surgery, transpiring five days apart.  
We’re waiting to submit the claim after they pay the bigger bill of approximately ZAR 770000 (US $53,551) at the end of the month. The angiogram bill, which we paid in full, was for ZAR 80000 (the US $5562), for which we are responsible for a co-pay of ZAR 228743 (US$2000) for the co-pay.  
These baby kudus were born this season.
Thus, we’re hoping to get back the difference after the co-pay. We’ll see how that works out. Of course, now the insurance company has doubled our rate to continue insuring us. Today, we’ll know if they are going to exclude any possible heart-related incidents in the future.

Then, at the end of January, we asked our bank to mail us our new debit cards via Fed Ex International (not US Postal Service), which will expire on March 31st. They were expected to be here no later than the middle of March.  

Alas, we called the bank to discover they weren’t sent, as promised by Fed Ex International (which we would have received in a maximum of 10 days since the shipment date) but instead were sent by US Postal Service, which we specifically stated wouldn’t work here in South Africa.  
Check out the tiny babies in this band of mongooses.
After spending over an hour on the phone with the bank, finally, they canceled the cards that hadn’t arrived and issued two new cards to arrive as requested. We should receive them by April 6th. We’ll see how that goes. As of March 31st, we won’t have a working debit card between us. Mine expired at the end of February.   
Next, as soon as the insurance company pays the hospital bill, we have to return the funds we borrowed from ourselves from our retirement plan to pay the hospital bill if they didn’t come through.  

To avoid paying taxes on the amount, we have to return that money to the fund in 60 days from the original withdrawal date. Oh, good grief. It’s not as easy as sending them a check. More paperwork is required. Tom will handle this.
We’ve had zebras stop by almost every day.  They are definitely in the “eat and run” category.
Then, before too long, I’ll need to get our taxes ready for the accountant. We’ll have to file an extension this time. I don’t feel up to doing the tax stuff right now.
The list goes on and on. We always say, “You can run, but you can’t hide.” If we were living under a palm tree on a desert island weaving baskets, we’d still have paperwork to do!
May you have a paperwork-free day!                                                                                                

Photo from one year ago today, March 26, 2018:

Tom calls them Guinea Hens, making me laugh. They cluck a bit like a combination of turkeys and chickens. For more photos, please click here.

Trying to get back into the groove…

This forkl of kudus consisted of three boys and two girls.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Two Big Daddies were sharing celery tops and pellets.

It would be nice if we could head out in air-conditioned comfort in search of wildlife along the Crocodile River. At this point, I can’t imagine bouncing around in the little red car on the outrageously bumpy roads for any length of time.  

The few trips we’ve embarked upon only required a few minutes on the lousy dirt roads as I held a pillow close to my chest. Any more than that would be not easy to take. “They” (whoever they are) say the breastbone fuses and heals in six to eight weeks.  

Tomorrow will be six weeks since the dreadful surgery, and although I don’t have chronic pain in my chest, each time I reach for something, I feel a sudden burst of pain. It’s not healed, and for now, it feels as if it could be months to be free from discomfort.

Such a handsome kudu bull.

If my legs were healed, I could declare I am feeling pretty good overall, although most tasks I perform wear me out. Also, I can’t seem to stand on my feet for very long, hoping this will improve over time.

This morning Tom and I got to work preparing dinner to last for the next three nights, one of our favorite dishes, Low Carb Chicken Pot Pie with an Almond Flour Crust. We both were feeling like some “comfort food” even with the heat and humidity we’re continuing to experience.  

Fall began four days ago, and with it, we’re hoping it will soon cool down. Lately, the humidity has been impossible, especially with all the rain. The many power outages increase discomfort when we can’t use a fan in the lounge or aircon in the bedroom.

It’s not unusual to see a few Big Daddies behaving as close “friends.”  We see this in many species.

This morning Linda sent me a letter Eskom posted today stating there won’t be any outages this week. That will be nice if they follow through, which seldom occurs. Next week will be another matter.

This week we’ll continue to focus on my recovery with no significant plans on the horizon. On Friday, we return to Nelspruit for the second post-op appointment with the cardiac, thoracic surgeon. On April 8th, we return to meet with the cardiologist.

Tomorrow will be the last day I have to wear the compression stockings, a full six weeks after the surgery. I feel confident my legs will heal better without the tightness of the stockings on the incisions, especially where the infections are close to my ankles. The stockings irritate the wounds with each step I take.

Without the stockings, I’m hoping to increase the walking to return to the previous  40 minutes daily I’d worked up to before the infections setting in. By this time next week, I plan to begin escalating the walking time from 40 to 60 minutes a day. Also, it will be easier to walk as the weather hopefully cools down a bit.

I’ve never enjoyed exercising from “home” (wherever that may be at this time in our lives). Once we get to Ireland in 47 days, I’ll join a local fitness center which is the best environment for maintaining a regular fitness program. There are no fitness centers within a 75-minute drive from Marloth Park.

Have a lovely Monday!

Photo from one year ago today, March 25, 2018:

It was challenging to get a clearer photo at such a distance, but we were nonetheless thrilled to get photos of this hippo. For more details, please click here.

What???…Let nature take it course???…

Although a male, this baby’s warts haven’t fully developed.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Four species in one photo; bushbuck, kudu, duiker, and the fourth baby.

There are two statements at the top of my list that are frequently used that I consider cringe-worthy.  They are:

  • Sorry for your loss (when a loved one passes away)
  • Let nature take its course (when an animal is injured or ill)
The “sorry for your loss” makes me want to scream. It’s become a “canned” comment for those who don’t want to take a moment to express their empathy for the living with a more inventive phrase. How about, “I am so sorry to hear you lost dear Bill.  He was a wonderful man. We will all miss.” Or, my heartfelt sympathies over you losing Mary. This is truly a sorrowful time for you and all of her loved ones.” 
As for “let nature takes its course,” oh, good grief, this is a tired and overused comment when one can’t be vulnerable enough to express how a suffering animal makes us sad or feeling helpless. Isn’t it acceptable to say, “I wish we could do something to help, or…is there something we can do to help?” And then, if possible, do something.
He often sits in this goofy pose when eating pellets. This was how we knew it was him. The others kneel but don’t set their butt down while eating.
Or perhaps, when circumstances are such where we cannot help the poor animal, “I am sad to see this creature suffering” or, “It breaks my heart to see any living being suffering.”  No one in your presence will think less of you for these types of statements.
Almost every time we’ve been on a safari with others, we encounter one of the passengers in the vehicle saying, “Let nature take its course.” When seeing photos of injured animals on Facebook or other social media, some of which we’ve posted, invariably, a viewer writes, “Let nature take its course.”
Sure this statement is true. Nature will take its course in due time or, the animal will recover. Many wildlife species seem to be sturdy and can recover from serious injury. We’ve seen warthogs’ bodies and faces so severely mauled, most likely from altercations with other warthogs, that we thought the wound would become infected, and they’d eventually die.
Two weeks ago, we spotted “Fourth Baby” alone in the garden.
But, alas, a few months pass, and they’ve begun to heal using mud and often maggots as a means of treatment.  How adaptable they are! We humans, left in the wild, would hardly be resourceful enough to save ourselves if we didn’t have survival training.
Would we say about a human who is injured or ill, “Let nature takes its  course?” How would those around us think of us? How would we feel about our heartless selves if we freely and honestly felt this way?” Not much.

Recently, I’ve heard and read Marloth Park residents and visitors saying, regarding kudus with apparent signs of tuberculosis, “Let nature take its course.”

That is ridiculous! TB is highly contagious, and if not dealt with using medical treatment or euthanasia, all the kudus and other species could eventually die off in Marloth Park or even in massive Kruger National Park.  

None of the others minded sharing pellets with him.

Nature taking its course has resulted in entire species becoming extinct, let alone the whole eradication of species due to human intervention and blatant disregard for saving wildlife for future generations to appreciate and revere.

Recently, a little warthog, about six months old, was separated from its core group. We referred to them as “Mom and Babies,” especially when verbally acknowledging them from our veranda using my irritating-to-some, animal-speak voice. 

A few weeks later, we noticed that the Mom and Babies now consisted of only three babies, not the usual four. They’d been coming here daily since the piglets were no more than a week old.  Easily, we’ve come to recognize the mom and the four little pigs. Now there were only three.

Sadly, we speculated that the fourth piglet might have been run over by a car, fell under the prey of a dangerous cat that had entered Marloth Park, or succumbed to an injury after being chased and injured in a fight with an adult warthog, usually an aggressive adult male such a “Basket” who is known to chase piglets when there’s food around.

At six months, warthogs are weaned and fending for themselves for sustenance, although they may stay with the mom and the other piglets until she’s ready to deliver her next litter. The siblings may remain together for extended periods until they are fully mature and begin searching for a mate to have a family of their own.

We’ve often seen mom warthogs with another adult female who perhaps is yet to find a mate of her own. Usually, males hang together for extended periods, such as Mike and Joe and Siegfried and Roy, who’ve been together as pairs since we arrived over 13 months ago. They may stay together for life which can be upwards of 15 years.

We’re hoping that at some point, he’ll reunite with his family.

As for the missing fourth baby, a few weeks ago, he showed up in the garden by himself. We knew him right away. After all, we’d been observing the five of them for over six months. He knew how to ask for pellets, and oddly, he was the only one of the four piglets that always ate lying down with his front legs tucked under in the usual warthog kneeling position when eating.

Did he get lost from his little family, or did the mom send him on his way? We’ll never know for sure. However, he now stops by every day, and so does the mom and three babies but always, so far, at different times. We’re hoping to see them reunite at some point, especially if he’d been lost from the group.

So, now, this little guy fends for himself and hopefully acquired enough skill from the time he spent with his mother learning how to forage for food, dig for roots and plead with residents for a few pellets here and there.  In this case, we can say, “Let nature take its course” when we feel confident this little guy will figure it out on his own.

The question remains in the minds of many that humans are superior to animals. But, after spending the majority of the past 13 plus months observing wildlife in our garden and Kruger National Park, we’ve far surpassed this mentality.  

We all have a purpose and contribute to the world around us, and we pray that understanding and compassion for all living beings supersedes all other perceptions of where we stand in the pecking order. 

We’re all important.

Photo from one year ago today, March 24, 2018:

Waterbucks at the Crocodile River.  For more photos, please click here

Behind the eight ball…

Four species in this photo from far left to right: duiker, kudu, warthog, and bushbuck, all sharing pellets harmoniously.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Although the bushbucks would like to eat pellets, they stay out of the way of this warthog, who happens to be Little, who is often quite willing to share with them.

By far, this is the least motivated I’ve felt to get things done since we began our world journey. On six heart medications plus two (non-narcotic) pain medications, many of which slow me down, I struggle to feel motivated to do the simplest of tasks.

Also, I can’t comfortably sit at the table on the veranda for any time since my legs are still very painful and the chairs are too low for the table, resulting in the necessity of raising my arms to reach my computer’s keyboard.

With the sternum yet to fully recover, raising my arms and holding them in place is challenging even when using a fork to eat at that table. But, each day, all of these simple types of movements become a little easier, and I’m looking forward to the future.

Two more bushbucks in the garden.

Looming in my mind right now is entering the countless receipts to be logged onto our spreadsheet, preparing tax information for our accountant in Nevada (most likely we’ll file an extension), filing the insurance claim for reimbursement for the angiogram (we’re waiting for the insurance company to pay the significant share the end of this month) and of course, our immigration status yet to be resolved.

Once we know the big hospital bill is paid by the end of the month, Tom will send the funds we “borrowed from our retirement plan” back to the financial company to ensure we don’t have to pay tax on that amount.  

Also, Tom will continue to research flights and hotels for upcoming travel over the next six months. I’ve left these tasks entirely up to him to complete.

Ms. Bushbuck and duiker were getting along well.

In the interim, we have two upcoming trips to Nelspruit, one to see the surgeon next Friday and another for an appointment with the cardiologist the following week.  

There is some wire sticking out of my midriff from one of the two drainage tubes placed in this area during surgery. This must be the stitches yet to be removed. Hopefully, the surgeon will repair this next Friday.  

I know it’s time to get these looming tasks done. I must admit that every chore or task I take on right now takes all the strength and motivation I can muster. I made a low-carb coconut cake for my evening snack a few days ago, and I thought about it all day until I was finally motivated to put the eight ingredients together and pour them into the pan. 

Female and male bushbuck were snacking together in the garden. with a duiker by the cement pond.

I suppose this is to be expected five weeks after surgery especially considering this painful infection in my legs which has set me back a few weeks in my recovery. I can honestly say if I didn’t have the infection, I’d be feeling quite good. Although, I imagine the lack of motivation is to be expected at this point.

It’s funny how I have no trouble doing the daily posts with relative ease and commitment. Taking photos is another matter, and I expect that I won’t hesitate to jump up for any photos ops once I can walk more easily. Tom does what he can, but, as we’ve noted in the past, his photo-taking skills leave something to be desired, although from time to time, he produces some gems.

Tonight, we’re going to Jabula. I’m hesitant to go, but we both need to get out, and this is the perfect place to do so. We’ll mingle with our friends who come and go throughout the evening and will enjoy another great meal, ribs, and rice for Tom and grilled chicken breasts with a big plate of cabbage and spinach for me.  

Young male bushbuck with budding horns.

I’m still not drinking wine and don’t plan to do so anytime soon. Not only have I lost my taste for it, but it makes no sense when I’m taking all these medications. I’m considering giving up on alcoholic beverages since I’m not convinced that red wine offers any benefit to heart patients. I didn’t drink alcohol for 20 years, and it will be easy for me to forgo it in the future.

Next Tuesday, I’ll be able to stop wearing the compression stockings. Without the constant pressure on the incisions from the stockings, I’m expecting my legs to heal more quickly.  

I’ve procrastinated enough this morning, and now it’s time for me to do the walking around the house. If my legs didn’t hurt, this would be easy, and I’d be up to an hour by now. But, it is what it is…and I’ll do the best I can.

Have a pleasant weekend!

Photo from one year ago today, March 23, 2018:

Read our story of this incredible chimp rescue by a remarkable woman from her book, “My Bane is Missy.” Gail and Missy are in Liberia by the pool.  Please click here.

The big dilemma…

Mom and Three Babies…the fourth has been missing for almost two weeks, but alas, he showed up by himself a few days ago. We’d hoped he hung around long enough to reunite with his family, but they left, and he appeared about an hour later. 
“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”
This is Basket. He lost his right ear in a confrontation a few months ago.

As I speak to family members and friends on Skype, text, or email, the question always comes up, “I’ve read the blog, but how are you really doing?” It’s a tricky question to answer.

No doubt, I don’t want this online medium to be a whine-fest about my concerns, pain, and frustration after this dreadful but life-saving operation. However, in our posts, we always try to tell it like it is, resulting in an oxymoron; Mentally, emotionally? I’m OK. Physically? I’m not OK yet.

I am getting better in bite-sized pieces. Some patients say they have good days and bad days. It’s not like that for me. I have days I progress, and days it stands still. But, they are days. And, I’m alive.

The concerns are many. How do I eat now? Do I go on a strict diet as the American Heart Association espoused, which doesn’t reap many benefits statistically. Or, shall I continue with my low carb, high fat, starch, and sugar-free way of eating?This way of eating eliminated 30 years of excruciating pain generated by a hereditary spinal condition in three months. Had I not done this strict diet, I’d be in a wheelchair by now, unable to walk, unable to move freely, spending lots of time in bed as my dear sister Susan (four years older than me), who suffers from the same spinal condition and has been lying in bed for 12 years or more. That could have been me.

We’d never have left the US and traveled the world as we have for almost six and a half years, with hopes and dreams of more. Only months after the pain and inflammation subsided, we decided to “step outside the box” and travel for as long as we could.  

It’s been a glorious situation, and we long for more. Is this all I get? Am I greedy to want more? Goodness, is it wrong to want more happiness and fulfillment when we’ve worked so hard to achieve it? This lifestyle in itself hasn’t always been easy.
Kudus were hanging out with Basket, who was less aggressive than usual.

If I follow a low-fat diet, the pain will return, and within months so will the quality of life, bringing an immediate end to our travels and the lifestyle we so much love.

If I continue to eat a low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet, will my arteries become clogged again in a few years? The two doctors, the cardiologist, and the thoracic surgeon, said diet for me has little to do with what transpires in the future.  

They said the plaque developed over 20 or 30 years, most of it eating a very low-fat diet as espoused by the US government as healthy. Even then, knowing my heredity, I was trying to avert the inevitable, as I’d watched family members suffer and die from heart disease, diabetes, and other inflammatory diseases. 

I “assumed” by staying slim and fit, I’d be exempt. How wrong I was! Before I began this way of eating in 2011, I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, only a short time away from taking medication.  

Once I began this way of eating within months, I was no longer pre-diabetic…there was no indication of any potential for type-two diabetes which ran rampant in my family.

Harmony in the garden on a sunny day.

My heart disease is not gone. It’s a hereditary and ongoing illness. The pipes have been replaced, but they can and most likely clog again in five, eight, ten years. Would I have to go through this again when I’m in my late 70’s or 80’s? Could I go through this again? It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

Science is unclear. Studies are conflicting, and many are skewed. There’s no clear answer. Pain or heart attack, which do I choose? Therein lies the oxymoron, the conflict, the frustration coupled with the uncertainty of the future.

But then, we’re all uncertain of what the future holds, aren’t we? And I’ve recently spent the happiest six-plus years of my life. Not everyone can single out a segment of time where they’ve been fulfilled, content, and in awe of the world around them.

As darkness fell, Mike and Joe stopped by with a few zebras and helmeted guineafowls.

The doctors here both told me my heart was very strong and healthy. They even went as far as to state it is the heart of a 35-year-old and that my lifetime of exercising is why I am alive today when I had three of four arteries 100% blocked. I was functioning at 25%. My strong heart kept me going. Thank you, my heart. Thank you for saving me.

For all the criticism I received from family and friends that I exercised too often, too much, claiming I was obsessed, now proved to serve me well. Why I didn’t collapse from a heart attack during those years with blocked arteries baffles me today.

So now? Am I “telling it like it is?” Overall, the answer is yes, although I must admit I’ve kept some of it to myself. Seeing it in print sheds a whole new light on the reality of this dilemma, the answers to which I’ll continue to research until I’m satisfied the path is clear.

Heredity is a lot bigger part of our future than I’d ever imagined. In time and with advances in science, solutions may become more evident. For now, in part, it’s speculation and a guessing game.  

May we all come out as winners.

Photo from one year ago today, March 22, 2018:

This morning, in the rain, nine zebras stopped by for a visit and some snacks. It was delightful to see them a second time in our yard, although it wasn’t the same “dazzle” of zebras as the last time. For more photos, please click here.

Power outages leaving us frustrated…Why don’t we leave?…Holiday time in SA…More tourists in the park…

Mr. Duiker resting in the garden

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This mongoose must have been injured when he was dragging his back legs using his front legs.  So sad to see.

Many of our readers have written to us asking why we don’t leave and go somewhere else while we await our flight to Ireland on May 11th. The heat, humidity, and power outages are outrageous.

There are several reasons we haven’t left, and here they are:

    • We prepaid the rent for the Orange house until May 11th and didn’t feel it would be fair to ask Louise for a refund when it’s already been paid to the owners.
    • We can’t leave the country while awaiting our visa extension, which may or may not be processed in time for our departure. The power outages are country-wide not only Marloth Park. Eskom, the provider, has run out of money and resource.
    • If we left, we’d have to find another place to live and pay for the new place and all of its expenses. After all the money we lost canceling venues when I had to have the triple coronary bypass surgery on February 12, spending more doesn’t make sense.
    • We may not have a daily housekeeping service which has been a tremendous help during this period.
    • We have many friends here who’ve been helpful and supportive. Although our social life is limited until I recover more fully, our friends have been vital in my recovery.
    • Seeing the wildlife each day has had a positive effect on my recovery.
    • Unable to travel for 90 days due to surgery and complications.
Bushbucks were munching on pellets.

And then, of course, there’s my old theory of “Love the One You’re With,” like the song found here. This house, the bush, the wildlife, and our friends have been our home for the past 13 months. When one is ill or recovering, being in familiar surroundings is a vital part of their recovery. Everyone wants to be “home” during such times.

It isn’t like the US here in Africa when houses have “central air conditioning.” The high cost of running central air here would be outrageous. But, that doesn’t make us feel more tolerant of the scorching heat and the almost eight hours of power outages each day.

Zebras have stopped by almost every day.
Luckily, when we have power, we can escape to the bedroom with its wall aircon, which is very good at cooling the room. No, we don’t like spending time in the bedroom during the day, but it is a means of relief for an hour or two.
Aside from this, we have established a good routine that is working well for us as I continue to heal. I have yet to follow our old routine of sitting outdoors at the big table all day since I have to keep my feet up due to the infections, which are now beginning to heal, a little more each day.
Instead, I sit up with pillows propping me to a sitting position with my legs on a pillow on the sofa.  There’s a large table fan running aimed directly at me. This helps a lot.
Such an adorable face.

Are we upset and unhappy now? Not at all.  We both feel hopeful for the future, enjoy each other’s companionship, and are otherwise comfortable. Tom downloads his favorite podcasts so we can listen during the power outages.

We’re incredibly conscious of ensuring our phones and laptops are fully charged. When the power goes out so does the WiFi. Luckily, we can play games on our phones when the power is out. Neither of us cares to sit quietly and do nothing for the better part of the day.

Soon, Tom will leave to go grocery shopping and to the pharmacy for more bandages and antibiotic cream.  We don’t need much food right now since we’re well-stocked.  

Plus, we’d prefer not to keep any perishables in the fridge or freezer with the power outages. We’d made my pie in an attempt to keep me from losing more weight if I ate one piece each night after dinner. But due to the power outages, we had to throw away the second half when it had mold. I guess I won’t be making any more of these.
That’s right. You did! Pose for the camera and see if you get pellets.

I want to go to the market with Tom but can’t walk well enough to trek around the market. I tried this last week and it was a fiasco. I wouldn’t want to wait in the car in the heat while he shops.

With most of our friends gone right now to their other homes, I made a reservation for the two of us for Jabula on Saturday night. I feel a need to get out of the house and mingle with other local friends who are often mulling around the bar at Happy Hour. 

National holiday times are often referred to as “school holidays” here in South Africa. This school holiday began on March 18th and continues through April 1st leaving only 10 days until it ends. We have seen less wildlife in the garden but not as few as during other holiday periods.

That’s it for today, folks. Again, thank you for the many online cards, email letters, and comments as we work through this somewhat challenging period.

May your day be free of challenges and bring you peace of mind and comfort.

                                                 Photo from one year ago today, March 21, 2018:

I was indoors preparing dinner while Tom noticed this mongoose digging a hole in the yard. Please click here for more.