Update on the end of El Camino and Jim’s health

One month ago today, October 4, Jim trudged up one last hill, sat on a guardrail next to Sandy and bade a teary farewell to our dream of finishing the Camino this year. His body would just not allow him to continue. It has been a long painful month of dealing with a broken health care system but as of today we feel that we have emerged from the other side ready to move on. This is a summary of the past month.

We flew out of Santander on October 5 headed for Barcelona where we were met by our stalkers, Andrew and Dick. Our plan was to get some rest and touch base with Jim’s health care providers in Boston. We were also considering going to Lisbon and Porto with D & A if we felt that Jim was stable.

Leaving Santander for Barcelona. Seve Ballesteros was a prominent popular professional golfer from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s.  He was not from Santander but from Cantabria.  Below is the Cantabrian countryside which we have been walking through.  You can see the Cantabrian Sea in the top left of the photo.
Flying into the beautiful city of Barcelona on a wonderful fall day.  We were met by Dick and Andrew and drove about an hour south to their home in Sitges.
Sunset from Dick and Andrew’s home in Sitges.
We ended up spending five days in Sitges which is a beach resort town we have been to several times in the past.  The church below is on a point of land jutting out into the ocean.  A beautiful setting with beaches on both sides.
HENRY, this is one very spoiled dog.

We took one day trip to Barcelona with our hosts, walked around the city and of course had lunch.

These pictures are from the Cathedral of Barcelona, not from the better known Sagrada Familia designed by Gaudi.
The thirteen geese in the Cathedral Cloister honor the memory of Saint Eulalia who is buried in the crypt.  She was 13 years old when she died a martyr’s death and she endured 13 persecutions before finally reaching death.  You should read about what she went through.
Soon after arriving in Sitges we reached out to Jim’s cardiologist in Boston a number of times. Despite the seriousness of his symptoms it took four days before we received a call back from a Nurse Practitioner who agreed to schedule a stress test and an appointment with the cardiologist.  Jim would occasionally get short of breath just walking around Sitges so we decided that it would be prudent to return to Boston sooner rather than later, so we passed on going to Portugal and headed home on Sunday October 10.

This is our mandatory covid testing in order to return to the USA.

The above pictures are from the airport in Madrid. We left Madrid in March of 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic and this airport was dead. Very few masks then but everyone was staying well away from anyone else. No social distancing this time.
We arrived in Boston on Sunday evening before the Monday Boston Marathon, rented a car and drove 1.5 hours to Newport RI.
Healthcare is so backed up now that we could not get any immediate appointments so we spent one week in Newport with Rob and Jennifer.  For Rob’s upcoming birthday Jennifer got him an outdoor TV so he can sit by his fire pit and watch sports.  It is Rob’s “best gift ever”.  Katiti and Bill were in RI on business and stopped by for dinner one evening.
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Jim was booked for a Nuclear scan stress test on October 29 but he called every day asking about cancellations and finally scored a 7am slot on Monday morning October 18. Peggy and Tina drove to Newport and attended Rob’s birthday party and then drove us back to Boston. What great friends we have. We found an AirBnb in East Boston which is across the harbor from downtown Boston. It used to be very Italian but is now mostly Central American and GenZers in our area along the waterfront.
We are the third deck up.
You have to love the waterfront views. This is the fiftieth Airbnb that we have stayed in.
Constitution beach, a two mile walk from our Air BNB down the East Boston Greenway. Jim is doing fine walking on level ground.


Jim had a nuclear stress test on October 18 which had to be stopped as it showed his heart was not getting enough blood to function normally during exercise.  No wonder he was having so much trouble on those hills of Spain which were so much more difficult than the treadmill.

After failing the stress test Jim was scheduled for a Cardiac Cath on November 12 which we felt was much too long to wait.  A few days later we found that he had been bumped to December 21. Well that was too much for us, our whole life is on hold and Jim is a cardiac cripple who is unable to walk up stairs or up a hill. We are using public transportation and having to find the elevators. We are both scared and very fragile. Jim reached out to the cardiology team through their web portal demanding to know why he had been bumped. The office secretary called and confirmed that we had indeed been bumped. Sandy unloaded on the secretary and within a few minutes the cardiologist himself called us back. He had no idea how severe our situation was and said that he would move the procedure to November 2.

We were at the hospital at 06:30 on the 2nd and Jim went into the Cath lab about 10am. They found that the stent from Mexico is patent and working well but another artery had a 60% occlusion which was responsible for Jim’s symptoms. The lesion was stented and Jim was discharged home at 4pm at which point we walked a few blocks to a local French restaurant to celebrate. We went to dinner last night with longtime friends from Lahey Clinic and again tonight with even longer time friends from New England Memorial Hospital.

We would like to thank each and everyone of our friends and followers for all of the prayers, thoughts and well wishes. Sandy has done an incredible job of trying to keep everyone up to date with personal calls, emails, texts, WhatsApp messages and Facebook Messenger.

Dinner at Angelo’s Ristorante in Stoneham. The chef, a friend and prior patient of Jim’s is third from the right.  Next is Irene Lincoln, Christina Larson, Dan and Chanda McKee and John Kelly who is married to Christina.  Christina Larson is responsible for starting us on this blog. 
Dinner at Tonno in Wakefield Massachusetts with Sandra Rowe and Joe Twichell on Thursday night November 4.  We are in a much better place.

10 responses to “Update on the end of El Camino and Jim’s health”

  1. Bob and Gail MacAlpine Avatar
    Bob and Gail MacAlpine

    We are grateful that Jim received care sooner rather than later and wish him a speedy and complete rehab/recovery. Love you guys!

    Bob and Gail

  2. Hallelujah 🙏 the Universe listened and delivered your prayers, and God is great. Rest well. Heal well. Then get ready to travel well again. See you both soon.🥰🤗🥰

  3. So relieved with this news. Have a wonderful time in Mexico! We are hoping to re-start Camino in spring 2022, especially if you both will be there. Keep us updated on your plans and, until we meet again ( and long after), buen saludable!

  4. Victoria S Kinnally Avatar
    Victoria S Kinnally

    I am so glad to hear Jim had a solution for his SOB. Thankful he has been treated and now can celebrate.

  5. So glad Jim survived the daily stress tests on the Camino. Strong work Sandy to wrestle with the Health Care Bear!
    Hope we can all revisit the Camino next year.

  6. Thank you for updating us all and we’re so thankful to know that Jim was finally able to get the medical support and intervention he needed. Looking forward to Mexico!

  7. Another awesome blog!! Thanks for the updates and for having dinner with us tonight!
    Love and best wishes,
    Sandy Roewe

    1. Thanks so much Sandy, we updated the blog with a picture from tonights dinner. Love to you and Joe.

  8. God bless you both. Hopefully, the worst is behind you and you’ll be on the road in no time!

    1. Thanks Mark, hoping that you will be able to join us in Mexico.

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