I return to another work week after my weekend up at the Grape Vine cabin, my health teetering on the edge of catastrophe. The pain is not abating, and trying to get in to see a doctor is becoming more and more of a joke since I don’t have a designated primary care physician. No one seems to want to help me, which is in no small way a microcosm of our US healthcare system. I have two weeks before I’m supposed to leave for Alaska, but it is looking like my year long planning is going to be all for naught.
I first went to Alaska in 2007, a few months after my sister was killed. Driving solo from Seattle to Anchorage helped me through one of the darkest periods of my life. A year later I returned to go halibut fishing in Gustavus with my brother, his father-in-law, and his wife’s Grandpa Leo. These two trips solidified my love for this State. I dreamed for years of returning to spend more time exploring the interior, and it looked like 2020 would be my year. I finalized plans in September of 2019, with a week out in the Katmai wilderness observing bears in the Brooks river eating salmon before the long winter hibernation ahead, then taking the Alaskan railroad up to Denali for another week in this National park.
Then Covid hit. In May I get an email that my reservation in Katmai was cancelled as tourism was officially closed for the season. Then the Alaskan railroad closed service on the days that I needed. I should have cancelled the entire trip then, but worked on finding alternative accommodations in some local AirBnB’s, and found some tours that looked interesting. These cancellations forced me to rent a car, but I felt my alternate plan was still exciting.
I finally find a nurse practitioner to see me at the end of the work week. She can feel the extreme tension in my back and left side, but let’s me know that she thinks it is just a very severe bruise from my repeated falling at Araivapa. I get muscle relaxers and pain meds, which help greatly. X-rays and labs come back with no findings. At least I can sit, sleep and walk without extreme, constant pain. I have a week before I am supposed to leave though.
Due to my poor health, I miss the latest Covid update from Alaska that requires all visitors to bring a negative Covid result with them that was done forty-eight hours before one’s arrival into Alaska, or one is forced to be quarantined for fourteen days at their own expense, or until a negative result can be obtained. This caused much additional stress, as in Arizona the typical time to get back your Covid test results was anywhere from five days to two weeks.
Frantically, I scour the internet to see if any place around could promise the quick turn-around results that I needed. I find a place that guarantee’s results within forty eight hours, as long as you can pay a hefty price. I’ll say it again, the US healthcare system is broken. No one should have to be extorted for a lab test result, but I have no choice.
Two days before I am supposed to leave and my meds have almost run out. Although I seem to be slowly healing, I beg the nurse practitioner for a refill so I have them if need be for my Alaskan trip. Eventually she succumbs to my demands. I go through the drive-through Covid testing center later that day, and pray I’ll get the results before landing in Anchorage. I go home and pack on a Saturday, feeling anxious, helpless and alone. I leave for the airport at 4 am the following morning, no test results yet….
This is my first time in an airport in 2020, and the place is a ghost town. The plane was near empty, so social distancing wasn’t a problem, and everyone kept their masks on during the entire flight. I switch planes in Seattle, check my phone, and see I have an email about my Covid test, and the results are negative. I breathe a huge sigh of relief, and let the meds take hold. I fall asleep for the next leg of the journey.
I imagined all kinds of quarantine scenario’s in my head for my arrival, yet in reality the process was simple. They check my negative result, and ask how long I’ll be here. I’m staying just long enough to not require a second negative Covid test while in State. I get my rental car, and enjoy true freedom as I leave the airport.
The lockdown in the city of Anchorage has the place feeling eerie. I arrive at my hotel, and am ready to just sleep. The anxiety of just getting here has me completely exhausted.
I wake up early the next morning, and decide to start off my time here with a little hike up in the Eagle River area outside of Anchorage. The medication has me thinking fuzzy, which worries me a little as I need clear faculties to stay alert about bears, moose, and who knows what else may be out here in Wild Alaska. I carry my bear spray close.
The hike is short but beautiful. I’m starting to feel a bit more normal. Perhaps I can still make this trip out to be all that I had hoped it would be….