Real Texas Hospital

by david on May 5, 2012

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Dear Real Texas Blog readers:

Sorry there has not been much going on here lately.  Here’s an explanation.

On April 19, Ramona and I were in Austin for the day and she started having severe abdominal cramps and pain.  Since she has a history of intestinal problems, we take such pains seriously.  Some of you may know my  wife Ramona through her Real Texas Recipes and other YouTube videos.  She is  a prolific blogger in her own right with several blogs of her own including Ramona’s Basil Garden and Cooking Vietnamese Food.  You can click on a tab at the top of her blogs to learn more of her life story….it’s very interesting.

She is a very accomplished person and a proud U.S. Air Force Veteran.

Since we were in South Austin, I made a decision to take her to Audie Murphy VA Medical Center in San Antonio.  It took me about an hour to get her to Audie Murphy.  I made that decision because Veteran’s Administration hospitals often see traumatic abdominal wounds suffered by soldiers in our war efforts and they might have more experience than a regular hospital.  In hindsight, it was an excellent decision.  We entered the Veteran’s Administration Emergency Room and things started happening relatively quickly.  She was stabilized, given some pain meds,  and seen by the ER docs and nurses.

They decided to admit her to the hospital and we were taken to a room in the surgical unit floor 2 West.  We were there a week while she underwent every test known to modern medicine  in dealing with her type of situation.  We were trying to avoid surgery if at all possible.

It was was not possible, and eight days after we had been here she underwent major surgery.  It was an 8 hour procedure and two surgical specialists worked diligently and professionally.  I was a nervous wreck. In addition to all the stress with her surgery, we had left our home at Sherwood Ranch with only the clothes on our backs.  We had intended to go back home the same day we left.  I was buying my clothes at Wal-Mart.  For a four day stretch while she was in ICU, I slept in the ICU waiting room and was eyed suspiciously by the VA Security Forces who patrol the area.  While she was in her regular room, I slept by her side in the sleeper chair and was able to assist her when she needed to visit the bathroom facilities and such.  In ICU I was not able to stay in her room as a patient needed the room.

I lived out of my vehicle and carried my necessities in one of those re-usable grocery bags.  I washed up in the restrooms.

Fortunately, a good friend who lives near my home came to the rescue and went to my home which is some 200 miles away and packed a suitcase for me and got my computers.  Unfortunately, the VA hospital does not have wi-fi service available. I used Ramona’s iPhone to text out updates as many friends wanted news on her condition.  Another friend had heard of our predicament and found someone coming our way.  I met them out on I-10 at the Bass Pro shop on the outskirts of San Antonio and got my clothes and computers.

Our network of friends has been nothing but awesome.

Ramona remained in ICU for four days and it was literally touch and go there for a while.  She had been given 5 units of blood after losing 2 feet of her small intestine due to an intestinal blockage.  Her incision can be described as from stem to stern as surgeons needed plenty of room to work.  Those of you who are familiar with adhesions will know that her surgery was complicated by the insidious adhesions that impeded surgeons in their work.

A very good friend of mine who lives in San Antonio,  Eddie Burkett and his wife Dr. Janna Wilder, graciously offered  me a bedroom and private bath in their home.  I spend most of the day here at the hospital and nights at the Burkett residence.  It is a pleasure when their dogs lick my legs.  Ramona and I miss our own dog children as well as the rest of her ‘zoo’ at our home.  Yes, that is including her pet, Bobby the bobcat she is pictured with here.

Son Joe David is totally taking over duties of one business we have together.  He has diligently stayed in touch.

our good friend Richard, a retired truck driver, stays at our home while we are away keeping all the animals fed and watered and the newly planted garden up and running.  He has been giving away eggs by the dozen to all takers.  We did not intend to be gone this long at all.

The doctors have said Ramona will be hospitalized for a minimum one month more from this date,  probably longer.  He has described it as a long hard road back to our former life. They are concerned with leaks after they start giving her clear liquids and ‘restarting’ her system.  She has had no food by mouth for two weeks now.  She is being fed with a mixture known as TPN through a tube directly into her bloodstream.  She will have no food by mouth for another three weeks.  She also has a GN tube, which is a tube inserted through a nostril down into her stomach which sucks all stomach fluids out into a canister mounted on the wall.  She has expanding booties on her lower legs to prevent DVT’s or blood clots.  As expected, she is extremely weak, but you can see the fighting spirit in her eyes when  the physical therapist comes to visit and get her up to walk a few steps.
It takes the nurses longer to unhook everything from her than it does to take her walk.  We take every little victory as it comes.  When she walked for a lap in ICU followed by two nurses and a massive infusion pump with all her tubes, her chin stuck  out and she resembled a track champion headed for the finish line at many Texas track meets I have attended.  When she finished the one lap,  she asked for another.  It was an inspiring sight to see her very slowly shuffling forward after being so near death two days before.  The doctors and nurses had genuine smiles on their faces and clapped and urged her on.  She finished the second short lap exhausted, but triumphant.

Many of you have heard horror stories of the VA hospital system, but we have experienced nothing but ‘world class’ care here in San Antonio.  It is a teaching facility and it is interesting to see the entourage of doctors making rounds with  their doctor mentors. There was always a big discussion outside Ramona’s room in ICU.  At one point while there, I counted 15 tubes of things being pumped into her little body.  They had every technology available on the planet available and in use to save her life.  After her blood pressure hit 72/33, it was touch and go.  They literally had a nurse standing by her bed monitoring all the machines, pumps, vital signs,  medicines, and devices on a 24/7 basis.  Many of the nurses are ex-military and very competent. Several have taken a special interest in her and come to her room to visit and encourage  her.

It appears it will be a long hard road to recovery, but it is a challenge we will meet together and work as a team in her care.  I am learning more about this fabulous medical complex and this entire medical area of our Great State.

It’s one more reason to be thankful we live in Texas and that our veterans have such an outstanding facility in their time of need.

I will try to keep you updated and post here as often as possible. I hope to get back to my ‘How To Be Texan-Wherever You Are series as soon as possible.    I have to travel down the road to a close-by Starbucks to get a wi-fi signal in order to send messages.  I did go the the Apple Store in the La Cantera area of San Antonio and purchased a new iPad 64 gb 4G connected device to use in the hospital room.  The keyboard will take some getting familiar with.  She can use the iPad at home easily as we have a wireless network at our home all the way down to the creek.  I registered it in her name and it should be easier for her to manage.

So here we are for the time being.  We wonder what will happen when they ‘restart’ everything.  Will it all hold together?  Are we facing more of this?

It is what it is….and we will deal with it as many of our veterans have to do every single day.

She is one very courageous person whom I love and admire with all my heart.

I’m David out in Real Texas
At a Real Texas VA ‘world class’ hospital….

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

VickieNo Gravatar May 5, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Dearest David & Ramona:

I’m completely shocked to hear this news. I’ve got you both covered in prayers and I know that Ramona, with her positive spirit, will rally on through. If there is anything at all that I can do (we’re just outside of Houston), please let me know. I’ll be watching for progress reports.


candyNo Gravatar May 5, 2012 at 8:34 pm


I am so sorry to hear about Ramona, but glasd that she is doing better. I will keep both of you in prayer.


Chuck and Liz EtheridgeNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 6:56 am

David, thank you SO much for catching us up on what is going on with sweet Ramona. You both have had quite a difficult road the past few weeks……just want you to know that we are praying not just for Ramona, but for you too, David, to give you the strength its going to take to manage the road ahead. You’ll do fine, but its tough, especially since you are so far away from home. Maybe God sent you guys to Austin that particular day weeks ago so you would be closer to the VA Hospital that saved her life. He works in mysterious ways you know…..but to me, this was no mystery. Take care of that sweet girl……and we look forward to hearing about her progress. We’re praying for ya…..


JannyNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 8:03 am

David, we still have Ramona and you in our thoughts and prayers. So glad she’s in a private room and determined to recover. It’s her nature to fight for what she wants. That can only be in her favor. So glad you’re able to sleep in a bed…take care of yourself too! Give Ramona our love!


PattiNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 8:29 am

The two of you brighten our lives on a regular basis! Please know our prayers are with you.


Mike EnglemanNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 10:12 am

Werst…Being a Texas boy, I’m an expert on everything I know nothing about. When it comes to things I know a little about, I’m unbearable.
That said, I have more than a mere passing familiarity with an ailing wife. Amy declined for five years before she died. I will tell you what I learned during those five years.
1. Fear is your worst enemy. It is an enemy that is larger than you. You cannot defeat it. I urge you to give it away to our Lord. I found that the best way to do that—to give it away and to keep it given away—is to have a continual conversation with God. And don’t just spend your time talking to Him about Ramona and her health. Do not forget to thank him. For Ramona, for that mockingbird that serenades you every morning out on the Ranch and for all the other miracles he creates for you daily.
Hell, if you run out of things to talk about with Him, tell him a Texas joke. He’s bound to have a sense of humor. After all, He invented you.
2. As Ronald Regan said: “Trust and verify.” I learned, during those last years with Amy, why the docs call their business a “practice.” I have concluded after my many experiences with them that the practice of medicine is less a science and more an art.
Do what comes natural for a journalist—ask questions. And don’t stop until the doc has enabled you to get past his medical gibberish to a full understanding.
The more you learn, the better prepared you will be to help Ramona understand why she was ill, how she recovered and what you and she must do to make certain such an episode never happens again.
Start now!
3. Consider David. Your every thought, your every action, your entire being is consumed by Ramona and her health. Pardon me for pissing you off, but this attitude is a mistake.
You must think of David. You must be “selfish” because it will be David who eventually becomes the key to Ramona’s full recovery. Once the docs have finished their meddling around on her, once the friends and well-wishers have adjourned back to their own lives, it will David and his love who will finally cure Ramona.
Which means that David must begin preparing for that day now. Which means that David must begin making it a priority to take care of David. Now.
Of course, I’m talking about taking care of the physical David. Eating right, sleeping right and getting some exercise (how many walking laps can you make around the hospital floor that contains Ramona’s room?), and all that other new-age BS.
But, I’m also talking about—probably more importantly—taking care of the inner David. Your on-going conversation with God is going to help the inner David immensely. But, there are other things David can do for David (and, hence, for Ramona and her full recovery).
She mostly sleeps in her hospital room while you stare blankly at the television set. When she’s sleeping, get your ass out of her room! Do your laps around the floor. Got outside and marvel a God’s work and breathe His fresh air.
And, when you’re in her room, turn off the damn teevee and read a book. Read a book that lifts you not only out of Ramona’s room, but also out of David’s life. I have a suggestion (of course) of a book which will accomplish that. It is “A Light in the Window,” by Jan Karon. She has written a series of books about a stodgy, middle-aged, never-married Episcopal priest and his beautiful new woman neighbor. Yeah, it IS a chick’s book. But I found it so compelling that I read the entire series.
If you’ve got your Kindle with you, run over to the Starbucks and buy it off of Amazon. I’ve checked and it’s there.
4. Do what I say, not what I did. All the stuff I’ve mentioned here were things I did not do. Including Jan’s books. I read them after Amy died.

You and Ramona are now a part of my continual conversation with God.
Mike Engleman


VickieNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 10:46 am

Wow Mike…I’m very impressed with your advice. We should all have friends like you to help us see outside of our own emotional situation. When you are emotionally involved with someone who is in a crisis situation, it’s sometimes hard to remember that we have to take care of ourselves as well as our loved one. Well done.


Roy AdamsNo Gravatar May 7, 2012 at 2:42 pm

David, Mike has told you many things that you need to hear and do especially the advice to never spend 15 minutes of your day without asking our Heavenly Father (Daddy) what HE wants you to do and say to Ramona and others. I have learned that in the last couple of years and wish that I had learned many years ago.
Dory and I will be praying for Ramona’s complete healing that JESUS provided for with the stripes on his back and for peace for David in this time when fear comes to attack you. The enemy comes to steal the WORD OF GOD from us so he can kill and destroy after that.
We look forward to the good reports to come about Ramona and David.


Rebecca Givens BickerstaffNo Gravatar May 8, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Excellent advice for David – Mike … and very thoughtful of you to spell it out … Bravo!!!

As far as the Jan Karon books … yes, they may seem like chick book … but “Mitford collection” is inspirational and uplifting … my entire family (including my dad, husband, father-in-law, and b-i-l have read them as well) … and when Ramona gets to that point of being interested in reading — she would enjoy them as well. 😀


Troy GipsonNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 11:51 am

My prayers to both of you and I hope Ramona’s recovery keeps progressing and she will be back home soon. Please tell her this old Ky boy really enjoys her recipies…

Best to you both,



Law West of the GuadalupeNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 1:47 pm

We just got home from church and I wish I had read this before we went. But, Miss Jan and I will keep Ramona and you in our daily prayers. We live outside of Boerne and are quite familiar with the medical center area in SA; so if there is anything that we can do or help with, please let us know. We go to SA on a weekly basis; hell, I could even go by Costco for you and pick you up a big bottle of Jack to help with the crisis. It is great that Ramona is pushing herself and striving to get this behind her. We are with her and you all the way. Please keep us posted. You can do it through the National Blog of Texas, as I am sure that everyone will want to keep up with her progress. Tell Ramona that she needs to keep peddlin’ as fast as she can cuz we’ve got a cruise to go on right after the first of the year — I’m still workin on Miss Jan to give the nod.

I can’t help but add that I opened up the blog this time because I wanted to say something about Audie Murphy VA Hospital based on an experience with a good friend of mine who had surgery there about 3 months ago. When I opened it I had no idea about Ramona or the VA hospital. Anyway, my friend had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer. He was diagnosed early and they recommended immediate surgery. So he checked in Audie Murphy and Miss Jan and I went to be with his wife during the surgery. I was amazed at how differrent that hospital was compared to all of the others. All personnel were really very friendly and helpful. It seemed that everything was not as restrictive. We were allowed to go in and see my friend right before surgery which gave us the opportunity to tell dirty jokes and other tales and get him all pumped up for the surgery. The surgery went well and the doctor came out and reported to all of us that he was pleased with the surgery and they did not have to remove the bladder. We were then allowed to go in after the surgery and tell him how silly he sounded being still all doped up. My friend has just finished a round of chemo and is doing well — as a matter of fact we are going to go to Port O’Connor at the end of the month to do a little fishing and a lot of eating and drinking. My friend’s doctor looked a little like Robin Williams playing the doctor, whose name escapes me at the moment, with the red clown nose. His dress was similar and no one would have mistaken him for a doctor, which I can relate to since usually no one mistakes me for a lawyer. My friend related that in an earlier conversation with the doctor he had asked him how long he had been with the VA and where he had come from before that, just getting some background on the Doc that is fixing to cut him open. He had been at VA only a couple of years and before that he had been at the Mayo Clinic making a gazillion dollars a second. He said he came to the VA because he wanted to help people. He wanted to make the decisions that would benefit the patients the most. At the Mayo Clinic and all other private hospitals, doctors were under severe restrictions: don’t do that surgery, we can’t make any money doing that; don’t do that, we might get sued; and other similar decisions that had absolutely nothing to do with the welfare of the patient. It is nice to know that the VA is a first class place with qualified world class doctors.

So, as Chuck and Liz said, you were in the right place for the good Lord to lead you in the right direction. Email or call if we can help.



BeeGeeNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm

David, please tell Ramona that you two have a vacation stay on me in the Fall when she is up to it and feeling better.

I remember it was such a challenge cooking for you 2 since Ramona is such a wonderful cook.

Ramona was already in my thoughts this week as I put on an apron I must not have worn since I fixed you breakfast and found Ramona’s Basil Garden business card in the pocket.

Lots of love to you both from South Texas, which really IS just an adjunct of Real Texas.

Ramona, you go get ’em gal.



terry WilliamsNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 4:45 pm

My thoughts and prayers are with you nad Ramona. I just wish I lived closer so I could be able lend my assistance.
You will be in my thought and prayers every nite.
Hang in it will be better.


Billy JackNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 5:41 pm


Hang tough because you will have to be Ramona’s strength when she comes home. I know you can, and know that our prayers will be with both of you.



Jonny M. DayNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 5:50 pm

David and Ramona,

I have been viewing your sight for a long time, and being from Miles, Texas, love your style and Ramona’s cooking.

Sorry to learn of Ramona’s serious condition. My wife and family will pray everyday for her long road to recovery.

God bless you and Ramona,



Debbie ElkinsNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 6:42 pm

David, if there is any thing that we can do in Mertzon for you, please let us know, as of Feb. 13, 2012. I have retired from the Mertzon Post Office, and I am available to help water, feed the animals what ever…. I am sorry to hear about Ramona, we all know that she is a fighter and she will be back home sooner then you think. the best news is that you knew she needed a good hospital, you two are LUCKY to have each other… I also have friends and relatives in San Antonio that would probably be willing to offer some assistance. please know that the both of you are in our prayers.. God works in mysterious ways, and sometimes he does things to make us slow down and take care of ourselves.
Your Friend In Christ
Rocky & Debbie Elkins


Andrew WantaNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 9:51 pm

David and Ramona,

My prayer for a complete and speedy recovery. I understand intestinal surgery and had to deal with a severe/critical problem myself in 2006. Ramona keep fighting and David help her stay positive and you also stay positive. You are in very good hands at the VA.

Thank you for sharing with me through your Real Texas blog all these years. I will keep sending positive energy and prayers your way.

San Antonio, TX


Sue HelvestonNo Gravatar May 6, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Ramona and you are in my thoughts and prayers. Glad to hear she is in such a good medical facility.


WalterNo Gravatar May 7, 2012 at 10:24 am

David, Ramona,
Stay in there and keep fighting, you can do it. I went through Colon surgery where they took 14″ of my right colon out due to Cancer, but am doing fine now with no problem with cancer after 2 1/2 years.

God Bless You and David, and keep your chin up high.

Walter Horton


DavidNo Gravatar May 7, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Wow! Thank you everyone for the positive thoughts, prayers and words of encouragement. Ramona is having good days and some not so good days, but what she does have is a positve aura that you can almost see and feel when you are in the room with her. That comes from her many friends who are snding their love and good wishes. i read your comments to her very evening.

Thanks you all so much-


DarlaNo Gravatar May 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm

I too want to wish Ramona God Speed and you both will be in my prayers as well. With all the prayers and well wishes here the heavens shall be bombarded by all of our prayers. I pray we hear some good news soon and she can go home. The Bible say’s ‘Where two or more or gathered in My name I shall be among them.’ Amen!
Darla Jones
San Antonio


Scottie WilliamsNo Gravatar May 8, 2012 at 6:23 am

Hello David and Ramona,
I wanted to convey my thoughts, prayers and hope for you both. I’m grateful that Ramona is in Audie, it’s a world class hospital. I have been treated there several times. My younger brother was a Viet Nam combat vet. He was 50 years old, and died there from agent orange in 1997. But the help he received there helped him to live almost an extra 2 years. We have not met face to face David, but we have a lot in common. My name is Scottie Williams, I’m the photographer that helped do the picture you picked up at Walgreens in San Angelo. I’m a friend of Sarah’s. In just a few short days, May 18th, my wife Judy will be gone 10 years. For the first couple of years, I would wake early. Seems like I always had to wake early, so I would have time to cry before I started my day. There was 13 kids in her family, she was #10, and so I married a 10, in more ways than just looks. She was just 50 years young, liver cancer ran in her family. It took her way to soon. I don’t have any advise for you David. It sounds to me like your doing everything a person can do, when you love someone. Ask God every morning for the power and wisdom to do the next right thing, put one foot in front of the other, suit up, show up and go forward. You and Ramona love and take care of each other. God bless you both as you’ll battle this war.
Scottie Williams….


Stephan Marc Dubois, Sr.No Gravatar May 8, 2012 at 12:19 pm

David –

It’s times like these that you find out who your true friends are. I don’t know you personally, but your wit, character and larger than life Texas charm, keep me coming back to the “National Blog of Texas”. And the amount of contacts on this post alone shows that you’re loved by many.

Tell your sweet Ramona there are many, many folks out here with her in our hearts and prayers and that we can’t wait for her to “git back to bloggin” those great cooking adventures.

May God walk with you and Ramona until you get to take your sweet bride back home.

Take care and God Bless…

Steve, The Impulsive Texan


Linda ArmsNo Gravatar May 8, 2012 at 4:13 pm

David and Ramona,

My heart and prayers are with you. You have both been such a joy to have here in Mertzon – always welcoming, smiling, and helping. I am so sorry to hear about Ramona’s illness and all that you both have been going through. I hope Ramona has a speedy recovery and you’re home soon. Let me know if there’s anything I might help with here. I’m just down the highway. God Bless and keep you in His arms.
Your Big Lake Friend in Mertzon, Linda


Rebecca Givens BickerstaffNo Gravatar May 8, 2012 at 8:26 pm

David — thank you for the update … sending BIG HUG to both of you. Give Ramona our love ~~ prayers continuing!!


Ron CameronNo Gravatar May 9, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Thanks so much for keeping us informed. Praying for a complete & speedy recovery.
“When we cannot see God’s hand, we can trust His heart.”

God bless & God speed!!


Janie Holt GiddiensNo Gravatar May 20, 2012 at 11:45 am

David and Ramona-
Have been keeping up with your progress! So glad to hear you are improving every day!! We are thinking about you and praying for a complete recovery! I am so proud of you, David, for taking such good care of her and offering her the support she needs. Take good care of yourself in the days and weeks to come so that you can take care of her when you get home! Love to you both! Your Big Lake/ West Texas friends love you both!
Janie and Ron


Angie GrishamNo Gravatar May 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm

We aren’t well acquainted but through Ray & Rebecca Bickerstaff, I feel we know you. My heart, thoughts & prayers are with you both as you make this journey.


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Troy GipsonNo Gravatar October 6, 2014 at 9:24 am

Thoughts and prayers from this ole’ Kentucky boy….


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