“Mom, if you wanted to stay with me longer all you had to do was ask,” said our daughter Stephanie as she and I hovered over Leslie’s bed in the emergency room.
No, we’re not in Costa Rica. There’s been a slight delay and we’re still in San Diego. But while I’m staying in Stephanie’s guest room, Leslie is a patient at Sharp Memorial Hospital on the city’s north side. I’ll try to make a complicated story as concise as possible.
After suffering with abdominal pain all day Monday (Jan. 29), Leslie asked me to take her to Urgent Care on Tuesday morning (Jan. 30), just to make sure she was OK to get on an airplane to Costa Rica the following day. Urgent Care did some tests and sent her to the ER at Sharp Memorial, where she was admitted with acute pancreatitis — probably caused by passing a gallstone Monday (hence the pain) — as well as pneumonia.
Since then they have pumped her full of antibiotics and other meds. As of Friday (Feb. 2) afternoon, her condition has improved to the point where a surgeon may be able to remove her gall bladder Saturday morning, tentatively at 9:30 a.m. The gastroenterologist who treated her in the ER said her gall bladder was “full of sludge” and she might have more stones in the future. We agreed that doing the surgery now will help avoid the possibility of throwing another gallstone while we’re on a cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!
There are some positives here. First, we’re in San Diego where Stephanie can be with her mom, and where doctors and nurses speak English. Second, Leslie’s room is on the seventh floor of the acute care wing with an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean. Well, it’s several miles away, but you can see it if you look closely. And the sunsets are super!
We have cancelled the first part of our trip to Costa Rica, the house in Atenas, but everything else is unsettled. We hope to rearrange accommodations in the beach town of Jacó so we can arrive March 1 and leave April 10. That way we can still evaluate Costa Rica as a possible retirement location, but give Leslie plenty of time to heal and still take the cruise to Europe.
I know it’s been too long since the last post. I do have several excellent excuses, but that will have to wait until the end because we had a great adventure this week.
Yesterday morning, Leslie and I got (relatively) up close and personal with some humpback whales, courtesy of Vallarta Adventures and expert guide Nikki from the U.K. Whale watching is one of Puerto Vallarta’s biggest winter tourist attractions. The humpbacks arrive in early December every year and by the end of March they migrate north again to their feeding grounds.
Northern Pacific humpback whales – we learned from marine biology Ph.D.candidate Nikki – come to Puerto Vallarta for the winter. Good choice. We did the same thing! Mexico and Hawaii are their two main winter breeding grounds.
Our group of about 25 made the trip from the Puerto Vallarta maritime terminal to the mouth of the Bay of Banderas in a fast Zodiac (400 hp). On the way, I got a chance to see some boobies! Blue-footed boobies, that is. A kind of waterfowl. Since we were in the middle of the bay, we saw them in flight and couldn’t see their blue feet. Two of them flew right beside our Zodiac for at least a minute (see the brief video below), pacing us perfectly. Then they zoomed ahead and cut us off!
This video doesn’t exist
But the main event was the humpbacks. We saw several groups of two or three whales in the Bay of Banderas and just outside the mouth of the bay in the Pacific Ocean. Nikki told us humpbacks rarely travel in groups. But we saw several groups of two or three, and it was amazing!
She was excited to see the whales feeding, since they normally don’t feed in the breeding grounds. They feed like crazy on their way to the Bay of Banderas, but they usually fast during mating season. Nikki spotted a krill floating in the water and was able to scoop it up for us to see. This is what whales eat – like a shrimp and a little smaller than a honeybee. Sorry I didn’t get a photo of the krill, but I will show you – in the series of three photos below – what it looks like when the whale dives. Once you see the tail go under the water, it will be awhile before Leviathan comes back up, gathering krill as it rises. Nikki said, “The biggest part of whale watching is whale waiting.”
The highlight of the morning, though, was seeing a baby whale – a calf – with its mother. “Couldn’t be more than three months old,” Nikki said. Later she added, “We believe humpbacks may live 100 years or more. So we hope this newborn will migrate with its mother, and come back to these waters next winter. And we hope he or she keeps doing that even after all of us in this boat are gone.”
Baby humpback was breeching like crazy. “It’s very playful,” Nikki said. See the video below, and turn up the sound to hear Nikki’s commentary in English and Spanish.
This video doesn’t exist
There was a third whale, a male, along with the mother-calf pair. But Nikki said we “should not assume that’s Daddy because that’s not how humpbacks live. That’s probably a male that wants to mate with this calf’s mother.” Humpbacks can be quite solitary, she said, noting that if we see two whales together they could be a male-female pair or more likely two males. She said researchers almost never see two females together during mating season.
If you’re ever in Puerto Vallarta, be sure to do your touristy-type stuff with Vallarta Adventures. They do a great job. The marketing people that sell for them, though, can be very aggressive. We’ve learned to say, “Vivimos aqui, amigo” (We live here, buddy. We ain’t tourists.) They leave us alone when they hear that.
Yes, it’s been awhile since the last post. I hope you think this was worth the wait. I did mention some excellent excuses.The biggest one is that the patio and small pool we have are actually magnets that attract us and keep us in place! See what you think!