Sickle cell demands that we carefully prepare before traveling

How to avoid health emergencies while traveling with a chronic illness

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by Sylvia Amuta |

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When traveling with someone who has sickle cell disease, it’s crucial to be well prepared for any emergencies that may arise. Most importantly, don’t forget to pack your regular prescriptions!

I made that rookie error when I took an unexpected trip with my entire family, including my little niece Ada, whom I care for due to her sickle cell disease.

It was a seemingly ordinary Sunday morning until we got word that my father-in-law, Dede — a nickname my children affectionately gave him — had fallen, incurred a fracture, and been hospitalized.

I didn’t even have time to think; as soon as I got that terrible phone call, I instantly went into panic mode. I hastily began packing the luggage that we’d need for the journey to visit him in another state here in Nigeria.

The trip, which was supposed to take six hours, ended up lasting eight hours because the roads were full of potholes and in poor condition. We also encountered several police checkpoints along the route.

As we drove, I couldn’t help but feel guilty. The last time I’d spoken on the phone with Dede, he mentioned that his vision was getting worse due to his cataracts. As a doctor, I reassured him that I would arrange a consultation with an ophthalmologist in Lagos. I couldn’t help but speculate that his bad eyesight had contributed to his accident, and that this whole mess could have been prevented if I’d gotten him in to see an eye doctor sooner.

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When one crisis leads to another

In the thick of everything that was going on, I failed to remember to give Ada her regular doses of sickle cell medicine. After four hours of nonstop driving, we stopped at a restaurant for some food and to stretch our legs. If it were up to me, we would’ve kept going, but my husband insisted that we stop and take a break.

Both of my toddler sons were sound asleep, but Ada’s face was contorted in a grimace. When I inquired about the source of her distress, she mentioned she was experiencing pain in both of her legs.

The aching might’ve been an early symptom of a pain crisis brought on by the confined automobile, the lengthy drive, and the likelihood of dehydration. I had been so flustered that I neglected to check in on Ada, who’d found this situation extremely stressful.

I certainly shouldn’t have forgotten to give her the routine medications at home. Thank goodness my husband suggested we pull over. I convinced her to get out and stretch her legs while we looked for a drugstore where we could buy her some pain relievers.

As a result of this ordeal, I now keep a tiny bag of over-the-counter pain relief pills in the cubbyhole of my car. Before every trip, I prepare a mental and physical list of all the products I might need, regardless of the exigency, to guarantee that I always have Ada’s meds with me. We may need to leave hastily because of an emergency, but without preparation, sickle cell may spark an additional emergency.

In any case, we made it through the day, and Ada’s discomfort was controlled by some analgesics and plenty of rest. In contrast, my father-in-law wound up undergoing surgery. Fortunately, he is making a full recovery with the help of rehabilitation.

Do you have advice for traveling with sickle cell? Please share in the comments below.

Note: Sickle Cell Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell disease.


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