Allison Durant – Honeymooning with Heart Issues: Tips for Traveling
Allison had a loving boyfriend, a new job and her whole life ahead of her when she was diagnosed with cardiac sarcoidosis, a rare inflammatory disease that causes granular clumps of cells similar to scar tissue to form and can severely affect heart function. Four years later, she has a pacemaker/defibrillator in her chest, several job promotions behind her and her whole life ahead of her – as a new bride. Follow her journey at www.wiredheart.org.
Much like our wedding, our honeymoon was amazing. We decided to take a two week honeymoon which was the best decision we ever could have made. Honeymoons are supposed to be all rainbows and butterflies…right? And for the most part ours was, but it took a lot of planning to get to that point!
Traveling with heart issues is not the easiest task. I definitely prepared and over prepared to make sure that I was as ready as I could be. I had it set in my mind that I was going to feel great the entire time and not bring up my sickness (positive thinking!!). I wanted to live the most normal life I could for those two weeks.
I’ve traveled quite a bit since I was diagnosed, but this was the longest amount of time that I would be away from home. I’m lucky in that I have been traveling a lot since I was little. My mom was a travel agent for a long time and we took a lot of trips. I’m comfortable with airplanes, hotels, boats, etc… which I think definitely has made it easier for me to travel after my diagnosis.
Before I got sick, my only pre-trip preparation was to make a packing list of things not to forget. However after I got sick, my pre-trip preparation got a little bit more involved.
Here are some tips that I use when traveling that I think might be useful for anyone traveling with health issues:
Research Travel Locations – This was a tough one. Michael and I both love the beach and we knew we wanted to go to an all-inclusive. Originally, we wanted to do Antigua or St. Lucia. I was nervous to do a 4 hour plane ride and the humidity is a little higher in those islands (sometimes heavy humidity will make me short of breath). So we decided on the Bahamas. It was a much shorter plane ride and the humidity didn’t bother me at all! Definitely consider travel time to the destination (including any layovers) and the weather before booking
Talk to your doctors ahead of time – I discussed the locations I would be traveling to, and the time frame, to give them the heads up just in case anything was to pop up while I was away – they would be aware of why and where I was traveling.
Have lots and lots of medicine – This is a big one. I bought two daily pill containers that had sections for 2x per day doses to last me for the two weeks we were traveling. I then bought an additional pill container and filled each section with extra pills. You never know when your flight might get delayed and you might not get home until later than you were expecting. I also packed medication for any aliment I could think of – Advil, Tylenol, Tums, Pepto Tablets, Benadryl, etc… It’s better to bring these medications along with you because they may not be available where you are traveling to – or the ingredients might be different. Not to mention these medicines can be really pricy in other countries!
Bring any necessary medical records – Again, this is more of a “Better to be safe than sorry” tip. Just in case you end up at a doctor’s office or hospital, it is much easier to hand the doctor a summary of your health issues and your doctor’s contact information. This is especially important in case you are in a situation where you are not able to speak or not conscious. Or have a really rare disease that no one knows about!
Wear a medical bracelet – This is more of a tip that I suggest for every day, not just during traveling. I wear my medical bracelet every day. It is a great investment. I ordered my bracelet off of Etsy.com – there are a ton of vendors with really pretty bracelets that do not look like the typical medical bracelets (more fashion forward!).
So once you’ve done all of the above to prepare for your trip, I have a few tips of things I do during the trip to stay healthy:
Prepare for the security line at the airport – My biggest fear is that I will get to the airport and they either won’t be using the body scanners, or they won’t have body scanners. Since I have a pacemaker/defibrillator, I cannot go through the metal detectors. It can interfere with the functioning of my pacemaker. If this is the case, I tell the TSA agent that I have a pacemaker and I will typically get asked to move to the side for a pat down. Not the most pleasant experience, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
Lysol the hotel room – This is a suggestion, not something that I always do (or remember to do). But it’s a good idea to bring Lysol wipes and wipe down things that are commonly touched such as the remote, light switches, sink handles, door handles, etc… When you travel, you go outside your body’s comfort zone of bacteria. Being introduced to new bacteria can cause illness – something you certainly do not want while traveling!
Wear sunscreen – With having Sarcoidosis, I have to be very careful with my vitamin D levels. I still don’t 100% understand why, but Sarcoidosis can turn vitamin D into active vitamin D which can become toxic to your system in high levels. Sunscreen helps to not absorb as much of the vitamin D. Also, I want to protect my skin from skin cancer (and wrinkles!).
Drink a TON of water – I should clarify – bottled or purified water. Especially if you are on an island! Being out in the sun and heat along with doing activities such as swimming can dehydrate you without realizing it. Alcohol also dehydrates, so it is very important to stay hydrated. As soon as I arrive anywhere, I always make sure I have bottles of water in my hotel room – even if I have to pay $8 a bottle. It’s worth it. The minute I get dehydrated is the minute my heart goes crazy. Something I don’t want to have to deal with.
Watch what you are eating/drinking – So this one sounds really good, but in reality it is really hard. I have to be honest, I was not the best at watching what I was eating or drinking. Especially my alcohol consumption. Those fruity drinks go down so fast!! And the food was delicious. I was enjoying myself and I was feeling great, so I wasn’t too concerned. If there was a day I was feeling sluggish, I would cut back on the junk and drink more water than usual. I was also trying to watch my salt intake. Being in the heat, I can easily retain fluid. If I have too much salt, my heart has trouble pumping all of the fluids through my body.
Get enough rest – It is so easy to stay up late while you are on vacation and then have to wake up early to do tours or get a good seat at the pool. We made sure that we were getting enough sleep every night and balancing our days with naps on the beach.
Go with the flow – This is probably my biggest piece of advice. Something is not going to go as planned – it is just the nature of life. So just go with it. We experienced our first travel nightmare as a married couple. We were stuck in the Bahamas an extra night during a terrible storm and our flight the next morning was delayed by six hours. We spent an entire weekend of our honeymoon in two different Bahamian airports before we got to the second part of our honeymoon in Florida. We were hungry, tired and irritated. But we got through it and now we can laugh about it.
Lastly, just have fun. Don’t worry about anything. Once we arrived in the Bahamas, I wasn’t worried one bit about my heart. Honestly, I didn’t think about being sick for the entire two weeks. I felt like myself before I got sick. We went swimming with the pigs, snorkeling, kayaking, fed stingrays, swam with nurse sharks and barracudas, got to drive a boat, accidentally found ourselves in the middle of a school of sting rays, had a manatee swim up next to us, and we held star fish and went shelling…just to name a few of the things we did.
But most of all, I got to spend good quality time with my husband which was good for my heart. We don’t always get to spend a lot of time together with our busy jobs, so being able to relax and enjoy our time together was just what I needed.
Isn’t that the point on vacations anyway, to relax?