As many of you know, I had a kidney transplant. The transplant was a wonderful gift, returning many lost freedoms. Since the transplant, I have tried to live life to the fullest. One of my favorite things to do is travel. Next week I will be embarking on a three-week trip to Iceland, Spain, and Portugal. I know – I can’t wait! I will post lots of pics and videos on my Facebook and Instagram pages so keep a lookout.
This trip will be the first time I will be leaving the U.S. since my transplant in 2014. As exciting as a trip abroad is, I want to make sure I am prepared to stay as safe as possible. In 2009, I was really sick, and had a travel disaster on my way to London, but that’s a story for another day. The point is, you can never be too careful, so I made a travel list to help me do so. As I checked off items on the list I started calling it, Pro Tips – Traveling Abroad after a Kidney Transplant. Some items on this travel list may seem odd to people without health issues. But those among us that do need to do what’s in our best interest. What’s odd to one, is safe to another.
Currently, I have checked off all the items on my pro tips list and am feeling as ready as I can be for my trip. As I completed the task, I thought my list could come in handy for other travelers so I decided to post it. There are items on this Pro Tips – Traveling Abroad after a Kidney Transplant list that are important for all to consider. So, I hope everyone reads it, finds it useful, and shares it with others.
Pro Tips – Before You Leave
- Pray. It’s always wise to begin a trip, or anything for that matter, with a prayer. God first.
- Talk to your doctor. When traveling somewhere foreign, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. They can tell you if it is safe, health wise, to go to the desired destination. I spoke with my kidney transplant team to find out if I needed to take any extra precautions while away. I also got a note specifying that I am a kidney transplant patient. The note was written on a prescription that contains my doctor’s credentials. The note specifies that I am a kidney transplant patient and need the medications I will have on me to stay alive. Make a few copies of the note and keep one on you all the time, and give one to a travel buddy as well.
- Check the State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites. It’s better to be safe than sorry. With all that is going on these days you can never be too careful. The State Department is a wonderful resource to find out where our U.S. embassies are, in case of an emergency. The State Department is the place to see if any travel warnings or alerts are in place for your destination. The State Department and CDC can also tell you if you need any vaccinations or immunizations. But be sure to check with your doctor to make sure those vaccinations and immunizations are safe to take.
- Insurance. Check with your healthcare provider to make sure you have coverage out of the country. If you don’t, consider traveler’s insurance. Believe me, you do not want to be in the position of needing coverage and not having it. Medical expenses are the leading cause of bankruptcies in the United States. Even with coverage the cost is astronomical. Don’t get caught out of the country without coverage.
- Medications, medications, medications. The last thing you want is to be in another country and run out of the pills that keep you alive. How terrifying would that be? To be safe, bring extra pills. And keep them with you in your carryon rather than your checked baggage while you are traveling. My doctor advised to keep said pills in the original prescription bottles. Also, you want to stay on your medication schedule. This is super important – consistency and stability are crucial. For me, I will be going to places where there is a significant time change. I take pills at 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. and need to stay on that schedule as my pills have a twelve-hour lifespan. To help me stay on schedule I added my hometown, Los Angeles, to my clock app on my phone. This way I will always know what time it is back home. It will be strange taking pills at three or four in the morning while I am gone but it’s what I have to do to stay healthy.
- P.S. If, for some reason, you lose or run out of your medications check the nearest hospital. It will be a hassle, but you should be able to get a new supply. Be sure to have your kidney transplant hotline’s number available so you can get in touch with your team if need be. Keep in mind that kidney transplants are performed throughout the world.
- Current bloodwork. As a kidney transplant patient, I get bloodwork done every four to six weeks. Get a current blood draw a few days before you leave so you know your levels are where they should be.
- Inform your travel buddy/group. I realize it can be difficult to inform others of your health issues but it’s smart to do so in travel situations. Everyone needs someone to keep an eye on them. It will help your companions know what to do if something happens. God willing, nothing will.
Pro Tips – On the Plane
- Keep it clean. I am anal about this. Many diseases spread through direct contact, especially the flu. Kidney transplant patients take immunosuppressant drugs to help prevent rejection. Suppressing your immune system puts you in a compromised position. It means you get sick far easier than people not taking immunosuppressant drugs. Be sure to bring antibacterial wipes. Wipe down your seat (if it’s leather), pulldown table, and armrests. I will also have disposable airplane seat covers, and disposable filtration facemasks. The masks I only plan to wear if I happen to be sitting next to someone that seems sick. Oh my, I can picture it now: me sitting on my seat protector, over the ear headphones and filtration mask on, iPad in hand.
- Additionally, bring a travel size hand sanitizer with you and sanitize often. Especially before and after the bathroom. Do your best to not touch the airplane bathroom handles. Use a napkin as a barrier. If you must touch the handle, sanitize immediately afterwards.
- P.S.S. I heard the magazine pockets are germ infested. Don’t go in there – bring your own reading material.
Pro Tips – At Your Destination
- Hydrate. It’s very important to stay hydrated, especially for us kidney transplant patients. Drink bottled water or other bottled drinks only, my kidney specialist advised. Don’t take any chances with the tap water. You never know.
- Food. Part of the fun of being in a foreign land is experimenting with food you have never had before. But, as tempting as they may seem, stay away from street vendor food. Keep to the restaurants where there will be some regulations in place. You want to eat healthy food that has been cooked well. The safest place to do so is in a restaurant.
- Sunblock. Unfortunately, the medications kidney transplant patients take increases the risk of skin cancers. So, apply sunscreen to stay protected.
- Have fun. Enjoy yourself; you’re on vacation.