Traveling With Sickle Cell Disease
Last updated: April 2021
Would you laugh at me if I told you that I used to have a dream of being a flight attendant?
Dreaming of being a flight attendant
I was fresh out of high school and when I brought it up to my hematologist at the time, she said she wouldn’t recommend it. I know she didn’t say this to be malicious and of course, as my doctor, she had my best interest at heart. But let me tell you, as I left that examination room I left behind that dream as well.
A love of travel
Fast forward many years later never did I end up being a flight attendant, however, I do have a love for traveling. Obviously, with the current state of the country, my traveling has been limited, I also have a family to attend to, but traveling is still something I very much enjoy. In this article, I’m going to be talking about traveling with sickle cell disease, some of the things I do to prepare for a trip, and what I do while on the trip.
Getting ready for the trip
For most people prior to traveling all they really need to do is buy some cute outfits and plan what they’re going to do while they’re on their trip. However, that is not my reality.
A visit to the hematologist
Prior to traveling, I have to take care of a couple of things: I schedule an appointment with my hematologist. This is important because I have to make sure that my blood levels, my hemoglobin, and everything else is in the best shape for the upcoming trip - although traveling is fun it can sometimes be a little bit stressful.
I also get a blood transfusion (if needed). I do this because if my hemoglobin is low I am more likely to fall into crisis, and feel more fatigued. The last thing I want to do is fall into a crisis on my trip, especially if I’m out of the country. If I’m out of the state that’s still understandable however I just want to avoid it altogether.
I like to go in for hydration. A couple days prior to my trip I like to do this, it just gives my cells the healthy boost it needs. This is also beneficial if I am going to a hot climate, to help me avoid dehydration. Lastly, I refill all of my meds. This is important because the last thing I need to do is run out of anything while I am away.
I am an over-packer for a reason, just like any other day, during trips I like to dress in layers. It is just more convenient for me because it prevents me from being exposed to extreme temperatures. If the weather is too hot I just take the layers off and if it is too cold I add them.
Lots of water and some rest
I always make sure I have water with me as we are out and about, and I also carry pain meds. The last thing I want is to be out exploring and having fun and a minor or severe pain crisis hits and I don't have my pain medicine handy.
Lastly, I am intentional about listening to my body. If I feel like I am extremely tired or that I overdid it the day before, I make sure to find time to rest even if that means sitting out of an excursion or sleeping in. The bottom line is I like to make sure I still have a good time but all have things in place that are going to help prevent me from getting sick.
Accepting and listening to our bodies
I think that with having sickle cell it is important to know that there are a lot of limitations however, we can still lead an almost “normal” life with the right accommodations.
Though I never ended up being a flight attendant, there is nothing that says it is not impossible for someone with sickle cell to do it! Life with sickle cell is all about knowing and listening to your body. Also finding the best ways to prevent a crisis when the body is stressed and overworked.
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