Almost 2.5 years on since I’ve been diagnosed and I’m still learning every day on how I can better accommodate to my condition. I don’t think there’s an end to that journey, like everyone with everything else, whether it’s your career, relationships, health- the beauty of being a human being is being able to constantly learn and adapt.
There has been days I wish I knew the answers instantly and didn’t have to deal with anymore uncertainty and then I realise, life would be pretty boring!
Having moved away from London because of my condition, you would think I’d avoid going there, but the fact is, there are many people living in urban cities and polluted environments with this condition and need to be able to cope. I was lucky enough to have the option to move away to somewhere less polluted and I did- Scotland- fresher air! If I wanted to go to the extreme, I’d have moved to Iceland (one of the least polluted cities in the world), but let’s just say, I still wanted a ‘life’! But not everyone has this option.
Being realistic, of course we can’t avoid these things (and we wouldn’t want to). We still need to be able to go on holiday and enjoy life itself. So this week, I was down in London for a week long business trip and it dawned on me, that there are so many things I do as part of my ‘preparatory’ routine, which enables me to be FINE when I travel, wherever I go to. Hence, I wanted to write a post on how to survive through it with such a debilitating condition. It was all part of learning, making mistakes if I went away and forgetting something. To list it, will hopefully be beneficial to you, as a reader and as a reminder to myself every time I go away!
You may view it as a pain in the ass to add more things to your suitcase or travel bag, but it’s better than risking your health whilst you’re on holiday or away.
First thing is first…. immunity. Before going away, I should always be doing this, but I really like to boost my immunity and bug-fighting abilities. Admittedly, I’d been suffering Heamophillus Influenza, on a reoccurring basis for 4-6 weeks before this trip. And my body was really run down, I was struggling to have the ‘power’ in my body with lethargy and breathlessness at any simple task. So I made sure to see the doctor before I went ( and this should happen anyway even if you’re feeling ‘normal’ or well enough). Just to make sure you have all the supplies necessary from inhalers, to emergency steroids, nebules etc.
To compliment that, I’d make sure I’d have enough nutrition and super-foods in my body 1 or 2 weeks in advance. I consumed lots of ginger tea in the mornings, chia seeds, iron-dense foods, fruits, veg, you name it. I also starting taking my Omega 3 and cod liver oil again (Vitamin A and D is meant to be a must-have for COPD suffers as it really helps to reduce inflammation) and Turmeric supplements. Turmeric for me is new, but I find it difficult to incorporate in my foods, so I take the supplements twice a day. It’s meant to be an excellent immunity booster!
So I’ve made a promise to myself to consume it consistently and try it for at least the next 3 months to see if it makes a difference. The real test will be to see if I can avoid getting infections again. I’ll let you guys know how I get on. On top of that, because of my constant challenge to keep the weight on, for the last month, I’ve also been trying Complan (on top of my meals,not in replacement), a nutritional milkshake type drink with an extra 250 calories and forties vitamins and minerals. Frankincense essential oil- 1 or 2 drops per day in a cup of regular or warm water. Also new to this, but I was recommended this by one of my parent’s friends. Believe it or not, he’s 70 and had previously suffered Leukaemia which has miraculously disappeared since he started drinking it (google it)! It’s additionally meant to be another great immunity booster and miracle worker. Once again, I’ve only been on this for a week, but will inform you of my progress.
Secondly, I always encourage fellow sufferers to never be afraid of asking for help. A week before I travelled, I called up my place up work and spoke to Human Resources. I made sure that they booked out the medical room for the week, so I’d have access to use my nebulizing machine and oxygen every day. This is not something to be shy of. As a person with a serious condition, you really do need to put No 1 first, and a company with good moral and ethical standards who treat employees well, should always accommodate to something on medical grounds.
I was also lucky enough to have individuals I can really rely on, so much so, that an honourable colleague (and amazing friend) walked and picked me up at the hotel I was staying to help me carry my nebuliser EVERY day to work (even though it was a 5-10 minute walk to the office)! Those kinds of people never cease to amaze me. It’s the kindness, thoughtfulness and open heart that makes her one of the greatest people on earth. Even when I lived in London, it wasn’t just that she visited me every time in hospital, it was her ability to just be an honest human being, with all her own strengths and vulnerabilities, but still had time to care about someone else and be there. She has an uplifting spirit and made me laugh and smile all the way throughout my trip. And that’s just one of my friends, I had many colleagues and friends treating me the same way (helping me with suitcases, making me smile, taking time out for me). I felt so lucky. It helps me cope and I’d hope to be able to give them same back to them.
Overall, I’d consider the following things as a summary or reminder of what you need to take with you on travels or the actions to carry out:
- Nebuliser, oxygen tank (Oxyfit if you can’t get on prescription), masks, complan (or multivitamin), turmeric, cod liver oil supplements, essential oils (eucalyptus, lavender and frankincense).
- Flying considerations. Remember though you can’t fly with oxygen… I take the train where I can. If your saturation is below 80%, you’d have to use supplemental oxygen on a commercial flight with a prescription from the doctor. Remember though, even if you don’t qualify under this algorithm (e.g your sats are 92% like mine, it doesn’t mean you won’t suffer bad effects). Make sure you have enough time to rest and recover after landing. If it drops below 90%, do pursed-lip breathing or diaphragmatic (read more about it here). Stay relaxed and avoid alcohol and caffeine. Going below 80%, you always need to notify your doctor!
- Ask for help! Work, colleagues, friends, family, hotel- don’t be shy. Make sure your needs are accommodated to for your disability.
- Pain killers. If you get a lack of oxygen, often you can get headaches. I wouldn’t normally recommend over-reliance on pain-killers or paracetamol but it’s always good for emergencies or if it gets very severe.
- Hand sanitiser. Trains and public places are ridden with bacteria. Your immune system is very weak already so you need to ensure you use the sanitiser quite often so you don’t fall prey to the bacteria lurking around everywhere.
- Scarf. And I don’t mean just any old, normal scarf. Invest in a brand specifically made for extreme temperatures such as skiing (wind) or very hot temperatures. I use Buff, a multi-wear head/neck scarf which is 100% merino wool but the material is anti-bacterial and breathable. It acts as a semi-filter for any pollutants, etc. Brilliant on horrible, windy day.
- Hospitals, doctors and emergency numbers. Google and save the numbers before you leave. Anything could happen (even unrelated to your condition), so best to be prepared anyway!
- Mini air purifier. Admittedly, I haven’t yet tried this because I’ve never seen a portable version, but I’m collaborating with ODAIR (www.odair.us/buy-now) who speak more knowledgable about air pollution and what we can do about it.
As always, I’d love to hear more about what my fellow sufferers are doing to allow a full, healthy, happy life, not limiting the ability to travel and living life to the full!
If anyone has any further ideas or things to contribute, please let me know 🙂