As I have just been abroad on holiday and am very much still in ‘holiday mode’, I thought this would be the perfect time to talk about travelling with an ICD.
Over the Christmas period I went to Prague – which, by the way, is one of the most beautiful cities I have been to so far. Old buildings, beautiful views and (most importantly) the food was absolutely amazing! I spent four days taking lots of photos for my photo album, and overall, it was a lovely adventure to have over the winter break.
What wasn’t so relaxing and lovely was the build up to going away. I was nervous about taking my first trip away from home as I didn’t know what to expect – I would worry about what the hospital and medical care would be like should anything happen to me, so much so that my parents were debating whether to fly out with me or cancel the holiday completely. Personally, that was not an option for me: I felt that cancelling the trip would only make me feel like my ICD stopped me from doing things, when really it was put in place to allow me to do things which I couldn’t have done before.
So, I packed my rather over-sized suitcase (sorry James!) and ventured off to the Czech Republic and boy, did I have a great time! I think this is mainly because I followed a few travel rules whilst I was out there.
So without further or do – here are ‘Mya’s top 5 tips for coping with travelling with an ICD’ :
- Take LOTS of extra medication.
If there was one tip which I couldn’t recommend highly enough it is this. Because most people with ICDs also mostly have underlying health problems (I mean, we didn’t just get them for fun, did we?) they often take medication alongside having a device. Knowing myself, there was a high chance that I may forget or lose my medication which I was taking in my hand-luggage. Not only this, but sometimes suitcases can get lost somewhere along the way and I would HATE to be stranded in a foreign country with no access to my medication. That is why I made sure that I took almost double the amount for my time away and spread this across both my suitcase and hand-luggage and it definitely calmed my paranoia about being away from home and forgetting my meds. Knowing that even if I lost or misplaced one set – there would always be enough for the duration of the holiday made my time away much more relaxing and enjoyable (even if I did feel like a walking pharmacy in the airport!!).
2. Take it slow.
Another thing I found useful whilst away was making sure that I did not push myself too much or put pressure on myself to do set things on certain days. Having a pacemaker and being away from home is hard enough, let alone when you force yourself to do things when you may not feel 100% up to it. On the days when I felt tired we would go for a wander around the shops and at times when I felt full of energy we climbed the hill to Prague Castle or walked across Charles Bridge – which took so much pressure off attempting to push myself too much for the sake of trying to cram in all the sightseeing. I am glad that we approached the holiday this way, as we still saw everything we wanted to see and also took in the scenery on the way around
3. Know your surroundings.
I posted in the ICD group that I am a part of asking for tips on travelling and this was a great idea from another member. They said that it was best to know the location of the nearest hospital along with the contact number of emergency services, this way, should anything happen you would be able to know exactly who to contact. Another piece of advice which was useful for me, was to take my little blue ‘ICD Identification Card’ with me everywhere I went. I carry this with me in my phone case back home too but I was especially conscious that I had this on me when I was abroad as they are universal, so the doctors would be able to identify which device, leads, etc that I had and take the correct precautions if anything occurred. I also gave a spare copy of this card to James (who also attended the trip) just in case!
4. Tell people and be honest.
It sounds obvious, but it is always best to tell whoever you go away with what to do if you have an episode – especially if they do not know you well enough to already know you have a pacemaker. I went away with my boyfriend, so I didn’t have to explain too much, but he did ask me what I want him to do if I feel unwell – which helped me to feel more at ease as he knew exactly what to do.
In addition to this, I know I (personally) was very curious about what I would do when I got to the airport and couldn’t go through the magnetic metal detectors. Both on my way to Prague and on the way back all I had to do was flash my card and security would let me through a separate entrance and either hand search me, flick a switch on the metal detector (which I can only assume turned off the magnetic function) and allow me to walk through or put me in an alternative machine which didn’t harm my ICD. All of these options were fine as everyone was really nice about it, I have yet to have a negative experience of travelling with an ICD!
5. Most importantly…ENJOY YOURSELF.
This one seems very self-explanatory, but it is so easy to get caught up in worrying about your health. It makes a world of difference to your happiness if you just let loose and have fun. Trust me – you won’t regret it!