Travelling with Illness - darn you Crohn's!
So another feature that I’ve had to plan for and factor in to my travels is dealing with the condition I have of Crohn’s disease. This is similar to IBS, where I am susceptible to ulcers throughout my digestive system. Whilst borderline unbearable when untreated, the treatment that I am fortunate enough to receive often leaves me forgetting that I even have Crohn’s. Whilst this is all well and good when I’m at home, it becomes somewhat of an issue when I have had to consider not being in the country for the next 8 months. Luckily the treatment requiring me to go into hospital, infliximab, is only necessary every 8 weeks. So to some extent I am able to arrange these accordingly to try my best to avoid needing to visit a hospital in America. Other than this, the medication I am on I take daily and should be easily available in Australia. I’m going to attempt to be nifty in my prescription ordering so that I can get 3 months ahead just before I leave. I’m then very lucky in the fact that of my relatives that I am staying with in Oz, the father is a pilot who makes relatively frequent stops in London (whom we see whenever he is over anyway). In this way the option arises that failing to attain medication in Australia, he may be able to bring to it to me from the UK on one of his visits. I then also have the fortune that my mum is planning a short trip over to Australia in the new year, which would also provide an opportunity to drop off medication for me that would last me for the rest of my adventure.
Besides the issue of my daily medication, there is also my need to be registered to a GP whilst in Australia. This is made somewhat easier due to my circumstances of intending to settle in Avalon (with my family) allowing me to get set up with the family doctor. However, the more important reason for doing this is so that then I can be referred to a gastroenterologist consultant as without this I will be nowhere! No infliximab and no hospital treatment. Yet in addition to this there are further hoops for me to jump through as I am still going nowhere fast unless I am registered with the Australian health care system, Medicare. This, it would appear, is not possible though until I have arrived. Luckily for me, I have Cathie on the case. Cathie is my mum’s cousin and said pilot’s wife. She has been the most helpful person in aiding me every step of the way from visiting to the GP to responding to each and every email I’ve sent.
Now, I am obviously aware that not every gappie, or indeed traveller at any stage of life, is going to be staying with family or friends who are able to do so much of the leg work for them beforehand. However even without them helping me, there are steps I would have taken anyway so that I would be able to arrive and actually enjoy the time that I am away, without constantly worrying about my disease.
1. I would start by making a list of places I would be going and time scales I would be staying there. In this way you can plot out where you’ll be when you will be needing treatment/medication.
2. Now you can have a bit of a research as to what medical centres and doctors will be available to you in the places you’ll be staying in addition to the healthcare systems. For me this was already arranged as I am signed up to the family’s GP in Avalon.
3. Once you’ve got this sorted you want to contact the GP to make them aware of your impending visit and get yourself set up. Prior to this you need to have your past medical history available to send over or to have virtually and physically to give to them once you’ve arrived. This will also be useful to have so that you’ve got it if its needed on your route.
4. Depending on your own circumstances will dictate what you do next as to whether you will have to seek referral, like myself.
5. In terms of medication you will want to see if you will be able to receive it in your destination or you can ask around to see if there is anyone you know that will be going from home to wherever you are who might be able to bring medication for you. In my case I also have an auntie who is going on a ladies trip to Oz in the new year who might have been an option for bringing it for me had I needed it. You’ve just got to be open to all options.
6. But, possibly most importantly, you need insurance as who knows what could happen! In my case this was somewhat of an issue. I initially booked all my flights through STA and along with this the suggested insurance from them with Allianz. Here is where you should prick up your ears and learn from my mistake; do not call up after the 14 day cooling off period to declare your pre-existing condition. A month after everything had been booked I got around to calling Allianz up. This was not a good idea as it meant that if they still would cover me I would have to accept the jacked up price that it would cost for my extra condition as I have no option to cancel the insurance. Yet, for me the even bigger issue was the fact that once I had indeed declared my condition, Allianz responded with a flat out ‘we cannot insure you’. So what was I to do next as I had paid my money and was to receive no insurance. Thankfully, I have a father who has such a way with words that I managed to get my money back – but listen up! – that is not a normal occurrence. So the moral is if you have 14 days to call up, call on the day you booked the insurance! (for those wondering, it’s all good now, I have found an alternate insurer)
The overall point to take from this though, is this; even if you have a disease, big or small, do not let that stop you from travelling and doing things that you want to. Really, what you just need to do is be proactive and organised as nothing is going to be sorted out for you. This is what I thought initially, that I would tell my consultant at hospital of my travel plans and somehow behind the scenes all my information would be sent over to Australia and I would be assigned to a lovely doctor there and everything would be dandy. Not the case, but there is no reason why everything cannot be dandy it just requires a little more effort.