Sarah Hartley is a Board Member of Haemophilia Foundation Queensland
This article is adapted with permission from an article published in The H Factor, newsletter of Haemophilia Foundation Queensland, Spring 2014
Our family of four recently returned from a trip to Hawaii and Los Angeles. My husband and I travelled with our two sons, aged 9 years and 18 months. Our eldest son has severe haemophilia so we had to ‘factor’ in a few extra things like securing travel insurance for an existing medical condition, flying internationally carrying needles and clotting medication, refrigerating medication while staying in various hotels and infusing on the run.
We visited Waikiki Beach in Hawaii which was balmy and very festive, we swam at a waveless beach – we thought we’d leave the 60 foot waves to those fearless surfers! In Los Angeles we did some star spotting at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, played some air guitar at the Hollywood Hard Rock Cafe and strolled along Rodeo Drive in glamourous Beverly Hills. We cheered along at a baseball game at Dodgers Stadium. My husband and son scored a few touchdowns playing Grid Iron football together at Newport Beach. Disneyland really was the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ for us and we all had a great time exploring the different ‘lands’ and experiencing some very high-tech and exciting rides.
I travelled to the USA with my son four years ago and ran into the problem of securing travel insurance for an existing medical condition like haemophilia. At that time we had success with one company who provided our son with medical cover for haemophilia-related issues for an additional fee. However, our application for cover with them this time was unsuccessful. We tried other companies and got the same result.
We finally had success with a different company who provided our son with unlimited medical cover for any haemophilia-related issues for an additional fee of approximately $200. We thought this was a good deal for us considering the potential cost of admission to hospital in the USA. Fortunately our son had no bleeds overseas and did not need any hospital treatment.
The Haemophilia Centre at the Children’s Hospital provided us with a letter we could present to authorities if we had any trouble getting through airport security with our needles and clotting medication. The airlines like people to keep any medication nearby in case of a medical issue in flight, so we had to take the factor on board in hand luggage. The airline had no space to refrigerate medication in flight. We had the factor packed in with ice packs however by the end of the flight (9 to 10 hours later) the ice packs had melted so the medication was still cool, but not cold anymore.
Fortunately all the hotels we stayed at had small in-room refrigerators so the medication was kept cold – with the exception of the hotel in Los Angeles, where first the fridge had a meltdown and ceased to work, then I had a meltdown when I realised all the medication was no longer cold or even cool. My husband raced down to the reception desk and requested a replacement fridge and was told yes, he also asked if there was a fridge we could use in the meantime and he was told no. A construction worker who was renovating the bar area overheard our plight and said that while the bar was only half built, there was a perfectly working fridge there that we could use, so he saved our day in a big way.
My husband currently infuses my son with factor so on the trip they set up on the desk in the hotel room. We bought disinfectant to clean the desk surface and had our usual local anaesthetic cream, tourniquet, spare alcohol wipes, needles, cotton wool balls and band aids on hand. We did a lot of walking on the trip, some days 2 or 3 hours and other days up to 6 hours, not to mention being thrown around a bit on roller coasters and white water rapids rides! So it was great to know that our son had factor on board when we went off on our daily adventures.
We travelled to a developed country, so it may be different for travellers to a developing country. But in our experience, our son’s haemophilia didn’t impact on us visiting any of the places we wanted to visit or doing any of the activities we wanted to do. For those of you thinking of travelling overseas with a child with haemophilia, I encourage you to go for it. It might mean a bit of extra planning and thinking on your feet while you’re there, but hey that’s something we in the bleeding disorders community are all used to!
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