Three cities in three days…that’s been my recent experience as I’ve rambled across the country. Last Thursday, I got up at 4:30 in the morning to catch a 7:00 flight to Spokane for a board meeting and professional conference. After two busy days, I got home to Seattle Friday evening around 10:00 p.m. The following day I drove my daughter over the Cascade Mountains to a soccer game in Ellensburg, Washington. It was a glorious autumn day full of sunshine, sports competition, and turning leaves (at least on the non-evergreen trees). After church Sunday morning, I caught a five hour flight to Alexandria, Virginia for another work-related meeting. And it’s from Virginia on the other side of the country that I sit preparing this post pondering how RA affects travels.
Traveling can be stressful enough without battling RA. Getting out of routine, waiting in lines, sitting cramped in small spaces with crowds, changes in diet, and time zone differences can wear on anyone. But it can wreck havoc on someone with an autoimmune disease that increases fatigue. During these busy few days I’ve made a special effort to take time to relax and allocate energy and resources carefully. Not wanting to have a loss of sleep exacerbate things, I find that the judicious use of a safe sleep medication such as Ambien can work wonders.
That brings up another set of issues – traveling with medications. It just so happens that my scheduled injection of Humira is due while away. As a delicate genetically engineered protein, Humira must stay refrigerated. I carefully packed my auto-injector pen in a portable cooler and threw in three ice packs. I also made sure I had an alcohol wipe and bandage. I placed this in the middle of my clothes for added insulation and checked my bag figuring that it would last the seven some hours of total travel time. When I opened my luggage in my hotel room, it was still a perfect temperature. I quickly placed the medicine in the small fridge in my hotel room and it’s all ready for tomorrow’s injection. In addition to Humira, there’s the assorted other medications that must be brought along and I use a pill organizer keep in my carry-one bag.
With careful planning and preparation, things went swimmingly well. That was until late this afternoon when I decided to get some fresh air and go for a walk around Alexandria. As I returned to the hotel, I noticed my right Achilles getting painful and tight. By the time I got ready to meet colleagues for dinner, I could barely walk on it. Not able to take NSAIDS, I don’t have many treatment choices other than ice and rest. But I will likely blow off the ice since I don’t feel like tracking down the ice machine and finding a bag in which to put it. Based on prior experience and surgeries, I suspect that the tendon is tearing again. I’ll make adjustments and try to stay off it as much as possible knowing that this will be the first topic of discussion when I see my rheumatologist next week.
Thus far it’s been a productive and pleasurable set of excursions away from the comforts and routine of home. Prior planning and careful use of time and energy makes the difference between a miserable trip and an enjoyable one.