I honestly thought that having another holiday abroad, after my ileostomy was formed in 2014 due to crohns disease and the rare diagnosis of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis in 2004, was a dream beyond the impossible. But, its a dream that with my sheer determination – and the help, and push, of a very dear friend – is about to become true.
Deciding, and planning, to go abroad on a family holiday can sometimes feel like a mammoth task as it is, let alone throwing a medical condition or 2 in to the mix! However, my whole ‘holiday planning’ experience has actually been a rather smooth one and the only stress I’ve suffered with was deciding which shoes I sadly had to leave behind to avoid being over my baggage allowance.
Some of you may be total ‘pro’s’ when it comes to flying and traveling abroad with your stoma, but for others it can seem a very daunting and an impossible prospect – like it did for myself. I have decided to share my experience so far to demonstrate that it is 110% doable!
Once you have bitten the bullet and made the decision that you would like to have a holiday abroad, make sure you pick a date fairly in advance to give yourself plenty of time to make the necessary preparations.
A letter explaining your condition can be sought from either your GP or Hospital Consultant if you would require special assistance through the Airport or while flying. All airlines have a legal duty to offer assistance to its passengers with impairments. For instance, because of my lung disease I only have a 25% working lung capacity remaining which requires me to need extra oxygen at altitude. I had to undergo a flight test in lung function which recreates the air density at altitude in the plane, I failed the first test as my blood gases dropped dangerously low rather quickly, but the second test I managed to pass using 2lpm of oxygen.
My Respiratory consultant had to fill out a fit-to-fly medical form to declare that I was well enough to fly using 2lpm of o2 for the flight duration. The airline I am flying with has provided us special seats with extra legroom, free of charge, although I have had to pay for the Oxygen cylinders as they wont allow me to use my POC (portable oxygen concentrator).
The airline have also provided me with a medical waiver letter which allows me to take medical equipment free of charge in the hold (16kg for my POC to use abroad) and also 4kg extra hand luggage for my Ostomy supplies and a change of clothes should the inevitable happen.
REMEMBER NO SCISSORS OR ADHESIVE REMOVER/BARRIER AEROSOLES ALLOWED IN HAND LUGGAGE, PRE-CUT YOUR POUCHES AND PUT ALL SCISSORS/AEROSOLES IN YOUR SUITCASE.
Arrange the appropriate travel insurance which will cover your pre-existing medical conditions, please be honest when it comes to giving medical history to insurance providers. Fish are fantastic for insuring those with medical conditions.
If traveling within the EU: 8 weeks before you are due to fly, make sure you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and that its in date.
When your holiday date starts to near, roughly 3 weeks before, start to organize and order your ostomy supplies. I recommend taking 3 x the amount you would usually use at home and consider ordering ‘mini’ bags for use round the pool or on the beach.
Just in case the worst should happen and one of your suitcases goes missing, divide all your supplies between the suitcases in your family and take some in your extra hand-luggage allowance.
If you are on any medication get your prescription in to your pharmacy to ensure you have enough supplies for the duration of your holiday.
Fittleworth offer a service called “World Assist Alliance” to their customers for the emergency supply of ostomy products while you are outside of the UK.
This service is available if you have had your Prescription fulfilled by Fittleworth for at least 3 months prior to your travel. By special agreement between Fittleworth and Stomawise, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for a code and then contact Fittleworth on 0800 378 846 with the code. You will then only need to have placed one order prior to your journey, to be covered by World Assist Alliance.
Some other helpful tips I have discovered:
Pack some ‘Mum’ roll on deodorant.
If you put some on around your stoma/tummy when you change your bag allowing it to dry, then apply a skin barrier on top before applying your bag – A very effective way to stop your pouch sweating off!
I’ve got my Comfizz Support Wear waistbands packed to keep my bag smooth under slinky dresses and swimsuits. It’s also made from breathable fabric and a great way to keep everything in place with the heat.
When at your holiday destination store your Ostomy supplies in the room safe to keep them cool out of the sun, and safe.
And lastly, RELAX & ENJOY!
Our flight to Tenerife departs in approximately 9 hours, I am super, super excited and admittedly a little nervous, but the airline have been amazing so far, so I’m confident all the special assistance will be in place, ready and waiting.
It is also our 8 year-old daughter’s first time flying abroad, she is bursting with excitement and I cant wait to see her little face light up with joy.
I will also be blogging about my holiday experience as an Ostomate, when I return. Hopefully with some very positive feedback and advice!