Being a laryngectomee is no easy task and it takes some practise to overcome all the hurdles we have to get over. Going on holiday can be a test of all the patience we possess and when it comes to holidaying in this country we can cope with most things but going abroad is considerably trickier – as I found out when deciding on a cruise !
Insurance is one headache as I found that many companies were trying to force me to insure against throat cancer when in fact I had no throat! Our speech therapist has sent us this extremely useful list for would be holiday makers, which I think you will find very useful indeed:-
TOP TEN HINTS AND TIPS FOR ENJOYING YOUR HOLIDAY.
(Home & Abroad!
a)… DO SOME RESEARCH ABOUT LOCAL HOSPITALS OR CLINICS
Whether you are travelling in the UK or abroad, ask your speech and language therapist, surgeon or clinical nurse specialist to find the details of the local hospital system.
The Cancer Laryngectomy Trust has a useful list of UK hospitals and their contact details (www.cancerlt.org; telephone 01422205522).
b)… DON’T GET YOUR EQUIPMENT CONFISCATED
Batteries and electrical charging units, scissors and gels/bottles may show up as suspicious during routine baggage scans. Avoid any issues by contacting your airline prior to travel for advice about how best to carry or pack these items, and take a hospital letter from your surgeon explaining your circumstances. It is also an idea to have a list of all medical/medically related items to hand should any customs officer ask the questions.
c)… CARRY INFORMATION WITH YOU ABOUT BEING A NECK BREATHER
There is a range of carrying cards or SOS medical identification bracelets (for example www.medicalert.org.uk uses an international medical symbol) which can assist with identifying you as a neck breather and trained health professionals will generally check for these before treating you. But, do tell other people in your party about what to do in case you need emergency assistance such as CPR or the “Kiss of Life”. Make yourself known to the tour leader or medical staff in the holiday resort or cruise ship. One of our “20-20 Voice” wristbands will give any medically trained person a distinct clue as to your situation!
d)… LOOK AFTER YOUR STOMA AND YOUR RESPIRATORY SYSTEM
Ask your clinician to provide you with a spare laryngectomy tube or stoma button, so that you always have the correct size with you & take a small travel water spray / atomiser for hydrating the stoma to prevent the build-up of crusty or thick secretions.
Make sure you use a Heat Moisture Exchange (HME) system and take enough replacement HME cartridges and baseplates, particularly if you’re going to a different climate. Foam stoma protectors are ideal to carry with you for when you cannot use your HME. If you use a hands-free valve (ATSV) do take plenty of replacement foam filters. Take your shower collar or shower guard so that you feel safe when using an unfamiliar shower.
e)… KNOW HOW TO MANAGE A LEAKING VALVE
You’ll know when the voice prosthesis/valve is due to be changed, and if this coincides with your holiday dates see if you can get this done before you travel. Take a replacement valve with you, even if you do not usually change the valve yourself. Keep it in the sealed package and take the insertion system with you, such as gel caps, insertion stick and the fistula dilator. The valved or occluded valve insert is very useful for managing a valve that is intermittently leaking through the centre.
Be familiar with how to prevent losing the trachea-oesophageal fistula, and be prepared to take action. Take your dilator with you wherever you go, in case you accidentally dislodge the valve. Some people carry a catheter which can be inserted and capped off. Whichever one is recommended by your clinician, make sure that you tape it securely in place.
f)…DON’T FORGET CONSUMABLES
Remember to take all your medication with you. A copy of your medical prescription is useful to carry with you in your documents. Items such as gel lubricant, stoma wipes, saline solution, adhesive tape, adhesive discs and liquid adhesive may not be easy to obtain away from home, so pack these.
For airline travel the general advice is to put liquids and gels into hold luggage or use small sizes to take through airport security in a clear plastic zip-lock or sandwich bag, but check with your airline before travel. You can get gel in sachets, this is useful for keeping with you or in cabin luggage. ***Always an idea to phone your airport to enquire as to your situation with these items – just to save any unnecessary hassle when going through customs.
If you use an electro-larynx, take a plug adapter suitable to the country you are visiting so that you can recharge the battery. If you have any doubt that the charging unit is suitable to be used abroad contact the manufacturer or your clinician who can seek advice.
Information about the type of battery, or a spare set of non-rechargeable batteries will also be useful (***check with your airline about packing).
g)… TAKE INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR SVR SYSTEM AND CHANGING ROUTINE
Carry your valve record with you. Most large hospitals will have an ENT Department who will be familiar with Surgical Voice Restoration after laryngectomy, even if SVR is not offered to the local population. You can help them by having individual and personal information that is useful to know, such as the frequency of your valve changes, whether you prefer a topical anaesthesia, if the dilator needs to be left in for a longer period of time, use of a gel cap or anti-fungal medication.
h)... TAKE YOUR VALVE CLEANING SYSTEM
Remember to include the valve brushes and a flushing pipette or 2 – 5ml syringe. You can’t rely on your accommodation having good lighting or a mirror, so take a small LED torch and a cosmetic mirror along, too.
If you are flying, tweezers and scissors should be packed into hold luggage as they may be confiscated in hand luggage.
***Again, the best situation is a stress free situation, so although it might take 1/2 hour of your time in preparation, make sure that you have all relevant medicinal documentation about your person so that it can be produced at a moments notice. The last thing you need is some aggravation with non English customs officers who may well not understand what you are talking about!***
i)… KEEP HYDRATED
Check to see if dehydration might be a problem. Drink plenty of fluids to compensate for losing fluids through perspiring.
j)…ENJOY THE LOCAL WEATHER AND CULTURE
Skin that has been irradiated can be sensitive in the sun, so do make sure that you protect yourself with sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat.
Look out for local fabrics and jewellery. These can be made into useful and stylish stoma covers, for men and women, worn over a stoma protector or HME, and are a great souvenir of your holiday.
k)… Plug in Nebulisers
If, like me, you need to travel with a ‘plug in’ type nebuliser then there are certain things you must ensure you are OK with.
1… Ensure you have the correct adaptor plug for the country visited
2… Ensure that your nebuliser will work properly using their power supplies
3… Ensure that you carry a short extension lead with you
4… Pack enough solutions for the duration of your holiday & then, half as much again – do not get caught short!
5… Ensure that your nebuliser, nebuliser solutions & other medical necessities are all in one small case with handle/wheels so that it can pass as hand luggage – and *** remember that all important list! ***
Preparation is key to success and the success & enjoyment of your planned holidy is literally down to what YOU get sorted out before you leave. Take the time, think about all eventualities and try and be as prepared as you can be – that way we know that you will enjoy your holiday, wherever it may be!