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Chapter 11: Travel

Once you have fully healed from your operation you can look forward to doing everything with your family that you used to do before. And that means holidays! Be it home or abroad there is no reason why your stoma should prevent you from going away and having the time of your life.

While you are at home convalescing from your operation and trying your best to adjust to the Stoma routine you'll not feel much like travelling, and may even be thinking you'll never be able to face it again.

As you get better these feelings will disappear and you'll look forward to your holidays as much as everyone else. All you need to make sure is that you are well prepared for everything by planning well ahead.

If you are travelling within the UK you will be relatively at ease and familiar with the surroundings and services available to Colostomists. It may be worth considering a short UK break before you set your sights on further away, more exotic climates. This way your confidence has been built up and you know you can travel anywhere!

Before setting off
If you are travelling abroad make a visit to your Doctor to check that you are fit enough. The GP will suggest any innoculations that may be necessary if you are travelling to exotic countries.

Before you go to see you GP telephone the British Colostomy Association and ask for a Travel Certificate. This is a certificate printed in many languages that explains that you are carrying medical supplies and that you must have them with you at all times. Taking this to your GP and getting it signed by him or her will help speed your journey through the Customs departments in any Country.

If you are taking medication with you either prescribed or otherwise it is a good idea getting a letter from your doctor explaining what they are for.

When you plan your stay away, pay special attention to the length of time you'll be away from home, work out the number of bags you usually need, then double it. This is the amount you should carry with you. It is always better to carry much more than you need than gamble on just taking enough. One bout of diarrhoea and you could be well and truly scuppered and left searching a forgein country for a bag supplier.

Have a word with your Stoma Nurse before travelling. Most pouch manufacturers have agents abroad. Ask for the name and contact address of your firm in the Country you are travelling to. That way if there are any supply problems you can contact them.

It is a good idea to carry all your supplies in a picnic cool bag, the soft canvas kind, not the solid ones. This way everything is kept together and you'll have no problem carrying it on to the plane as hand luggage. Do not let it out of your sight. At airports your luggage can sometimes go on holiday too... without you!

When booking your holiday ask the representatives to thoroughly check through the travel insurance for you. Be certain that the cover does not exclude pre-existing conditions, this is what a stoma is termed as for the basis of travel insurance. It is essential to have medical insurance that covers all costs before leaving home. If you were abroad, had a medical problem without the insurance you could be facing a very hefty bill. Your Travel Agent will recommend the appropriate cover for you.

Before you set off check you have everything, and make sure you have your pocket travel kit with your quick change items in so you can be certain that even if the worst comes to the worst you have at least three changes up your sleeve.

When you arrive at the airport check in desk make sure you arrive early so that you are near the front of the queue. This way you can request an aisle seat near the toilet, and you don't have to clamber over other passenger to get to the loo. You may be able to book this in advance with your Travel Agent, it depends on the airline.

Once on the plane and in the air you can expect your bag to balloon a little with wind. This is due to the change in cabin pressure so do not think you've eaten something you shouldn't have. Provided there is a filter on your bag this shouldn't be a major problem. To try and ease the situation you can watch your diet for a few days before your flight, being wary of any foods you know make you flatulent. Try to avoid our old friend, the fizzy drink, before and during the flight.

Once on the ground your Stoma may be erratic for a few days but it will soon settle down again into it's usual pattern.

If you are travelling by road try to plan the journey breaks around places that have adequate toilet facilities. Most roadside cafes, restaurants, service stations and hotels have toilet facilities. Do not be afraid to ask if you need to use them, and remember you have the 'No Waiting' card if it is needed.

Once Abroad
Try to make sure you stay at a hotel or apartment complex that offers en-suite facilities. You do not want to be queuing at the end of the hall with the rest of the floor's residents waiting to go while someone inside has settled down with the newspaper and a cigarette!

Be wary of the water supply in some countries. If you have any reason to doubt it whatsoever, use bottled water instead, even when cleaning your teeth. It is fairly cheap and could save you a lot of upset tummies.

Try to avoid salads and ice cubes too. Of course though this is a holiday and the last thing I want to sound like is a kill joy. Enjoy yourself, just make sure you travel with lots of diarrhoea tablets for the family just in case.

It may even be advisable to clean your stoma using this bottled water if the local supply is that unreliable. If you have a bath or shower make sure your Stoma is covered by an appliance. Most pouches and flanges these days are impervious to water so you can soak away in confidence.

Don't be afraid to go sunbathing while you are abroad either. If you like spending lots of time in the sun on the beach it is best to cover your pouch with a cotton cover. These are available on prescription and help stop your skin sweating under the plastic of the bag and prevents any sweat rashes that could develop.

Instead of a bikini or trunks wear a pair of swimming shorts. You can still wear your bikini top (or not if it's a topless beach) as the shorts will more than adequately cover the pouch from view.

If you want to go swimming you can swap your regular pouch for the stoma cap or mini size and swop back once out of the water. If you only have the large size bags you can roll the bottom up and tape it to your skin.

Medical Treatment
What do you do if the worst happens and you fall ill abroad or have problems with your stoma?

Your local travel representative will be able to advise you on reputable medical facilities and where to find them.

Within the EEC you qualify for free emergency treatment, or treatment at a vastly reduced cost providing you have a completed E111 form which is available from main Post Offices and your local Social Security Office. Apply for this form at least six weeks before you travel. It not only covers costs it helps to explain what to do in an emergency.

For Non-EEC Countries you can still get free or reduced health care providing the Country offers a reciprocal health agreement. Ask your travel agent for details, so you are 100% sure before you go.

For all other countries including the USA and Canada you must have adequate health insurance to meet the costs of health care.

Now you are a Colostomist you will be able to buy a medical alert bracelet or necklace, which notifies the medics of your condition in case of an emergency. The medic alert foundation will be able to help you with that.

1. Carry enough supplies with you in your hand luggage.
2. Plan your journey and arrange convenient seating if at all possible
3. Be certain you have sufficient travel insurance.
4. Avoid local water, used bottled instead.
5. Always carry your pocket travel kit with you, whether it's on day excursion or for an hour on the beach.
6. Obtain an E111 if necessary.
7. Most importantly, enjoy yourself!

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In memory of Mich from NL.
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