Traveling to Europe With Health Issues

Do health problems make you nervous about traveling?

Neil and I have been traveling internationally for years. We’ve had a few mishaps along the way which necessitated seeing a doctor, but nothing major. This year, however, two weeks before we were scheduled to leave for a summer in France, Neil had an unexpected heart attack. We were very lucky: he was rushed to an excellent hospital, received great care, and is now leading a normal life again. However, I doubt that the fear of a recurrence will ever entirely leave either of us.

So how do we continue our travels, taking into account this new reality in our lives?We have queried both his doctors and others who are in similar situations, and have received some very helpful ideas.

  • First, travel with copies of important medical records, such as lab results, ultrasound reports, copies of EKG’s, etc. Also, carry a list of medications and the telephone numbers of your doctors. We keep a red folder with this type of information (for both of us) in the drawer with our travel essentials. By travel essentials I mean our travel alarm, special airplane slippers and inflatable pillows, etc. We always go to this drawer before making a trip, whether to the coast for an overnight or to Europe for the summer. (We also keep a similar red folder with the “grab and run” emergency supplies we maintain in case of earthquake or other disaster.)
  • Second, hand-carry the medications you will need while away. We always carry at least an extra week’s supply, in case we are delayed. (Think about flight cancellations as well as last-minute decisions to extend a visit because of a special event.)It is best to carry a copy of all prescriptions and/or the original containers the medications came in.
  • Third, if you have a medical condition that you would want emergency responders to be aware of, keeping in mind you might not be coherent or conscious at the time, there is a service called MedicAlert®.People with asthma, diabetes, allergies, heart disease, etc. use this service. We found out about it from the person who taught a CPR course we took. She used the service because she was allergic to bee stings.

MedicAlert® offers a variety of bracelets and pendants that help alert emergency medical responders to your medical conditions.With a stylish medical emblem on the visible side, your key medical facts are engraved on the back, as well as your personal ID number and the telephone number of their response center. The jewelry is available in basic stainless steel, and in more stylish models, starting at $9.95.

The response center is available 24 hours a day and has staff who can communicate in 140 languages. Using the information on your jewelry, a medical provider can call and get the details of your particular condition, medications, etc. that you have previously submitted. They also will contact family members whose names and telephone numbers you have provided for your file. This service is $39 for the first year, and $25 per year thereafter.

According to their website, MedicAlert® was founded in 1956 as a nonprofit membership organization with a mission “to protect and save lives.” The repository of members’ health information is maintained with “security, privacy and confidentiality.” Customer service can be reached by calling 888-633-4298 in the USA or 209-668-3333 if calling from outside the USA.

The steps described above have helped us address our concerns and once again, we enthusiastically look forward to traveling.

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