Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Amsterdam - Another First

I've had an exciting week. No doctors, no hospitals, but just good fun. After I had my transplant, my family kept telling me how I would be able to travel again, especially that I might be able to fly once more. Technically you are not supposed to fly abroad until a year after your transplant. Around this time post transplant your medication is usually more settled and your body more adjusted to things and able to cope with travelling by plane.

Aeroplanes can carry a high risk of infection for transplant patients, especially if you are a new one because of infection which may be recirculated in the air and obviously there are the usual risks abroad as for anyone with contaminated food and water.

I was lucky because I had a very steady and stable period around eight months post transplant and was well enough to go to go abroad to Paris by Eurostar, which felt like a massive step and a big 'first' after my illness and during my recovery. I still wasn't able to fly though and didn't have the confidence to either.

This week I managed to go on my first flight since before my illness. It was four and a half years ago the last time I travelled by aeroplane and it all felt very strange and surreal to be walking through an airport once again and getting on a plane. 

We had planned a trip to Amsterdam after my last clinic when my consultant had said, 'Yes you can fly again now!' I decided on Amsterdam for a few reasons. It is only a short flight and as it would be my first one after my transplant I wanted to build my confidence about flying and being abroad. It is always a worry about being away from home and either catching an infection or falling ill: it is hard that happening even in this country as most medics don't really understand all the transplant medication properly, so a short flight felt safer. In my mind I thought at least I could get back home more quickly. 

Amsterdam is also a place I had never been to and before I fell ill, Rob and I had been enjoying visiting various cities around the world and I just wanted to carry on where we had left off and explore another new city. I thought for years that I wouldn't ever be able to do this again. 

When I was recovering the girls kept trying to get me to agree to go somewhere abroad for the anniversary of my transplant. For many months I couldn't really imagine it as there seemed so many hurdles and stages to get through and I was also frightened of us having to cancel and unravel everything at the last minute. 

In the end I said I just wanted us to all be together and away from it all and that's why we rented a house in Norfolk. The logistics of organising us all together and aeroplane flights to suit everyone when they are all working felt too onerous in those earlier days too.

As far as I was aware, Rob and I were just going off for a quiet break in a new city and I was excited because I would be taking my first flight abroad. We flew out late afternoon on Thursday and had a lovely day exploring and enjoying the sunny and mild weather. We enjoyed a lovely dinner in our hotel. 

I  had just got into bed when Rob started fussing about people being outside our room. 'Mmmm yes we are in a hotel', I thought. He opened the door and I thought what on earth is he doing? In walked Sarah, Oli, Rose and David. I was speechless, they had been conspiring together for a few weeks and done a good job hiding it from me. So I got one big surprise and we did get the trip abroad all together after all. 

We had a bit of a turmoil at the last minute about whether we would get there or not with all the adjustments to my medication and although they still need more adjustment, my consultant told me to go and enjoy myself. I hadn't known at the time how the rest of the family had been on pins over whether everything was going to be cancelled or not! 

We enjoyed exploring and seeing new things together and we took a tour around the Ann Frank musuem and an evening canal cruise. It was a very special and memorable time and another massive 'first' in my life after transplant. As always, my donor was never far away from my thoughts and is always with me and when we visited the 'Oude Kerk', I lit a candle in her memory. 

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