Holidays are an important component of life. A time to unwind and recharge so we can return ready to conquer normal everyday life. Holidays are also opportunities to experience new things, travel to different places, explore and learn. The planning involved can be extensive. You have transportation to organise, accommodation to book, restaurants to choose, activities to source and the list continues. Then you have to think about packing – what will you really need?
Now imagine doing all of the above as a complete quadriplegic. With no movement from your neck down. The planning involved has just intensified 100%.
Quadriplegia is a life changing condition however it should not be a barrier to enjoying a holiday. Holidays create happiness and this happiness will have a positive effect on your emotional state.
Joanna is a presenter for PBF Australia and shares her personal story with the youth of today to help them make smarter choices. Joanna’s choices resulted in her being a C3 complete quadriplegic. A wife and a mother, Joanna has always loved her beach holidays. Recently she travelled to Stradbroke Island to test out its “accessibility” as a holiday destination.
We asked Joanna to share with us the daunting task of what steps are involved in planning a trip.
- An integral component of my destination selection is accessible accommodation and transport. Flying actually doesn’t bother me, but the baggage handlers do. If my equipment gets broken I am broken. That is why I prefer to travel by car.
- Carers are essential for a high level quadriplegic. Without them I cannot do anything, so a roster is drawn up with each carer’s availability. In the case of Stradbroke Island this also involved transportation to and from the island by water taxis and buses. It is important to note that travelling with carers is different. I get along well with my carers, but they are not my friends. It is like going on holiday with paid staff.
- Checklists are created for what we need to pack. I sort this by categories – bed/hoist; health/personal hygiene; bladder & bowl hygiene; kitchen supplies.
- Menus are determined with shopping lists compiled – itemising food to purchase, and who is cooking what and when.
If you think you have a lot to pack try to comprehend what it is like to pack for a week away as a quadriplegic. Joanna must take all her equipment with her – it is essential for her survival. She has learnt it is simply too difficult to try to source it from local GP’s, hospitals or chemists. Just a few of the essential items are: – mattress, air pump, BP monitor & diary, splints & rolls, power chair charger, head pillow, foot pillow, hoist (swing, sling & charger), ipad & iphone (mouth controlled), kidney dish, syringe, shower chair, catheter pack, buckets, suppositories, body towels and the list continues.
After considering everything that must be done you might be thinking why bother? When it takes on average 4 hours to simply get up in the morning, why would you even consider travelling. So we asked Joanna why she travels, and she shared with us her 3 main reasons.
- To keep some normality. I have insisted from the first year following my incident that the most important thing we do is to go on an annual family holiday. For the simple reason that it is what we have always done. Family time that usually involves the beach.
- I love exploring new places and challenging myself. This has not changed. Only now I get to be in unfamiliar surrounds in this unfamiliar body, pushing myself to new limits. I like to see how long I can stay away from home. Coming back everything hurts but it is worth it. It is like when you go camping and sleep rough for a week. You enjoy it whilst you are there but physically suffer a little when you return home.
- To give my family respite. I send my family away a couple of times during the year without me. Unfortunately this means they never get to enjoy their home by themselves – without my carers being present. For this trip to Strandbroke Island I chose to go without my family, to let them enjoy their own space at home.
Holidays are a choice of what I want to do with my recreational time. So the question really should be, why wouldn’t I go on holidays?