On Tuesday January 25, sometime in the late afternoon, I collapsed in a bathroom at Atlanta International Airport.
After a red-eye flight from California to Florida, an uncomfortable night spent not sleeping much inside a dirty motel room next door to a bunch of people having a drug party, a 4-day cruise on an enormous and confusing-to-navigate ship (ironically named the Navigator of the Seas), SATH World Congress activities including 6+ hours spent sitting bolt upright in uncomfortable chairs, the stress associated with giving two speeches, an active in-port day on Cozumel, another night in the bad motel after sunburning myself on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale, and a coach-class flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Atlanta, it seemed that my body had had enough. While in the bathroom stall, a severe pain spike started up. At the sink, I got nauseous. Then my legs weakened and down I went onto the white tile floor.
I had not lost consciousness and was thinking rationally between massive spikes of pain. But after a couple of minutes, when somebody found me, I couldn’t speak coherently. The woman went to get assistance though I tried to tell her it wasn’t necessary. In fact I’m glad that she ignored my irrational denials–I was in bad shape and needed help. Which I got, first from an AirTran customer service agent, then from the EMTs who’d been called to assess my condition and figure out whether I needed to go to the hospital. Skipping ahead to the end of the story: I upgraded my seat to business class for the sake of extra comfort, and was cleared by the EMTs to fly home with only minimal attempts to talk me into staying in Atlanta overnight.
So what’s the point of me admitting to this embarrassing little incident? Hopefully, to help as many of you as possible avoid joining me in this particular travel experience. And for those few who end up getting an up-close-and-personal view of an airport restroom floor, I want to try to make sure you’ve got what you need to make the process of getting back up again as easy–if not painless–as possible.
Here’s what the people who helped me needed from me:
* A valid photo ID
* Home address and phone number
* Emergency contact name
* A description of my medical conditions
* A list of the medications I take
* A list of my allergies
* Names and contact info for my doctors
When you travel, have all this information written down and easily accessible at all times. That way, if you have a nasty flare-up, the folks who are helping you can find this information if you’re not able to speak for yourself. Remember that even if you’ve got the names and numbers in your cell phone, an EMT might not be able get the info if there are password protections or even a phone interface the EMT isn’t familiar with. There’s no substitute for a simple, low-tech piece of paper with clear information written down on it.
Did I have that piece of paper in my purse or carry-on bag? No.
Oops. Not good.
From now on, I’ll have that one-sheet in my purse, and another in my carry-on. I was lucky in this case–after about 5-10 minutes, I became coherent enough to verbally give my emergency information. But never again will I be caught out without a written version of this information. On the bright side, I did have all my meds in my carry-on, with prescription labels affixed. If I had been unable to communicate, the EMTs or hospital staff would have found these and been able to make use of the information on the labels.
Obviously I didn’t have the best travel plans. I avoid the red eye if there’s any other time I can fly–in this case, because I had to fly AirTran out of San Francisco, the red eye was my only choice. The horridness of the Bahia Cabana Days Inn was regrettable, though the jerks doing drugs next door to me weren’t technically the fault of the motel. Regarding the cruise and conference, I’ll make several changes next time. When I attend conferences, I need to find a way to rent or borrow a lounge chair that will let me recline with my feet up. On giant cruise ships, I need to consider renting a scooter so that I do not need to walk constantly if I’m not feeling up to it.
Dear readers…what would you have done differently? How would you avoid the miserable situation I found myself stuck in? All comments and critiques welcome!