Wednesday 9 December 2009

make my way back home when I learn to fly....

My main task for the day, around the inconvenience of my job, was to sort out my medication for our trip.  As you might remember, I inject a dose of Avonex into my thigh muscle once a week in an attempt to slow down the progression of my multiple sclerosis.  As is the way of these things, I will never really have any way of knowing if it's working, but neither do I particularly want to interrupt my treatment to find out.... I have visions of coming off the treatment, promptly having a relapse that costs me the use of a leg or something, and then going back on the treatment again.... Ah yeah, turns out that stuff was working after all.  I'm doing a lot of travelling in 2010, but I will need to be carrying this stuff with me so that I can take a dose each week as usual.

My gear -- the package containing the syringe, the vial with the powdered drug and the bloody great needle -- is delivered once a month in packs of four.  Although I'm not going away from home for the whole 9 months I'm off work, I am going to be away for up to three months at a time and so needed to take some steps to find out how much of this stuff (worth about £1000 a month) the NHS is prepared to let me have in one go.

Given the amount of money involved and the need to get more stuff up front than normal, you'd think this might be problematic in a bureaucracy as large and convoluted as that of the National Health Service, but in the end, all it took was a single phonecall to the MS coordinator at my local hospital.  That's all.  Actually, I was ringing her to shift an appointment at the clinic that is scheduled to take place when I'm in Cape Town in May, but I got chatting to the nice lady and she took down all the details of when I was going to be away and said she would get it sorted.  Less than an hour later, BUPA (who are the company chosen by the NHS to deliver my drugs to my doorstep) rang me and told me that they would deliver me 4 boxes in January before I go to the Southern Hemisphere, 2 boxes before I go to Africa, and 2 boxes when we go to Canada.

Job done.

Of course, having the drugs is one thing, but taking needles and syringes through security at an airport is something else (you can't check them in with the rest of your baggage as you can't take the risk that the liquid in the syringes will freeze).  I have a letter from my neurologist already explaining why I need to carry this stuff with me, but I also had to place a phonecall to each of the airlines we'll be using -- BA, Quantus and South Africa Air -- and get them to make a little note against my booking to say I would have this stuff with me and would be taking it onto the plane as cabin baggage.  They all politely asked me why I would need it, and a couple of the airlines asked me how many I would have and what form the medication took, but basically it was extremely easy and I was very relieved.  I might have to surrender the drugs during the flight itself as they might need to be locked away, but I'm not worried about that if they'll let me bring them onto the plane itself without too much bother.  I'm sure they deal with this kind of thing every day, but I was still very pleasantly surprised at how simple it all was.

....of course, it remains to be seen how hard it's actually going to be once I get to the security screen at a foreign airport (never mind the land borders we'll be crossing in Africa), but -- for now at least -- it's another worry off my mind.  I'm sure travelling used to be a lot easier and more spontaneous than this, but at least it wasn't as hard as I feared it might be.

Tomorrow, I might actually do some work.


It's Albums of the Year time over at The Auditorium.  The number tens have gone up, and you can marvel at LB raving about Mumford & Sons, gasp as bedshaped eulogises The Doves... and feel slightly confused as I write in a distinctly ambivalent way about Morrissey.  It's all over there for you if you want it folks....


  1. BA didn't bat an eyelid when I travelled with them last summer. I can imagine South Africa Air and Qantas will be the same. (I'm planning Australia for next year, so Qantas better bloody be alright about it). As you say, airports are pretty used to this sort of thing all the time.

  2. I thought I posted, but anyway... I'm superchuffed you're doing this great adventure. Come and see the seaside with us if you get chance.