Before I had Freya I travelled loads. I loved exploring new countries and holidays was the number one thing I indulged in. As we had no idea that Freya was not going to be medically typical child before she was born we were planning to include her in our adventures from an early age. Little did we know.
Freya was about a month old when we first got to take her out of the hospital alone. As we sat in a nearby Freya snoozled in her pram, attached to a saturations monitor and portable oxygen. I remember feeling anxious, near panicked. How would we ever get used to this? With a baby this fragile how would we ever manage to survive at home? Taking her on holiday was the last thing on our minds: We were far too preoccupied with just keeping her alive.
Fast forward to July 2016. Freya had just turned 1 and we were finally home after a year in and out of hospital. I would pack up her ventilator, suction machine and oxygen onto her pram and walk her around the park next to our house. Little by little, our excursions got longer. Sure, we had our set backs – the mad rush back from Ikea when we realised the vent tubing was missing an exhalation port, the time when she was getting sicker and sicker in front of our eyes when we were stuck in traffic the other side of town going to a party. I thought we’d never comfortably leave our postcode again.
Then we went to a birthday party a hundred miles away. And took the train for the first time. First time on the underground, first trips on the bus. Slowly the parameters of our life were widened. I had my first chats with Freya’s consultant about flying and after Freya successfully completed her fitness to fly test foreign travel started being a real possibility.
Of course things were not that straightforward.
We decided on France due to it’s proximity, but also because Freya’s godmother knows Cote d’Azur well and speaks French fluently. We also knew Nice has a good children’s hospital in case anything would go wrong.
First dates we pencilled in coincided with Freya’s big operation. The second lot got postponed after Freya caught a nasty infection post-operatively. When the big day arrived our flights got cancelled. But, a few days later, we made it.
And it was amazing. The weather was great; the food was glorious. Freya had a great time and we as a family got to finally experience a holiday together. Tracheostomies and water don’t mix well, but with the right precautions we went both to the beach and had a little dip in the pool.
Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Million times yes. I feel like a door that has remained closed for so long has finally opened. We have regained an important part of our independence and given Freya much needed opportunity to see something else than London.
For those of you to whom foreign travel with your medically complex child seems like a distant dream don’t stop dreaming. What seems impossible today can just become true sooner than you think. It takes a lot of planning and progress can be slow – but – at least for us – the biggest obstacle we faced was fear. Set your goals at an achievable level and carefully plan your trip (including what would happen if your child got ill). And then off you go – the world is your oyster!