Travelling abroad with a spinal cord injury can present a number of challenges but with the right preparation, your travels can be made a lot smoother. Having been involved with Paralympic sport for 11 years, Select Nurse Lead, Bev Collins, has helped athletes to prepare for and travel to numerous overseas events. Here Bev shares her top tips.
My journey started back in 2008 when I worked with GB Wheelchair Rugby as the nurse. I was incredibly fortunate to attend London 2012 Paralympics and be part of the ‘Home Games’ experience.
My love for Paralympic sport has grown and during the ‘Rio Paralympic cycle’ I became involved with Para Archery and have worked with the Team as nurse for Competitions and trips ever since.
The year before any Paralympics is a hectic one! Quota places need to be secured for the Paralympic places. This can be achieved at qualifying events.
I recently attended the Para Archery World Championships in Holland. The Competition venue was in a magnificent setting; a rugby club set alongside the water and the Final took place in the Cathedral Square. During the competition GBR won 5 quota places for Toyko 2020.
Jess Stretton, current Paralympic champion in the women's W1 category, scored an incredible 148.
The visually impaired archers also competed and won Gold and Bronze. If you have never seen this sport, please look it up as it is incredible.
My role is to make life as easy as possible for the athletes so that they can focus on their sport.
Prior to the athletes arriving I make sure bathrooms are safe; bathmats are secure, handrails are positioned correctly and shower stools are sought if needed.
Once all rooms are allocated and checks are complete, we like to add a few home comforts including the odd Union Jack flag.
During the competition as well as assisting with any care needs, I can usually be found hunting lunch vouchers, booking transport and doing my favourite thing…..laundry!
I have recently been selected for British Paralympic Core Medical Staff for Tokyo 2020 as Lead Nurse for Preparation Camp. I am incredibly honoured and excited.
My top tips for travel with a SCI
Plan: When booking a hotel, ensure that you contact the hotel directly to guarantee a wheelchair accessible room.
Packing: Always pack extra catheters. Your journey home could be delayed, or other contingencies may occur that cause the need for more catheters. It’s worth packing extra catheters in your carry-on bag in case you lose the rest of your luggage. It can also be a good idea to ask if your travel companion can bring catheters on your behalf in their luggage. The same goes for any medication that you require.
See the end of this article for how to claim your own Catheter Travel Certificate from Select, this can make a real difference when travelling overseas.
Travelling: You can travel with a medical bag surplus to your luggage. It should only have medical products in but a great way to ensure you have enough medical supplies. Don't forget to check weight limits with your airline.
Catheterising while travelling: You might fear long journeys where you know you will need to empty your bladder at some point, and the space is limited in both the seat and in the bathroom. One solution might be to use an all-in-one catheter kit for the journey, and you can use a blanket to cover your lap. Please speak to your healthcare professional before making changes to your bladder management.
Airports: Give notice of your travel. Know what you want! If you want your wheelchair bringing to the aircraft door….ask for that. Nobody should be expected to be wheeled through an airport on an aisle chair! Your wheelchair is your independence.
If you use a powered scooter the airline will need all details of size, weight and battery type. This can be brought to the aircraft door for disembarking.
Water: Follow local protocol - if you can’t drink it do not use for medical uses (activating catheters or irrigation).
Shower chair: If you use a shower chair it may be worth packing it, as these are not always available.
Catheter Travel Certificate
One of the biggest fears of travelling with catheters, is how to explain what is in your hand luggage in a foreign language. Our travel certificate explains in ten different languages why you are carrying catheters in your luggage or carry-on bags.
To claim your free certificate use the button below: