“I’m a bit crook, mum…”
By Karen Shields
Fever, raging sore throat, body aches, rash…
The travel health professionals at Travelvax Australia know the health risks of every country. But, for Victor Harbor (South Australia) nurse Karen Shields, that knowledge was cold comfort when her son Benjamin fell ill 13,000km away in Peru
No, not me. The patient was my 20-year-old son, Benjamin.
He was in Peru while I sat anxiously on the Australian end of a scratchy Skype call listening to him rasp out his symptoms.
His glands look swollen. Is he jaundiced? Maybe it’s just the Skype camera or a bad connection!
As it happens, I had been pouring over travel medicine books for several days in preparation for some Travelvax training when he called. Suddenly, I’m madly trying to diagnose his symptoms.
Malaria? Yellow fever? Hepatitis?
“See a doctor,” I plead. “It could be serious!”
As it turned out, the diagnosis by a South American doctor was a ‘sore throat’, with treatment involving an antibiotic and medication taken every 2 hours. The Australian diagnosis 2 months later was glandular fever.
Of course, all parents go through dramas like this one when their adventurous children decide to see the world for the first time.
Trials of being a long-distance mum
I tell myself that it’s worse for me. Being a nurse in a Travelvax Australia clinic, all the possible diseases, malaria and health risks of a particular country are at my fingertips and it’s easy to let your imagination run wild.
That said, my knowledge is not very helpful when my son is in a Spanish-speaking country 13,000 km away! It’s not the first time since he left that the reality of being a long-distance mum threatens to overwhelm me.
Bungee jumping of a dilapidated bridge in Ecuador… riding a bike down mountain roads in Bolivia… eating exotic foods from dodgy sources… riding without a helmet in Laos… missing the bus ‘home’ in a strange city… sleeping under the stars on beaches without a mozzie net.
WHAT WAS HE THINKING?
I may sound like a nagging mother, but I’ve learned from travellers and from first-hand experience how easily international travel can go wrong.
The getting of wisdom
Frankly, I’m horrified when I recall that my husband, Mark and I let monkeys climb over us while we fed them bananas in Bali some years ago. They were very cute – until the food was all gone! (No wonder that other, wiser people declined our guide’s invitation to ‘play’ with them.)
And, I was sure it would safe enough to eat a fresh, leafy green salad in what was, after all, an expensive restaurant. Spending the rest of the night in misery on the toilet with Bali Belly remains a not-so-fun holiday memory.
These days, I’m older and wiser, too
Knowing the health risks that go with the world’s destination will help Mark and I prepare for Machu Picchu, Mt Kilimanjaro, and the Kadoka Trail – the ‘bucket list’ of places we’d like to tackle before age dictates nothing more adventurous than a poolside deckchair on a cruise ship.
Vaccinations, expert advice, early preparation, and common sense… they’re all important for safe, health overseas travel – regardless of your age.
Now, all I have to do is convince Benjamin!
Next time you travel overseas, ask our travel health advisors for advice on what may be recommended for your trip and see one of Travelvax Australia's 32 clinics nationally. Call our travel health advisory line on 1300 360 164 for more details.
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