Tag Archives: preparation

Taking Flight

9 Mar

This is a continuation of the series I started last week

The six weeks prior to my departure passed in a whirlwind of frenetic activity. I had never traveled internationally by myself, and I had assumed that all I had to do was book the tickets, pack a bag, and show up at the airport two hours before the flight was scheduled to leave.

I had not factored in things like getting my passport renewed, undergoing the requisite medical screening, obtaining foreign currency, getting travel insurance, and visiting with friends and family to say my goodbyes. I could barely find the time to pack.

Packing was an ordeal in and of itself. Cramming all of my essential belongings into checked baggage did not turn out to be easy. Of course, now that I am a seasoned traveler, my idea of what is actually “essential” has changed dramatically. But back then, the list of things that I just had to take was staggering (most of these items would end up getting jettisoned over the course of my travels).

My Mom tearfully helped me pack. Her sadness was, I think, twofold. There was the normal Mom’s angst about the prospect of saying goodbye to a daughter who was bound for a faraway land and didn’t know when she was returning. And there was the fact that the last time I had left home for any length of time, I had come back damaged and jaded. She implored me not to make any stupid decisions. If you get into trouble, she said, just get on a plane and come home.

Before I knew it, the day had arrived. My parents got me to the airport four hours prior to departure time. I was flying El Al: the Israelis, being understandably nervous about who and what they were letting onto their planes, had a rigourous screening procedure years before 9/11. They made me light one of my cigarettes (I was a smoker in those days), take a picture with my camera (using the flash), and make my alarm clock go off. I got questioned at length as to why I was wearing my blue fedora-style hat and whether I had purchased the contents of my luggage myself.

Eventually, me and my luggage were deemed fit to board the plane. I had a final cup of coffee with my parents, and then, when it was time to go, they hugged me fiercely and tried to fight back tears. I waved at them until I could no longer see them, although I knew they would stay at the airport until after my plane had departed. As I found my way to the boarding gate, I pictured my Dad with his arm around my Mom’s shoulders, comforting and being comforted. I felt my chest constrict with anguish at what I had put my parents through, and for a moment I had the urge to turn back.

I resolutely continued. I needed to do this. I knew it in my gut, and I believe that my parents knew it too. I had lost myself over the last few years, and I needed to spread my wings and give myself the space to find my way back through the woods.

In the departure lounge, I found myself chatting with someone called Wayne, who like me, was traveling on the Kibbutz program. He asked me what had prompted me to go, and I told him that I needed to get away from some bad stuff that had happened. “Same here,” he told me.

At boarding time, we joined the line at the departure gate. Further screening ensued (really ahead of the curve on airline security, the Israelis), and we got through the chaos of boarding only to discover that our assigned seats were beside each other. Neither Wayne nor I could possibly know, at that point, that this was the beginning of a wonderful friendship that would still be enduring almost two decades later.

At the moment of take-off, I pictured my parents standing at the big glass windows in the airport terminal, watching and waving, and wishing me Godspeed as the plane lifted into the air and disappeared into the night sky.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/10037058@N08/2779012499)

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Making The Giving Worthwhile

15 Jan

On Thursday morning (at 11:30 a.m. EST if anyone wants to be that precise) I will be donating blood.  I am greatly looking forward to it, and if you’re reading any sarcasm in that sentiment, none whatsoever is intended.  I really, genuinely, truly am looking forward to sitting in one of those reclining chairs while a unit of my blood is transferred from my body for the purpose of saving a life that needs saving.

I am excited to be doing this.  I am excited to be doing something, giving of myself in some small way, to help other people.

The last time I tried to donate was about twenty years ago.  I passed the initial iron test and got settled in one of the reclining chairs in the clinic.  The entire process from that point on was an absolute disaster.  The nurse – a kind, gentle soul who felt terrible about the pain she was putting me through – had to poke multiple holes in both arms before she could get the blood to flow.  When it did flow, it was painfully slow, and when about third of a unit had been taken from me, I passed out. I was sick for days after that, and when I went to my doctor, he advised me not to donate blood while my health was in such a fragile state.

It just wasn’t the right time for me to donate, back then.  There was a whole mess of crap happening in my life, and the stress of it all took its toll on my health.

Now things are different.  I am fit and healthy.  I am not under constant stress, I sleep as much as two kids and a hectic schedule allow me to, and my running regimen pretty much forces me to eat more or less healthily.  I am ready to put the memory of my last donation attempt behind me and try it again.  I am confident that the results will be far, far better.

I’m doing what I can to make sure, though.  My main objective over the next few days is to ensure that my blood is whole and healthy, that it can indeed be used to help someone who needs it.  If I show up on Thursday to give my pint of blood in honour of Capt. Snuggles, and they turn me away because my iron is too low, I will not be happy.  I have to do whatever I can to make sure that does not happen.

I share these tips for the benefit of anyone reading this who might be interested in donating blood (Michelle, maid of honour and friend extraordinaire, has already said that she will try to join me on Thursday).

  • For several days prior to donating, eat foods rich in iron.  Breads, meat, fish, chicken, fruit, raisins, nuts, dark leafy greens.  This is especially important for the ladies, whose iron levels tend to be less stable.
  • Be aware that many foods rich in iron are also high in fat, and a high lipid content can also result in you being turned away.  For 2-3 days before you donate, focus on a low-fat diet, but keep on consuming iron-rich foods that are low in fat.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  If you don’t drink enough fluids, the nurses will have a hard time finding your vein, and once you are hooked up, your blood will flow slowly and the process will take longer.  Limit sugar and caffeine in your beverages, since these slow the absorption of water.
  • Get enough sleep!  This will not necessarily change the quality of your blood, but it will make your recovery a lot easier.
  • The day before, load up on iron-rich foods, but ones that are low in fat.  Drink lots of water and go to bed early.
  • The day of, have a good breakfast so that you have the calories to start regenerating your blood.  Eat fruits with a high water content, and drink water and energy drinks (this can also give you one last iron boost before you go).
  • Try to eat either a meal or a snack right before you go.  You don’t want to donate on an empty stomach.  Take a bottle of water with you.
  • After you’ve made your donation, sit down and rest, and have a snack to raise your blood sugar.  Many clinics provide juice and cookies – if you don’t have a snack of your own on hand, accept the juice and cookies!
  • Light to moderate exercise several hours after you donate will help raise your energy levels.  I’m not talking about a five-mile run, I’m talking about an easy walk.

Many of these are good inroads to a healthy lifestyle, and following these steps will help make your blood healthy and vibrant.   If you are medically able to donate blood, I appeal to you to please consider it.  It really could be a matter of life and death for someone.

I am humbled and kind of ashamed that it has taken this – the life-threatening tragedy of a little baby – to spur me on to do this.  Ultimately, it is Captain Snuggles saving lives here, because he is the reason I am doing this.

Click here for Amy’s latest update on Capt. Snuggles.