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  • Ashley Rippentrop

Traveling with POTS - Behind the Scenes

You may have just seen pictures from my recent trip to Italy. My mom and I flew to Rome from Chicago, spent a couple days there, and then traveled to Perugia to visit my sister who was studying abroad there for the semester.


Perugia is beautiful and I had a very nice time with my mom and sister. Perugia is a charming, medieval hilltop village surrounded by picturesque views and countryside. The sunsets...breathtaking. And the olive oil?? I drank it.


However, there was a lot that went on that you wouldn't see or think about.


Since Perugia is nestled on a hilltop, you are walking up hills everyday, just to get to the piazza from your hotel or home. This was very difficult for me since I've not been able to exercise as I used to in years, so by the time I got to the destination, I was completely drained of energy. Stairs and POTS are just not the greatest of friends. My tachycardia tends to freak out walking up them, while making my head feel even more spacey and pressure-filled and then once at the top, I am completely wiped out.


Eating in Italy when you're supposed to be on a low histamine diet (plus added food sensitivities) is extremely difficult. Some places in Italy were good about marking if certain foods contained some of the well known allergies (namely: nuts, eggs, dairy, etc.), but as far as options for me out there, it was extremely limited. Not to mention, I don't speak Italian. I ended up picking up some of the basic lingo and restaurant vocabulary out of necessity, which was extremely helpful. So once I locked down a few things I could eat, I had those meals on a rotation. Pretty much stuck to egg free bread and pasta with olive oil, grilled zucchini, and plain chicken breast.


I also dealt with a handful of migraines while there as well which made it tough to enjoy and relax during some of the activities. Speaking of which, some activities I did sit out on to rest and not overdue or worsen things.


All the while, I continued to fight the virus I picked up while traveling so each morning, I'd wake up to a mound of tissues by my bedside.


Below are some photos that show some of what was going on.

From left to right: I'm on the plane to Italy with a bag of ice on my head, nursing my migraine. The next 3 photos: Me spending much of the first couple days in bed in our hotel room/hotel rooms because I was so fatigued and in pain from all the travel. Middle photo on the bottom: there was no seating while I waited for pre-boarding and when you can't stand for very long, you sometimes have to resort to the airport floor, which is a little gross, but better than having passed out in Frankfurt, Germany and possibly missing our connection. The last photo is me also unable to wait in the customs line so I sat and waited until my mom got through and then I caught up with her and got into a wheelchair because I almost fainted. Luckily, people were really caring in this situation, but they were thoroughly confused.


Travel and flying in particular tends to be extra tough for us POTSies because of the pressure changes, having to navigate the airport, limited food choices if you have restrictions, and just the whole ordeal of it really wears you out. Traveling really just throws our bodies out of whack!


Tips:


Bring a stool or something you can sit on when there are no chairs available and/or lines.


Don't be ashamed if you need to use a wheelchair if you are a faint risk, have low standing tolerance, and/or are too fatigued or have too much vertigo for walking.


It's helpful to have someone with you who can help advocate for you and help you get around.


Was this trip too much for me physically? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. Will I be planning international travel anytime soon? Nope. Definitely need a long break to recoup from that stent and figure out a better system and hopefully get my body more managed.

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