While we all long for specialized care to be fully accessible in every community in Wyoming, the reality is that travel is still more often than not a part of managing a child’s medical diagnosis. To some of us, this may be a new world to navigate. To others who are a little more seasoned, this is not necessarily “easy” but it has worked itself into family life to be part of the new normal. I would like to pass along a few tips and tricks that I’ve heard can make a real difference to make these drives - no matter how far or how often - more manageable.
#1: List It Out
For those of you who are not Type A, lists can sometimes feel more of a burden than a help. But hear me out, as this may help keep us Type B’s a little more in our laid-back-go-with-the-flow skin.
A packing list may seem obvious, but when life is already overwhelming, trying to keep everything in our busy minds may be asking a little too much of ourselves. It may take a few trips to hone in on the perfect packing list for your family, so that’s why it may be handy to keep the list on your phone. We all typically have our phones with us at all times and there are plenty of apps that can help organize us. I have come to appreciate Google Keeps as I can add others to the lists and we can all put our great ideas into it. Plus, if I think of something while I’m on the go, it’s right there in my purse or pocket for a quick edit. For those of us who like paper - I get it - write it out and stick it somewhere just as accessible. Or type out something in a doc and print it each time you need it! It can be very satisfying in a busy time to be able to check, cross, or full on scribble a line out that’s been completed!
#2: Home Away from Home
It is not easy to pack up your family and household necessities for an appointment (or 3), reach your destination and realize that you’ve landed in a neighborhood hotel that is not in your preferred sort of neighborhood! This is especially true when traveling to the bigger cities like Denver or Salt Lake for care. The cheapest or closest hotel may not always be the safest, cleanest or in general a star-worthy experience for your family in an already stressful trip. If you’re not sure about where a good place to stay is, ask those who know the area (other parents, hospital Navigators, groups that help with travel). I’d also be happy to help point you in some good directions!
Know you’re going to be there often? Get to know your new neighborhood. Find places to stay that have the amenities you will need access to (i.e. grocery stores with/out delivery services) while you are there. New to the game and not even sure what you may need? Don’t hesitate to reach out to that same group of people in the know for some tips. Again, I’d be happy to help you!
#3: Make it Memorable
Navigating through your child’s illness is incredibly hard for the entire family! And traveling for treatment only makes that harder. So why not make time for a little bit of fun as a family when you are traveling to make some memories? It doesn’t have to be anything big or fancy, but it is amazing what a quick trip to the zoo, trying a new ice cream shop, or discovering a new park can do for everyone’s spirits during a difficult time!
If this trip is going to be more regular and the child recognizes to their own degree the hardship of it, do not feel bad for wanting to add something positive to their memory bank and future expectations that there will be something to look forward to, as well. And you don’t have to tell your kid(s) - but that memory could be a huge breath of fresh air for you, too.
Even though it might feel like you are alone in this medical journey, I can assure you that you are not! Countless other families have traveled similar paths and would love to help you get connected and feel less alone. Ask other families who have gone through a similar path of miles to help care for their child. Ask the Navigators, nurses - anyone - in the hospital or clinic what they know about and would recommend. Let’s also be real about the expense. The medical bills are enough on their own to oftentimes warrant (if possible) second jobs to cover it all. Add to that the gas, wear and tear on a vehicle, hotels, meals, and everything else that can pop up while you’re not at home and all of sudden these trips - that you will take no matter what for the sake of your child - are eating away at savings at a rapid pace. Please ask for help - there are so many wonderful organizations in Wyoming that want to help families like you with gas cards, hotel and meal vouchers, etc. Don’t know how to find them? I can help! It’s an honor to work with so many of these groups and I would be so happy to connect you to the group(s) that fit your needs the best.
If you ever need anything along your child’s medical journey and aren’t sure where to turn, I would be so happy to walk a few miles with you. Give me a call at (307)333-1273, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out our website or find us on social media! Whatever is easiest for you, we’re here to help and cheer you on!