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An occasionally belligerent mother of five and an autism parent / advocate who believes that traveling, good food and good company are vital to keep one sane. I've worked as a news writer/newscaster, a quality systems auditor, a ISO9001 consultant, an FM radio DJ, a Filipino tutor, TOEFL reviewer and have gone into the food industry both as an entrepreneur and as a mommy chef, giving a sponsored demo on healthy cooking in a mall and on local TV. My favorite job however, is being a mom and a wife.

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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Vacation Nightmare: Our Kids Got Sick Overseas, While on Holiday

At Kansai International Airport

Picture this: we had booked our dream foodie vacation. We had been putting off said vacation until we were certain that our son MAX was ready for a trip that involved a lot of walking and the use of public transportation, since cabs in that destination cost a lot.

even supermarket take out food was delish! (taken at Life Shimodera)

Said trip finally happens (despite a lot of challenges because of our youngest son's heart issues - more on that later) and we are now in Osaka, Japan. It's only Day 1, but since our plane arrived a little after lunch, we have some time to go shopping, before our check in time of 4 PM. We're also taking advantage of the good, though warm, weather that welcomed us, since DAY 2 was forecasted to carry heavy rains and thunderstorms.

Day 1: Shopping!!!

The kids, though exhausted from the trip, are enjoying the new sights, sounds and experiences. It's all good.


After the grueling Day 1, next day's bad weather gave us a reason to stay in our apartment. Everything was a OK, until night came, and the little one had a slight fever (38.4 C). Luckily, I never travel without a basic first aid kid. I had enough paracetamol drops to give to our son Justice.


The low grade fever went by without a hitch. Juju managed to eat well too. A day after the fever went bye bye, a weird rash with little water filled bumps appeared on the lower half of our 1 year old's face. Used to kids having skin asthma, I knew that water-filled bumps weren't part of package. Neither was fever.

who would've thought that our Max would catch a virus from his lil bro? Not us.

Reading an article on virus-caused skin conditions in the past, I had a nagging feeling that Juju came down with the horrid hand, foot and mouth disease (not to be confused with an animal's hoof and mouth disease).


I sent photos of Juju's skin to his aunt, who's also a pediatrician. Worst fears, confirmed. My biggest mistake was thinking that his much bigger brother, Max (11) did not have to be isolated from him, as along as we maintain proper hygiene.



Sadly, as Juju's viral infection waned, Max fell ill next. We were on our 5th day in Osaka, visiting historical Osaka Castle, when I noticed how MAX kept on trying to sneak naps in between rest periods from walking. He had a light breakfast, skipped lunch, and was really struggling to keep with us, despite our slow pace.

walking up to Osaka Castle
At the 2nd floor of the Osaka Castle, there's a semi hidden rest area. We decided to let MAX take a breather and let him take a short nap, before our scheduled Osaka-jo Gobuzune boat ride.

curry pan, German sausage bread and even a nice cool cup of milk tea couldn't
make Max eat 

By late afternoon, we managed to coax him to go to R Bakery. He only had half a cup of water. His skin felt dry and warm, despite the cold AC of the cafe.

When we got back to the apartment, other plans be damned, he was running a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius!

we managed to visit Nara but skipped out on our full day in Kyoto. Good thing the Hankyu Pass that we
had purchased for it is valid til April 2020

Holding down the urge to panic, I gave him five times the amount of baby paracetamol and let him soak in a tepid bath, while Phil went to buy Pocari Sweat from one of the nearby vending machines on the street below. Given the day's heat, lack of appetite and lethargy, we were thinking that a. Max must've caught something from Juju and b. he may be severely dehydrated/having heat stroke.

I got to cook and serve nutritious food in our apartment. Luckily, there was a nearby supermarket
to supply us with the essentials
It may not be much to a lot of people, but that one year I spent at Nursing school was enough to teach me how to monitor my son's vital signs. His respiratory rate was also up, on top of the high fever. I told Phil that if Max's temperature doesn't go down within the hour (bath and medicine done),  Phil would have to go to the nearest police station (Naniwa Police Station, 300 m away), and from there, have an ambulance called.


After a 2 day battle with the on and off high grade fever, water-filled bumps and a rash began to spread on Max's face, arms, legs hands and feet. A short walk to the bathroom was a struggle due to the bumps and consequently sores on both feet. His appetite seemed to have left the building, so Phil was force feeding him and making him drink Pocari Sweat.

Kirin, Aquarius and Pocari Sweat - these mineral sports drinks were heaven sent in keeping Max hydrated

On the day of our departure, we took an Uber to the Namba Station (even if it was a 5 minute ride away). Given MAX's limited mobility, we needed to get to this station since this was where we would ride the Nankai Rapit to the airport.

a 6 minute cab ride set us back by 840 Yen 

When we got to the airport, MAX painfully made his way to the airport clinic where we thought we could get a medical certificate for him  that we may need while boarding.

despite taking a cab to the Namba Station, it was still a struggle for Max to walk all the way to platform 9
The staff was quite accommodating, however, we were informed that we had to bring Max to nearby Rinku (5 minute train ride) and have him checked by a pediatrician, so a med cert could be issued. The airport doc also confirmed that it was HFMD and that this was a common illness in Japan during the summer.

with a smile like this, how can you lose faith and cry defeat :)

By this time, it was already 1045 AM and we were told that the hospital clinics close at 1130 (lunch break). If we get there only to find the clinic closed, we would have to go to the ER (possible higher medical fees), which would be OK since we did get travel insurance. The problem was that we had yet to check in at the airline counter. Our flight was set to leave at 1:50 PM. We decided to check in first and present Max to the ground crew to check if we could fly home.


I had read our airline's guidelines on what possible illnesses one could have that would deny a person entry into the plane. HDMF wasn't one of them. Still, I nervously approached the ground crew. Check in counters were yet to open, but there was already a long line of passengers looking curiously at Max, who, at this point, was already in a wheelchair that I had borrowed from the information counter at the airport.



To sum it all up, after speaking with the head of the ground crew, we were informed that since there was no mention of HDMF in the guidelines, they didn't see any problem with Max getting on the plane.

However, because some passengers expressed concern about riding with our 11 year old, we were told that it was the pilot's discretion on whether we could fly out or not.

If we were denied entry that afternoon, we would have to rebook a flight for the next day (free of charge).

We were on Day 9 with 6 more days remaining on our Japan visas. As long as we weren't asked to extend our stay til all the spots were gone, we were ok with anything at this point.

the flight going to Osaka

After being asked to board last, we got to _,  fly back home to the Philippines without a hitch.

what we looked like in the flight going back to the Philippines :D


THINGS WE LEARNED/ RECOMMEND WHEN FACING A SIMILAR SITUATION:


having travel insurance that covers the whole duration of your trip does offer comfort


1. ALWAYS buy travel insurance ESPECIALLY when travelling with children - you can't predict the future. Accidents and illnesses during the trip can happen. Of course, you may have to pay upfront and seek reimbursement later. Our travel insurance would have covered the medical expenses and flight rebooking fees. Always check your insurance coverage before you fly out. Know it's coverage, have a copy of it with you (for those places where internet may be a problem) and know the contact numbers.

when our stash from home ran out, we were able to buy fever reducers for the kids. Although,
since Max wasn't eating that much, we decided not to give him aspirin (bufferin) and just stick to
paracetamol/
acetaminophen
2. Bring your child's go-to medicine for common illnesses - not all countries have the same prescription laws. Take for example an asthma inhaler. In our country, it's considered an OTC medicine. But in Malaysia a prescription is required to purchase it. For this trip, I had packed paracetamol drops, antihistamine drops, anti inflammatory tablets  for adults, anti-allergy pills for adults and other tablets for gastrointestinal concerns. Luckily, Acetaminophen was readily available in Japan for fever management. When we needed antihistamines to manage the itch for both kids, I just gave Max half a tab of our adult OTC meds.


fresh produce and all things nutritious are important
to keep your child (and your) strength up
3. When researching about your destination, check up on emergency related info on top of the places you'd like to see -  in Japan, police presence was quite visible. I had read that should a medical emergency occur, asking them to contact hospital services for you would be the way to go. Although, Japanese citizens pay about 30% of their medical bills as it is subsidized by the government. I  was told that a pediatric consultation fee could go as high as 30k Yen, and a med cert, an additional 5k Yen. This would also depend on what hospital you go to.

If you can, also ask your child's pediatrician if you may contact him or her should your child get sick. We were blessed to have 2 pediatricians in the family who we could send photos of the kids' condition as well as their vital signs to.

Knowing how to take vital signs (temperature, respiratory rate, pulse rate, etc.) as well as basic first aid, won't hurt either.

an 8 day unli data travel sim could set you back anywhere from 600 PHP to 1250 PHP
Either way, it was worth every penny! From navigating, quick research while out or
communicating with each other/with family back home

4. If you can, purchase a traveler data sim, should internet access be limited in your destination - While I frown upon folks who self diagnose and self medicate sans a doctor's visit, googling useful information such as what's normal as far as vital signs go, what to do if a child is dehydrated, etc. are things you may look into.

Communicating with medical practitioners from your country via video chat or real time messaging helps a lot too. We had internet at the apartment, but being able to use the internet to help you navigate, look up a fact while out, communicate with each other just in case you get separated with your companions and to receive communication from family back home.


Team PandA, FTW
5. Lastly, When the inevitable happens, keep calm but always have a plan B - in our case, we had already looked into new accommodations and possible Visa renewal related activities should we be asked to wait out the rest of Max's illness in Japan past our Visa validity. Contingency measures may just be needed. You'll never know.

there's a bit of pressure to not fail your kids, at all times. But when the inevitable
happens,  try not to blame yourself so you can focus on what matters mos
t: your children

These were super important lessons learned and affirmed for us by the whole experience. That being said we still got to enjoy our trip to Osaka. I mean sure, we had to cut our activities in half, but we still managed to make the most of what we had.

with our 9 day stay in Osaka, 2 were spent resting in our apartment
When we didn't know that the kids were going to get sick, we still gave them rest days and assessed our itinerary based on how the kids were feeling the day before, and that was how we still got to see the sights, prior to Max not being able to walk much.

nothing like prayers, positive thoughts and love , to get you through the tough times
The most important thing we got from this ordeal was that, in times of trouble, we can pull through just about anything simply because we are who we are - a family.

From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours.

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