December 27, 2012

Merry Christmas, in the Hospital

Warning: this post contains personal information about not so flattering ailments.

You’ve been warned!

Our accommodation in Austria were amazing!  St. Nicholas (Austrian Santa Claus) made an appearance at the hotel, handed out some presents.  We ate and ate and ate. In Europe, Christmas Eve is a bigger event than Christmas day – so dinner was about 10 courses long. Everything was beautiful, delicious and impeccably served. The kids even managed to stay sitting, stay patient, reasonably and awake through the entire meal.

We finally wound down, got the kids to bed (“Santa doesn’t come unless you’re sleeping”) and went to bed ourselves. I woke up around 3AM and felt funny. I’ve had a UTI before, and I suspected that might be it, but everything was just off. I also knew I usually eat fairly cleanly and simply, and the meal I’d just had was far from that. I passed it off to my stomach feeling a bit funny from the rich food and excessive wine.

We had a normal Christmas morning, opened some presents, had some breakfast (although I had little appetite) – played with the kids at the indoor play centre and the Kinder Club. I skipped lunch and tried to nap. By 3PM I was feeling awful and was passing blood. I tried to go into the sauna based on some awesome on-call advice from my amazing naturopathic doctor, Dr. Jennifer Castle from the Urban Athlete. Just to try to induce a fever and get my body to fight this off. Little did I know that the sauna was located in a “Nude Only” part of the hotel. The usual me would have found this hilarious and would have loved the people watching. The sick me wanted to curl into an invisible ball and put on blinders to any bits and pieces in my sight. I left within about 20 minutes after arriving, when all the skiers returned from their day on the slopes. By the time I ended back in our room I was throwing up and had a headache. My family had headed out on a horse drawn carriage ride, and I knew they’d be back soon. I knew I needed someone to peel me up from the bathroom floor. So I stayed there, hugging the toilet until they returned.

We decided to head to the hospital since the next day was still a holiday and I was feeling weak and pretty uncomfortable with a headache, fever, nausea and I was still passing blood. I wasn’t likely to get better without any sort of treatment. My husband made a quick call to the insurance company (which did not feel quick to me) and the hotel concierge ensured an ambulance was on it’s way.

I was so lucky my husband was able to come with me while we were able to leave the kids with Oma and Opa. We were taken to a.ö. Krankenhaus St. Vinzenz in nearby Landeck. Within minutes (yes, minutes, not hours, not days, MINUTES), they had admitted me, begun a medical history (in English – all of my care providers spoke at least a little English which was far superior to my German) and administered an EKG and CT scan (since I’d hit my head the day before on the toboggan run and was experiencing a massive headache). They were kind, efficient and funny (“You have a bladder infection, gastroenteritis and concussion. Frohe Weihnachten!”). I stayed overnight while they monitored me and gave me IV fluids and IV antibiotics, and released me the next day. They actually were able to speed up my release because my family had travel plans to head back to Germany. So the doctor came to see me as soon as she could (which again, was within minutes). How amazing is that?!

I felt terrible about causing so much trouble and fuss, especially on Christmas, but I’m so grateful I had my family took care of me (and my kids!) when I was not feeling well.  I’m also extremely grateful for our insurance, and the swift and efficient health care system in Austria.  If you’re going to spend Christmas in a hospital, it might as well be a hospital in Austria.

In light of the events, I have some updated travel tips for you:

1) Seriously consider the health care available within the country you are travelling to when little ones are in tow.  We were lucky and blessed that Austria has what I would consider to be superior care than Canada (wait times for admission, testing and diagnostics were far less than what we would have experienced at home).

2) Know the ins and outs of your out of country health insurance.  We knew we needed to call prior to receiving any medical care (which seems weird in more urgent circumstances… I’m not sure how we would have handled that, or how our insurance would deal if they were told about our trip to the hospital after it happened).

3) Mastering a few basic phrases (please, thank you) in the native language of your destination is a pretty common preparation to make for travel.  Add “hospital” or “doctor” to the list.  A couple smartphone apps (online and offline) that can help you out with that.

4) Grab a business card from your hotel (or jot down the address of the place you’re staying) and keep them in your pocket/purse for the duration of your stay. In addition to making it easy for taxis, we needed detailed contact information for our insurance company.

5) Make copies of your passport(s), health card, physician’s name with their contact details and insurance information. This could be as simple as taking pictures on your smartphone. Medical staff wanted to see these, insurance needed this information as well. And this doesn’t just mean that one parent is responsible: Ensure both you and your traveling companions know where these copies are located and how to access them. Better yet, each parent/care provider has their own copies in case one of you is incapacitated.

6) Everyone knows to turn off the cellular on your phone to avoid roaming fees. But do you (and your travelling companions) know how to turn it back on?  Do you know how to dial from a mobile within your host country? Do you know how to dial from your country to another country? This isn’t completely straightforward. Check out these suggestions for dialing within Europe.

I really hope none of you have to go to the hospital while on vacation. But it never hurts to prepare for the worst and expect the best.

December 25, 2012

Tips for a Successful Holiday


– Take advantage of the extra capable and willing hands that are around this time of year.
– Bend some of your sleep rules.
– Try not to let the holiday stress take over.
– Celebrate with those you love the most.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

December 24, 2012

Postcards from Austria

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We love Germany and Austria.  We got in some great skiing.  Our hotel offered lots of great activities for the kids, including child care, indoor play centres, swimming and watersliding.  We even went tobogganing.

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Note the happy faces! Little did we know that down the mountain, with our 2 and 4 year old was INSANE. It was icy. Steering on an alpine sled is all about sturdy, grippy, hard soled footwear. I had on smooth bottomed Ugg-style boots. We went around our first corner to a family standing there rearranging themselves. I had 3 choices: taking out the family, going off a ledge with my 4 year old or stopping ourselves in a fairly uncoordinated way. We opted for the last option and took a pretty serious tumble – she was fine (I pulled her out of the way before Oma almost drove us over), but I hit my head pretty hard – more on that to come. The little guy loved it though. I could hear his requests for “faster, faster” from further up the hill.  Our fearless little adventurer.

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December 19, 2012

And we lived to tell you about it.  Photos courtesy of my phone.

It turns out my almost 2 and almost 4 year old CAN carry luggage.  They were actually upset when we tried to carry it.

The luggage upped their cuteness factor while walking through the airport and waiting at the gate.  Mrs Claus (did Santa trade her in for a younger model?) actually found them on our way to the gate to give them candy.

In spite of the cute factor, I know there were still other folks at the gate who were still saying a silent prayer “please don’t let my seat be near them.”  But with a full flight and a whole crew of people flying on standby, not everyone’s prayers were going to be answered.

We did our best to prepare the kiddies.  Everyone was well rested going into the flight.  We had our pajamas, eye masks, ear plugs, and lovies in tow.

But it was a bit of a myth to think that they were actually going to sleep. What you can’t see in this picture is my son, standing in the seat, bouncing up and down, entertaining/annoying the row of seats behind us. 

This was at 12AM local time (which was why the overhead cabin lights were out), or 6AM destination time.  He didn’t sleep at all up until this point.  His bedtime is usually 7PM.  That would make this his second (or possibly his third or fourth) wind.

But I kinda forgot that there were SO many sleep rules that were already being broken, that I didn’t have to worry about one or two more.  Like turning off electrical devices within 1-2 hours before bedtime.  What you can’t see is two tired little faces mesmerized by the Backyardigans.

They finally faded around 1:30AM.  Our older daughter sprawled out on the floor (yes, the floor – we offered for our daughter to sleep on the floor of an airplane.  Once again, we will be passed over for the elusive “Parent of the Year” award).  We justified it that my down jacket was a nice, cozy bed for her to sleep on.

The son slept partially on Dad’s lap, stretched across the seat between us, with legs on my lap.  I finally faded when I knew they were sleeping.  We arrived at 4AM Local Time, or 10AM Munich time.  Our German Vater was waiting to pick us up at the airport and take us home.

After a day of catch up, and one good night’s sleep, I think everyone is on Local Time.  Which leaves me pleasantly surprised.  Circadian rhythms take some time to adapt, but I guess when you’re typically fairly well rested (that would be weird if my kids weren’t good sleepers, right?!), it helps make the bumps easier to navigate.

Our daughter doesn’t usually nap, and there are several Sleeperific tried and true nap rules that are being broken here, but when she only sees or Opa for 3 weeks per year, we’ll let it slide. 

We’re off to Oma’s secret surprise 60th Birthday Party tonight.  Wir lieben dich Oma!