The flights were booked, the bags were packed, the trip was happening – and then the unexpected showed up.
I had been anxiously eyeing the calendar for months in anticipation of our upcoming vacation to Ireland. My husband had never been to Europe before. I had planned the majority of the trip myself. We would fly into Dublin, spend the day sightseeing, stay in town for the night, then pick up our rental car and head west.
Our first stop was in Galway. My brother, who was flying in a couple days later from Paris, would join us there. Together, we would sip on Guinness in Irish pubs hugging the shoreline. We’d eat fresh haddock fried in batter and served with chips. The air would be crisp. I could already taste the sea breeze on my lips.
But none of this would actually happen. At least not this time around. Three days before our Friday night flight, my husband left work to go to the doctor’s. He had pain in his abdomen and it was getting sharper by the hour. I knew something was wrong when he volunteered to go himself – usually it takes much more convincing.
Delivering the Bad News
He called me that afternoon to give me the update. I was working in our home office, with visions of leprechauns dancing in my head. “It’s a kidney stone,” he said. My heart dropped. The only stone I wanted to talk about was the one in Blarney. “I have an ultra sound scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.”
The doctor had warned him it wasn’t looking good for a Friday flight. She said the stone seemed to be stuck in his ureter and he should expect the pain to get worse over the next couple of days.
I immediately turned to the Internet for answers. “Can you travel with kidney stones?” I typed into the search bar. The results offered varying opinions. I focused on the positive ones.
My husband calls me a dreamer, and maybe he’s right. After all, I am a writer. He claims he is a realist – but when it comes to medical conditions, the doom and gloom muscles its way through.
Things were looking bad, but still I headed to the health food store to get some natural remedies. I filled the cart with pomegranate juice, watermelon and bottled water from France (recent studies have suggested the incidence of kidney stones in Canada is increasing, and fingers point to the levels of calcium in our water). I also picked up a bottle of chanca piedra in pill form, which was supposed to help break down the stone.
The week leading up to our getaway was extremely stressful. I was planning and packing for a trip I didn’t even know if we’d be taking. I tried to think positively, but I also didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment. Errands got pushed back to the last minute. Packing lists were shoved to the back of my mind. Finally, we got the call about the ultra sound results. They didn’t find anything. The pain had subsided. It seemed the natural remedies had worked. We were in the clear.
I couldn’t contain my excitement as I rushed to get all of the last minute details organized. It was a close call, but the green valleys and mountainous landscapes would soon be in view. I needed this vacation badly. An escape from the real world was long overdue. Not to mention, this was the longest I’d gone without seeing my younger brother; it had almost been a year.
Then, the pain came back.
On Friday morning, with less than 10 hours before our scheduled departure, my husband went to the clinic for a second opinion. The stone was still there – the ultra sound somehow missed it. Now, it had caused a bladder infection, and the doctor said a kidney infection was looming. He said sitting on a plane for six hours was not good for the stone – it was better to move around a bit (while avoiding any extraneous activity). But even worse, there was the risk of passing the stone. Where would we be when it happened? On the plane? Driving along the highway? Hiking through Connemara National Park? Once again, the unknown squeezed its snarly fingers around my heart.
A Change of Plans
A decision had to be made. My husband feared disappointing me. I could see it in his eyes – the Emerald Isle was not in the cards for us this time around. We called my brother via Skype to deliver the bad news. He thought it was a mean joke. I told him I wished it was.
Fortunately, we had travel insurance – something I now will never go without. We scrambled to make a plan B. Both of us needed the time off. We had to make the most of our “vacation.”
The truth is: I don’t handle disappointment very well. I spent the first few hours of our holiday curled up beneath the covers. I didn’t want to accept a backup travel plan.
Of course, the whole kidney stone issue meant we couldn’t go far – or do anything requiring much physical activity. We decided to spend a couple of days in Niagara Falls, then head to the family cottage near Parry Sound for the rest of the week. The first 48 hours were difficult. I kept picturing the detailed itinerary I had mapped out for our trip. I kept comparing our stroll beside the Falls to a hike along the Cliffs of Moher. I was being a buzzkill and I knew it. I had to face reality.
Sometimes, we become so distracted by the novel landscapes, architecture and accents that exist halfway across the world, we forget how to enjoy our own backyards. We romance over the old, historic castles full of stories to be told, and the luscious green cliffs stretching 120 metres above the Atlantic Ocean. Who can blame us? After all, these are the scenes the movies are made of.
As my husband and I watched the water gushing over the falls, my mind began to clear. I realized how grateful I felt to be here, in this place, healthy enough to enjoy this view, with this man by my side – kidney stone and all.
In the end, the week we didn’t go to Ireland actually ended up being pretty fantastic. So we didn’t get to tour the mythical Celtic countryside, but as far as I know, it isn’t going anywhere. I truly believe at the end of the day, it’s not where you are but who you’re with that matters. During the days to come, I made sure to squeeze my husband’s hand a little tighter. I sipped on my wine a little slower. Soon my shoulders became lighter, my smile brighter. A happy vacation is much more rewarding than a bitter one – even if it’s just the backup plan.