Fourteen days into an eighteen-day trip to Italy and my two-year-old daughter, Lucia, was going with the flow like a seasoned veteran traveler. She was a perfect angel on the ten-hour flight from Chicago to Rome; she was treated, and acted, like a rock star in every city or town we’d visited; and she enjoyed road trips on winding Tuscan roads as much as we adults did. But on that fifteenth day, she just wasn’t herself. I could tell just by looking at her that something was wrong. She would not eat, she was extraordinarily crabby, and then she started running a fever. We were in Rome at this point of the trip, preparing to spend there our last few days in Italy before flying back home to Chicago. As any prepared, traveling parent would do, we had packed children’s Tylenol for the trip (as well as a thermometer) so we used that to try to decrease the fever. It seemed to work for a bit but then the fever spiked again. We spent the next two nights with Lucia in bed with us, her temperature fluctuating, her head covered in cold, wet towels; my husband, Mark, and I getting up every few hours to take her temperature and administer more Tylenol. After two nights of this misery, the fever was holding steady at 103 degrees, and I was beginning to freak out. I really did not want to end up in a Roman hospital in the middle of the night with a fevered two year old. But it was beginning to look like I wasn’t going to have a choice since a 103-degree fever is nothing to take lightly. Then, almost miraculously, the fever broke. I wasted no time that following day in calling, via Skype (I love technology), our pediatrician’s office back home in Chicago. I explained the situation and was advised to seek out a pharmacy nearby for more Tylenol and suppositories (Lucia now was constipated), and to bring Lucia in to see the doctor as soon as we arrived back home. Now, I studied Italian for several years, listened to various dialects being spoken around me at home, and got on quite well with my Italian language skills while traveling in Italy; however, none of the aforementioned experiences ever taught me how to ask for, or explain the need for, suppositories for a constipated child – in Italian. I’m not quite sure how I eventually got my point across to the pharmacist, but I got what I needed. Lucia was feeling better by the next afternoon but we chose to be cautious and did not take her out and about. Mark offered to stay at the hotel with her for the day while I showed Mom around Rome. I felt badly about leaving my husband behind – it was his first trip to Rome – but such is a sacrifice we make as parents.
In the end, all was well and Lucia was back to normal within days of returning home. I know, though, that things could have turned out quite differently. So, here are a few lessons I learned from this ordeal (or those of which I was once again reminded):
Never take my or my family members’ health for granted – at home or while traveling.
Take the time to learn a few medical-related terms, such as suppositories, in the native language of the country I am visiting.
Before arrival, have an idea of the locations of hospitals or children’s medical facilities.
Don’t let this experience discourage me from traveling again with my daughter.