Gold Coast Bound!

While I completely understand the logic of needing to check in to a domestic flight 60 minutes before if you’re connecting internationally, that does fall down somewhat when your domestic departure airport is somewhere like Paraparaumu. The absolute maximum number of people departing from here at any given time is 50. So, leaving my house at 5:30am made me bitterly resentful.

Probably all for the best, though, as the Air New Zealand computer system crashed halfway through checking in. A nice auspicious start to our morning! The old adage of turning it off and on again seemed to do the trick, however, and we had enough time to spare for a breakfast panini (and a massive coffee for Josh).I checked in online yesterday, and our Auckland-Gold Coast flight had assigned us seats across the aisle from each other. Because this leg was a Virgin Australia codeshare flight, I was unable to change the seat selection while checking in. However, when we got to the airport this morning the computer gave them an alert to reprint our boarding passes — and our seats had changed so we could actually sit next to each other. Not sure if this is because I grumped at them on Twitter, or if it was a coincidence, but either way, props to Virgin Australia for actually letting us sit together on our nice romantic getaway 🙂

Now, here is a PSA for you when you’re travelling. If someone on your flight has a medical emergency, for the love of all that is good in the world, don’t bloody crowd around them! A guy on our flight got up and fainted in the aisle, and like half the plane shot out of their seats to gather round. With nothing but good intentions, I’m sure — but honestly, I can’t imagine anything worse than passing out and waking up to 20-odd strangers staring at me.

Anywho. A bumpy landing in Auckland, but we arrived in one piece and wandered over to the international terminal. We had a five-hour layover, so Josh’s grandparents drove out from near Pukekohe to say hi and hang out for a while. It was great to see them.

TripIt gave us a notification that our flight had been delayed — only by 25 minutes, though, thank goodness. So we headed through security and managed to score a couch I could nap on for an hour or so until we finally had a gate announced.

Sidenote: of all the places to stop and check your bags, why on earth would anyone pick the end of the escalator?! Someone actually did this, and nearly got barrelled into by a couple of people. You can’t just pause an escalator…

Then it was on the plane to the Gold Coast, yay! The flight itself was painless — Josh had a toddler playing under his seat for a while, but apart from that, a nice smooth trip. Then it was through customs (painless) and a 30 minute wait for our shuttle.

On the shuttle, I discovered that two other people in the shuttle were also in town for the same conference I’m attending! So we were chatting for a while about the market and what we were hoping to get out of the conference.

Then, finally, we were at our apartment. We’re staying with a family friend who very generously offered us a room, and the place is absolutely stunning — and right across the road from the convention centre, hooray! Josh went on a scouting mission for food and we had dinner at like 4pm (time zones are weird).

I had a session to go to at 7pm, so I went to that while Josh slept. While the session was great, to be honest I was completely exhausted and very glad when it was over and I could just crash into bed! Thursday is a no-conference day, so we might be able to get a bit of exploring done. Or just sleep all day…

Wanderlust and Chronic Illness

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while, but haven’t quite known what to say. But today, I’m laid flat out in bed after a lumbar puncture yesterday, and in five days I’ll be on the Gold Coast. So, it seems like a pretty appropriate time to talk about this.

I have a neurological disorder called Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension. The way I explain it to most people is “my brain is swelling against my optic disc and no one knows why”. The slightly less glib explanation is that there is increased intracranial pressure (pressure around the brain). IIH leads to swelling of the optic disc, which has already happened for me—that’s how the condition was picked up.

Another name for IIH is pseudotumour cerebri, because it mimics the symptoms of a brain tumour. My symptoms include severe headaches/migraines, nausea, pulsatile tinnitus, papilledema, and transient visual obscurations. In others, it can also cause sixth nerve palsy, vomiting, dizziness, double vision, peripheral vision loss, and in about 5-10% of cases, leads to disabling vision loss. It occurs in about 1 per 100,000 people —in other words, about 45 people in New Zealand, or 74,000 people worldwide.

Lucky me, right?

Diagnosis involves a CT scan to make sure there are no lesions on the brain (otherwise it’s not a PSEUDOtumour anymore), and then a lumbar puncture to confirm opening pressure and check cerebrospinal fluid for abnormal cells, infections, antibody levels, the glucose level, and protein levels. If the opening pressure is above the normal range (normal cerebrospinal fluid pressure is 10-25cm of water; my pressure yesterday was 46cm), but everything else is within its normal limits, then Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension is generally the diagnosis.

Doctors really don’t know a lot about this condition. Their main focus is on the prevention of vision loss and symptom management. It usually appears in overweight or obese women of childbearing age; for that reason, most doctors recommend weight loss as the be-all and end-all of treatment. There is medication, such as acetazolamide (Diamox), that reduces cerebrospinal fluid production, which is prescribed in some cases. In very serious cases, a stent can be surgically inserted into the transverse sinus.

So, why am I writing about this on my travel blog? As you can imagine, a neurological condition makes travelling somewhat difficult. Travel insurance is more expensive, making plans or booking tickets for specific dates always makes me a bit nervous in case a migraine forces me to cancel, and I’m always wary of any long travelling days. It’s an extra level of planning and awareness I need to deal with that most people don’t. I have to be especially aware of change and cancellation policies for events, or what options are available to me if I just need to nap for a while.

It would be so easy to just hide away at home and never go anywhere. But I refuse to do that. I love to travel, and I won’t let my illness keep me from enjoying my life.