Kendra Preston Leonard


Packing while disabled

This is a bit of an addendum to the post above. Tomorrow I’m flying from Houston, where I live, to Hartford, CT, for the final rehearsals and first performance of two pieces of music for which I wrote the lyrics and libretto. A person without chronic illnesses would pack clothes, basic toiletries, and tech stuff/chargers and would be done–in fact my husband just attended a wedding in Philadelphia for which he packed a suit, a few shirts, a sweater, a pair of dress shoes, toiletries, a book, and chargers into a duffel bag and had a lot of room left over. I, on the other hand, have to pack not only an appropriate wardrobe and necessities, but also:

  • A folding cane. Some days my balance and pain levels are not bad and I don’t need it. Other days I do. In areas that are new to me, are under frequent construction, are not well-maintained, or in conditions in which there might be rain, ice, or snow making surfaces slippery, I always use it. My cane folds up and fits into a pouch and goes into my backpack.
  • Heavy-duty noise-canceling headphones. The noise in airports and on planes often triggers migraines for me.
  • Industrial-strength earplugs, for when I can’t wear the headphones, like for sleeping.
  • Two shot kits. One is for toting around in my backpack or purse, containing one dose of my migraine rescue medicines. One dose is two pills taken orally and a liquid that I have to inject into my leg. This kit contains an alcohol wipe, a syringe, a glass ampule of liquid medicine (packed in cotton wool), a tool for breaking the top of the ampule off without cutting myself, a bandaid, and the oral medication. The second shot kit, which goes in my suitcase, contains multiples of all of these in case I have to take a second dose or have a second (or third etc) migraine while traveling. Things that trigger my migraines: loud, very high-pitched, very low-pitched, or pulsing sound or music (no nightclubs for me); excessive vibration (think driving down an unpaved road); cigarette or cigar smoke; flickering lights (strobe lights and strobe effects are a nightmare); several foods/drinks (which I can avoid most of the time); and stress let-down. Stress let-down migraines are my most common. These occur after a stressful event or experience–even if that event is something you’re pleased to be doing. I often have stress let-down migraines after coming home from a conference, after I’ve turned in a book or article manuscript, and other things like that. I can predict them. but not prevent them. Not entirely. Which brings me to:
  • A pharmacopeia of my daily medicines, including drugs for migraine prophylaxis and pain medications.
  • Gloves. If I’m going to be in a place that is kept cool–like most archives are–fingerless gloves help keep my hands from becoming really painful while still allowing me to type.

It can be a lot of packing.