A black woman holding an inhaler stands against the sky, surrounded by planes flying in looping directions, she looks confused.

A 13 Hour Flight After Rituximab Injection

I haven’t been abroad for 7 years. I didn’t go anywhere for the last two years because of my NMO (neuromyelitis optica) attack. My mother and I decided earlier on this year that we would go to Pakistan to visit my family. My mother is from Pakistan and all her family live there. I haven’t seen them since I was 14.

Far from family

When my mum’s side of the family found out I was sick, they were so worried. My grandmother held get togethers where people prayed for my well-being. My grandfather would always check up on me. My aunties were constantly on the phone to my mum asking for updates. They were all really involved in my healing process, even though they were so far away.

Unfortunately, the same year I had my NMO attack, I lost my grandad. That’s when I decided that once I’m off steroids I would go to Pakistan and visit the rest of my family. I missed 7 years of time I could have spend with my grandad. I did not want to feel the same regret with any of my other family members.

Rituximab before flight

The flight was at the start of August. It was 13 hours long all together. 9 hours from Edinburgh to Doha. 4 hours from Doha to Lahore. I had gotten my Rituximab infusion two days before my flight. All of those that are on this treatment know how run down you feel after. You really need 3-4 days of recovery time and unfortunately I didn’t have that.

After around 2 hours of the flight, I started feeling uncomfortable. The first problem was, there was obviously no space to move about and become comfortable. Along with that, I haven’t travelled on a plane since I’ve gained weight and I genuinely didn’t realise how much of an impact my weight would have on the comfort of my journey. It was significant. You’re practically taking up the seat so you don’t have an option to manoeuvre into a comfortable position.

Secondly, because of the restricted space and not being able to get up and walk for several hours, my leg that was severely impacted after my attack, was so sore. I couldn’t relieve the pain by going for a walk so I decided to go to the toilet which was an excuse to get up. Even then, sitting back down, the pain would become intense again.

Medication side effects

When we got to Doha, I was shattered and hungry. I wasn’t able to sleep, I had gotten my Rituximab infusion 2 days before my flight which meant I really didn’t get to recover from it and I needed the sleep. The steroids that are given before the infusion make you really hungry. I felt like a monster.

The next flight was worse. It was an older plane so the seats were more restricted and uncomfortable. My leg was in agony and I was exhausted. I tried sleeping and I got about an hour max of sleep on that plane. I couldn’t open my eyes but I couldn’t fall asleep at the same time. It was an uncomfortable experience. I also felt sick, i’m not sure it was because of what I ate or the travelling.

When we arrived to Pakistan it was boiling hot and that made my nerves itchy. My hands and feet were swollen and I was so warm. As soon as I arrived to the family home, I went to bed and slept for half of the day. The sleep helped a lot but the tiredness of the flight and also the side effects from Rituximab took a good few days to reside.

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