Some Trips Cover a Distance, but Some Don’t

A columnist shares travel in England and a range of other journeys

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by Helen Baldwin |

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After high school graduation, I studied abroad through the American Institute for Foreign Study.

Based in Oxford, England, our group attended classes at Balliol College and enjoyed side trips to London, Paris, Rome, and Florence, Italy. From shrimp scampi at the Mitre Inn, to rolling hills, rosy cheeks, and cobblestone streets, I soaked in every minute while pinching myself.

That trip was a blast, but I never took another trip abroad.

I did, however, eventually move to the North Carolina mountains, a rural area reminiscent of England’s lush landscape.

Trips are wonderful, but there’s no place like home.

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When there’s a river at the end of the road

After our baby, Jeffrey, was diagnosed with SMA, my optimistic nature helped keep me afloat, albeit barely at times.

Despite phenomenal support from family, online connections to fellow SMA families, and faith in God’s plans, observing SMA’s steady progression in our brief active duty tested my sanity and patience. One afternoon, my husband, Randy, commented that Jeffrey was “gurgly.” I was speechless, as “gurgly” was the norm by then.

That evening, Randy said he needed a pan washed for dinner. That one extra (mundane) responsibility that was added to another full day shoved me to the breaking point. After sloshing soapy water around in the pan (for the one who never complained about myriad extra duties), I placed Jeffrey in the stroller and headed out for a walk.

Our son Matthew, likely concerned that I’d head straight to the river down the road, asked if he could come along.

That brief walking trip provided both our sensitive firstborn and me with a much-needed opportunity to discuss life in an adult world that often didn’t make sense to even the adults at times.

Sometimes the best trips are close to home.

What, exactly, kind of trip?

Three months after my folks moved down the road from us, Dad was diagnosed with “masses” (my folks never said “cancer”). He opted for alternative protocols.

Even an optimist like me worried about the disease progression, possible unpleasant symptoms, and the toll on Mom physically, mentally, and emotionally.

As I arrived at their house with groceries one day, my folks were laughing and shuffling or dancing around the kitchen island.

“We’re going on a trip!” Dad giddily announced. Mom squealed.

The wheels in my mind spun crazily. “A trip?”

“Yes!” The laughter and shuffling continued.

It was obvious that neither one cared to divulge additional information. I had my own food to put up, so I left, pondering. What kind of trip could they be planning? The thought of a little getaway promptly vanished. What took its place was horrifying.

They surely weren’t thinking about a permanent kind of “trip,” were they? Surely not.

Who knows what they were thinking, as it never came up again. Dad’s health declined until he took his final “trip” in his favorite recliner.

Some trips defy explanation.

In honor of Bladder Health Awareness Month, a different kind of trip

Three summers ago, I experienced a systemic reaction to a bee sting. The epinephrine injected by attentive emergency room workers worked great! I was shaking uncontrollably in no time, but those red blotches disappeared like magic.

Fast forward to this past summer. I experienced an annoying urinary issue and remembered a neighbor’s recommendation of a natural over-the-counter product. I gave it a try, thrilled to realize the night of the purchase that the sense of urinary frequency seemed to have abated some after just two doses.

Working on a column late that night, I realized I hadn’t taken the third and final dose of the day. Or had I?

In what would be an unfortunate decision, I took another dose. Only it was apparently the fourth.


The next morning, my tongue was swollen. Really swollen. I felt sure I probably should alert Randy. As I was letting the dogs outside, I attempted to do just that.

Me: “Nah tuh ih ho-en.” (My tongue is swollen.)

Randy: “What?”

Me: “Nah tuh ih ho-en.” (My tongue is swollen.)

Randy: “WHAT?”


Randy: “I can’t understand you. It sounds like your mouth is full of something.”

Me, turning around to get my point across: “NAH NOW IH HUH UH TUH!” (MY MOUTH IS FULL OF TONGUE!)

Randy: “Yikes.”

Randy drove me to the ER, asking me the entire way if I could swallow. I could, at least for the moment.

At the ER, I was whisked to a room for immediate attention. The nurses were wonderful — especially the one who forewarned me that “some people” reported hallucinations with what she was about to give me.

Within seconds, I joined those “some people.”

Whoa … a gigantic eyeball!

Whoa … an upside-down tree!

Whoa … a hammer … a saw … a tape measure … and … what was that?

Given the images my tongue-stuffed mouth attempted to blurt out, it’s a miracle Randy and the nurse didn’t laugh hysterically. Or maybe they did.

I gradually became a bit less loopy, and my “trip” ended.

And I didn’t even have to unpack.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


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