How Zika Changed Her Destination

Originally planning on a trip to Colombia, this couple gave in to the virus

Standing in line at a deli counter in the United Airlines terminal at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, I am waiting for our flight to Istanbul — and waiting on a hand-carved turkey sandwich.

The sandwich will pair nicely with a glass of cold white wine that sits at a tallboy table across the terminal, where my husband is patiently waiting for me, and for the sandwich.

Typically, he and I don’t split meals. But standing in line, I’m smiling as I think about sharing our meal, our world travels — our future. Airports are strangely romantic, aren’t they?

A week ago, I would have told you we were flying to Colombia. We’re boarding a flight to Istanbul, instead. It wasn’t a decision we made lightly, but it was due to the potential of the Zika virus.

“I don’t think we should go to Colombia,” I told my husband during our daily, quick, midday phone call. We talked it over and realized together that no matter how much the trip to Colombia might have meant, this was in everyone’s best interest.

I’m not pregnant and we’re not “trying,” but we are allowing the natural course of things to take place. Do I want to get sick or even take the risk, ever or in general? Um, no. Do you?

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We all know that staying healthy during a pregnancy is important. So when I saw the photos of the babies and the families right now that are suffering due to the virus, I immediately became concerned that if I were to contract the Zika virus at any point, it could stay in my body until the time we were ready to have a baby. I had questions: Would the virus run through me like a common cold, no big deal? My mom asked a family friend who is doctor about how long the virus can stay in a person’s body and he said, “Awhile.” What’s awhile?

The tipping point for us was when the World Health Organization sounded the alarm on the virus as an international emergency last week. We, at some point, hope for a healthy baby and just knew it wasn’t worth the risk.

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We also wanted to enjoy any vacation we had planned. Running around South America in long sleeves, constantly spraying on bug spray, or having to stay inside when it’s bathing-suit season didn’t sound remotely like a vacation. Worrying about being bitten, checking our arms and legs and second guessing any red mark that shows up would not have been worth the trouble.

I am not complaining. This trip to Istanbul may not have been the original plan, but it is turning out to be better than we might have expected. It is a country with a long history, a location straddling both Europe and Asia, interesting people and wonderful things to experience.

Our travel companies, understanding the dilemma and knowing we weren’t alone, agreed to refund about 90 percent of the flight costs and 100 percent of the hotels. We started from scratch and rebooked.

It was only a week ago I posted this on Facebook: “ISTANBUL recommendations … ready, go!”

Within minutes, the recommendations started to flood in, and people seemed more excited about this trip than the other. It was as if this was the trip we were meant to take anyway.

So here I am, standing in line while my husband keeps watch over the table and our bags. The only thing I’m worried about at the moment is that our turkey sandwich comes out just the way we like, and that we board our flight on time. That is a gift.

We consider ourselves lucky we were able to change our plans and that it went so smoothly, because we know it may not be an option for everyone. While the airlines seem as understanding as they can be right now regarding the Zika virus, every vacation location and company is different.

But the most important thing any of us can ever do, is take care of ourselves. No money in the world is worth traveling to a place or doing something you ultimately feel is unsafe or harmful. Especially to an unborn child.

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