The Best Laid Plans

By Suzanne Marriott

Living with MS can be challenging, but planning for an emergency while dealing with MS can be overwhelming, and sometimes “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” to loosely translate Robert Burn’s poetic admonition. That’s what happened to us when I thought I had planned for every contingency and possible emergency before we headed off on a trip from our San Francisco Bay Area home to San Diego for a little R&R.

I had arranged with our medical-supply company to deliver the following to our hotel: an electric Hoyer Lift, a hospital bed, and a shower chair, and I had alerted the hotel of their impending arrival. On the transportation side, I made sure our airline had a lift to transfer my husband from his wheelchair to his airplane seat. We carried his sling with us. Our hotel had promised a wheelchair van to meet us at the airport and transport us swiftly to our hotel. I had received confirmation for all these crucial accommodations and was confident that all would transpire as planned. Well, nothing, and I mean nothing, transpired as planned, and near mayhem ensued.  We did finally settle into our hotel room, but we spent the next day of our vacation in the ER. (I don’t have room to go into detail, but I wrote about it in Chapter 28 of my memoir, Watching for Dragonflies. It reads like a dark comedy, but I wasn’t laughing at the time!)

Was I discouraged? Yes. Did I give up ever traveling again? Well, not exactly, but we never flew after that. Did I give up planning? Of course not. While things don’t always work out, your chances of smooth sailing will definitely improve with careful and detailed planning. So below are some tips.

Whether planning for a trip or an emergency, here are some possible things to include:

  • Assistive devices or durable medical equipment
  • Catheters and accompanying paraphernalia
  • A list of all prescriptions and a sufficient supply of medications
  • Doctors’ contact information
  • A list of away-from-home medical resources
  • Contact information for the people you will keep informed
  • Anything else you will need for your safety and welfare.

Of course, every situation differs, and you know best what you will need. The key is to take the time to plan ahead, make a list, then set it aside and revisit it, adding anything you didn’t think of the first time. Also, this might be a good time to confer with others about what you will need. Finally, gather everything together and arrange for the implementation of your plans.

For emergency planning for natural disasters that would require you to leave home, your list must be longer and a go-bag may be needed. Some things to include might be the following:

  • Three-day supply of non-perishable food and water
  • Map marked with evacuation routes
  • Plans for your destination
  • Important numbers in case your cell phone is lost
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Pet & supplies (food, water, carrier, leashes)
  • Changes of clothing
  • Sturdy shoes for walking
  • Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • N95 or other masks
  • An extra set of car keys
  • Credit cards, cash, or checks
  • Flashlight
  • Sanitation supplies
  • Cell phone and other charging cords
  • First aid kit
  • Important documents and irreplaceable items that you would not want to lose.

Be sure to discuss your plans with family and friends, caregiving staff, and anyone else who may need to know. I would also advise you to line up places where you can stay, be that with friends or family or in a motel. In case of some emergencies, you may not know in which direction you will need to travel, so make more than one plan for where you can stay and for how long. It’s also a good idea to keep a list in your car of the motels/hotels in your possible evacuation areas.

The Red Cross, your county, or other relief organizations may establish evacuation centers, so be sure to know where you can get emergency information, such as on local radio stations or through online sources which will also have updates on the emergency status. Visit the American Red Cross website for more information, including their Family Disaster Plan form which you can fill out ahead of time. Depending on your location, you may find helpful information on disaster preparedness on the Foundation of Resources for Equality and Employment for the Disabled (FREED) website.

As with any emergency, there will be unknowns and even middle-of-the-night escapes. But the better prepared you are, the better your chances of success. Let’s hope your “best-laid plans” will be enough to keep you safe and well, whether for travel or an emergency!

About Suzanne

Suzanne Marriott’s memoir, Watching for Dragonflies: A Caregiver’s Transformative Journey, tells the story of the ten years she cared for her husband who suffered from multiple sclerosis. Suzanne holds a BA in English, an MS in Education, and an MA in Transpersonal Psychology. Her interests include wisdom practices and mystical experiences, Jungian psychology, spending time in nature, and travel. Suzanne lives in an ecologically conscious cohousing community in the Sierra Nevada foothills in California. Connect with Suzanne at and

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About MSAA

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is a national nonprofit organization and leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a Helpline with trained specialists; award-winning publications, including, The Motivator; MSAA’s nationally recognized website, featuring educational videos, webinars, and research updates; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; safety and mobility equipment products; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; MRI funding; My MSAA Community, a peer-to-peer online support forum; MS Conversations blog; a clinical trial search tool; podcasts; and more. For additional information, please visit or call (800) 532-7667.

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