Robin prepares for inevitable illness when getting ready to leave for vacation.
Robin prepares for inevitable illness when getting ready to leave for vacation.

By Robin Conte

When you have four kids, odds are that in any given month, one of them will get sick. In fact, the folks at my local pharmacy know me by the sound of my voice, which is nice in a small-town-friendly sort of way, but at the same time a bit unsettling.

When you are about to embark on a family vacation, however, the odds of illness increase because you must factor in Murphy’s Law (ML), which states that whenever something can go wrong, it will, and which results in the following equation:

Thus you see that the result is roughly an 89 percent probability that at least one child will become sick or have a medical emergency within three days of the vacation, with the duration and severity of the condition in direct inverse proportion to the amount in your healthcare account. The longer your trip, the higher the risk factor, so that if you are gone for more than one weekend, illness or injury is inevitable.

The upshot is that we’ve been sick in all the best places.

I prepare for the inevitable by always packing a first aid kit, including everything from Echinacea and Benadryl to mole skin and crutches. I also employ the popular new-age method of positive thinking: “You’re fine…Now run!”

A few years ago, we took an epic two-week family minivan adventure-trip up to Niagara Falls and back down the East Coast. (Two weeks in the minivan! You can imagine how excited I was when my husband suggested this particular vacation, since driving around in a minivan full of kids is something I really don’t do enough.)

We were traveling from Atlanta to Nashville to upstate New York for the first few legs of the journey. I had a first-aid bag the size of my body that was filled with lozenges, pills, drops, slings and a snake-bite kit, and naturally, on evening three of our trip — a Sunday, of course — my daughter complained that her eye hurt.

As I dropped some Visine into her right eye we looked at each other, knowing that there was nothing in my arsenal to ward off whatever she had.

She woke up the next morning with her eye swollen shut. I called our eye doctor, who called in a prescription for antibiotic drops, which we filled and then loaded ourselves into the car. When my daughter pried her eye open enough for me to apply the drops, however, I saw a disturbing yellowish goo, and I called the doctor again. He grew extremely concerned and said that we needed to go to an ophthalmologist immediately and get her eye cultured.

This is where I give a shout-out to Dr. Rondowsky of Dunwoody and his entire staff, who located an ophthalmologist on our route, called his office, and informed him of the situation.

We were south of the Sweet Tea Line, which lies just beyond the Mason-Dixon, driving through Kentucky in search of the ophthalmologist. We made it to the office before closing time and ran the culture to the hospital across the street.

Every hour on the hour, through Ohio, New York, and into Canada, I leaned across the minivan seats to instill more drops into my daughter’s eyes. I got the call from the Kentucky ophthalmologist a few days later, while I was standing in a poncho on the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls; my girl had indeed contracted a dreaded bacteria. We continued our journey back down the Eastern seaboard stopping for hamburgers and ophthalmologist checkups.

The bacteria ate a tiny hole into my daughter’s cornea, just a tiny one, and I thank God, modern medicine and every ophthalmologist from here to New York that my daughter’s vision is intact today.

So to all of you families out there, traveling on family vacations, have a safe and healthy trip!

I’ll see you at the doctor’s office.

Robin Conte is a writer and mother of four who lives in Dunwoody. She can be contacted at