When I was younger and more of a world traveler, the joke was that the first thing I located everywhere we went was: the bathroom. Knowing where the bathroom was was very important to me. Just. in. case. And usually, I did end up visiting it before my time at that particular locale was over.

Now when I travel, the first thing I try to locate is: the first aid station. As the parent of a child with spina bifida, I realized the importance of the first aid station as soon as my child started getting too big to fit on a changing table.

Short trips to church or to go shopping didn’t cause much of a problem. When we planned our first day trip to the zoo, however, I realized that we would have to do clean intermittent catheterization while there, and I was momentarily concerned about where we would find a spot to take that task on. There were options (like the public bathroom or the car ) but none seemed both clean and comfortable, or private. That’s when some other moms reminded me about the first aid station.

First aid stations can be found at any major attraction. Theme parks, zoos, the state fair — they all have first aid stations. When you arrive at your destination, go ahead and check your map to see where the stations are. Then you can plan your day in a way that ensures you are near a first aid station if/when you need it.

Before using first aid stations to cath, I only thought about them in the context of providing emergency care. However, first aid stations are there to serve anyone with a medical need — emergency or not.

Can’t think of a reason the first aid station might be useful to you? Here are a few ideas:

  • Diabetics can use the first aid station to give injections or test their sugar.
  • Heat exhaustion and nausea are often treated there.
  • Sometimes facilities for nursing mothers are near first aid stations.
  • If you just need a band aid or a dose of Tylenol, you can often get those things there, too.
  • Need to clean out your kid’s trache or adjust their medical equipment, or change a diaper without being stared at by the occupants of a public restroom? Hit up the first aid station!

Recently, we needed to use the first aid station for an emergency situation. One of my children bumped the top of her head on a ride at the fair and started bleeding (pouring blood, rather). At that moment I realized we’d failed to locate the first aid station before starting our day. There was  bit of confusion — the pulling out of maps, the concern of random bystanders, some gushes of blood — before we could figure out what direction to head in for help.

A little pre-planning can make those kinds of scenarios go a lot smoother.

From now on, I’ll (probably) remember to always know where the first aid station is before we even get out of the car. Not only is it useful for routine medical needs, it’s pretty handy information in an emergency as well.