Tuesday, August 16, 2011
My Flight to Michigan
The trip to Michigan was my first flight since my accident. We had to do a lot of planning and arranging things ahead of time to make sure everything went smoothly. After booking my ticket, I called the airline to let them know that I was traveling. I told them that I was on a vent and would have batteries with me. They put all that information in the computer under my ticket.
Traveling with me on the flight out was my sister, mom, two nurses and physical therapist. In the middle of the week (Thursday), the nurses that were with me flew home and two more flew in. Luckily, we were able to get most of the tickets covered by donations, frequent flyer miles from big companies, and through Delta.
It took a lot of time to pack all of my supplies. I think I had at least eight carry-ons which included my backpack with nursing chart and Doctors orders, a portable oxygen concentrator, backup ventilator with extra tubing, medications, emergency bag, suction machine etc. I also had a few bags that I checked with more supplies and my clothes. That doesn't include my entourage's personal luggage. Then I was all set to make the journey.
One minor detail about the plane that was flying on. It was the smallest plane they had, which I didn't know when I was booking the tickets. As it got closer to the time I was leaving, I was contacted by someone at Delta regarding my wheelchair and the plane. I gave him the dimensions and he told me that my wheelchair wouldn't fit down below because of the size of the plane. He wanted to switch me to a different flight where the plane would be larger, but none of the other times worked for me. The only other option was to go to the airport in a manual wheelchair and fly my power wheelchair out at a different time. That's what I decided to do. Key medical, the supply company where I got my chair from, came to my house the afternoon before, dropped off a manual chair, picked up my power chair and brought it to the airport for me. It went out on the 6 PM flight that night.
When I got to the airport I was met by a woman I had been in contact with from human resources at Delta. She helped escort us through the check-in, baggage claim, security checkpoint and then finally to our gate. This made the process go a little quicker which was good considering that we got to the airport a little later than expected and only had a short amount of time to get to the plane. I did hold it up a little but I think it went okay for the first time.
Once at the gate, I went down towards the plane and then my therapist, Nicole, and my mom transferred me to an aisle chair which was just big enough for my butt to fit on. Then they wheeled me onto the plane and to the bulkhead (the first seat on the plane) and transferred me over. We put my vent on the floor in front of me the where it remained the whole flight.
It was extremely important to have my therapist with me. She was able to teach us how to do the transfer which made things go a lot easier, both on me and everybody else. She also stretched me during the flight and while I was in Michigan. This helped keep my spasms, muscle tension and pain down to a tolerable level. I can't stress enough the benefits of physical therapy and how much it assisted in me being able to do all the things I did.
On the way back we had the same type of plane so I went to the airport in the manual wheelchair again and my power chair flew out at 6 AM the next day. I did get to the airport a lot earlier and so things went a little bit smoother. I learned a lot through this whole experience and I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to do it. I would definitely take another trip in the future and this only reassured me that I can actually pull it off. The one thing I would do differently next time would be able all the luggage!