So this past week we set off on our first adventure since being almost full time with my chair. I am extremely comfortable with airports and flying, as I’ve always tried to travel a lot instead of having material things. But for this trip, to visit my best friend in Houston, Texas, was daunting to me both because of my chair as well as being the first time traveling carrying a ton of medical liquid and meds as well as my feeding tubes/24hr feeds. This won’t be a how-to or how to travel with a chair; I’m far far from an authority on that, but more on my impressions and what I learned on this first trip with new aids.
The biggest thing I learned...well maybe not the biggest but certainly one I won’t be forgetting, is that my medical backpack is TOO BIG to put on the back of my chair without it wanting to be tipping back. Whoops! Almost took a backflip on that one before I figured out the best way to sit and redistribute the weight a slight bit. Only a tiny change, but made a big difference through the airport. Secondly, next time I WILL be taking advantage of the wheelchair assistance; I have my own chair and a partner, but with him juggling luggage, and me being unable to self propel for the whole distance, it was unnecessary stress on my amazing partner and definitely made things a little bit harder. There’s help available for those that need it, and there is nothing wrong with using it! That’s why they are there! Boarding the plane was not an issue - being a somewhat ambulatory wheelchair user, I am able to walk from the door of the plane to my seat. It was somewhat terrifying leaving my chair at the end of the jetway for them to load; I’m a control freak to an extent and not being in charge of what allows me to be mobile was hard to do. Thankfully our first flight was uneventful and disembarking the plane was seamless and my chair was waiting for me when I deplaned. A new city in a chair was exceptionally easy, huge props to Houston and Galveston for being amazingly accessible, heck even easier than the home in Denver. Traveling home was a different story. We struggled to get around the Houston airport at first because the elevators are a bit hard to find, and there are lots of escalators. However, I blame that on my total lack of directional skills and not on the airport. Next trip we will definitely be looking at an airport map prior to arrival so we have a better idea of where everything is. However, once we reached the gate for our second flight, headed home, things got a little more...sketchy I guess is the best way to put it. Firstly they sent preboard down the jetway and stated that we couldn’t board but had to go down because it would make the flight look like it boarded on time. We were left in the jetway for 20+ minutes, which normally would be irritating, but the jetway was moving a bit and was very disorienting for myself and I’m sure others! Plus not everyone to preboard was in a chair, so parents with tiny kiddos, slow walkers..it was a mess. Once we finally got on the plane, leaving my chair to once again be loaded, I was feeling good, thinking it would be just like our first flight. No such luck. Once we landed home in Denver, we waited to deplane until closer to the end of the flight, as requested, to allow time for the wheelchair to arrive. No big deal, while I was VERY ready to be off the plane, waiting makes the most sense! However, once we finally deplaned my wheelchair was nowhere in sight. After about 10 minutes, and sitting on the ground (I can’t stand for long at all) my chair finally made it. And was beat up to hell! Thankfully it works fine, but seeing it so scuffed and a few dents were really hard to see! This is what gets me around and they treated it like garbage! (If anyone has any tips about how to address that with the airline, I’d greatly appreciate it! Please comment!)
Overall it was incredible to travel again, and reignited my passion for exploring new places, and gave me the confidence that I can finally have more independence and get back to what I love, and definitely taught me things for our next flight, whenever that may be. If there is something about traveling in a chair that you think would be helpful, I’d love to see your tips and tricks in the comments! Happy travels, and roll on!