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Up in the air

December 2, 2013

My Boring-Ass Life

I recently traded one evil for another. After my doctor told me that my last round of bloodwork was “perfect,” I wrote back asking him why I couldn’t stay awake or get my legs to work in the manner I am accustomed. The typical response I get from these type of questions is a shrug, a diagnosis of crazy, or the suggestion to lose weight. This guy got me into his office the following day and diagnosed me with neuropathy. The latest medication to compensate either helps or gives me awful headaches. I’m still weighing its usefulness. I’m currently on an overseas business trip that I couldn’t get out of and it’s serving to make me re-evaluate my situation.

I am also a paruretic, and in my pre-catheter days I thought not being able to pee for 12 hours was the biggest challenge.  Post-catheter, I thought getting them Technology and Industrythrough TSA was my biggest challenge because of the lube, followed by dealing with nosy jerks. I found single-use packs of Surgilube to stuff in my quart bag, I got a carrying case for my old models, and I usually just hold the new model up my sleeve. I highly recommend Cure Medical’s catheters. They’re affordable ($1 or less versus the $8 I paid for Bard’s rubber models), smooth enough to not require lube, and they send free samples. But I digress… traveling with some sort of disability always presents a set of known problems and some unforeseen ones. Coping is definitely a learning process. Here are my notes.

  • Prescriptions — This being my first trip out of the country with eight of them, it hadn’t occurred to me to count them until the last minute. Luckily, I had plenty to spare on all but one. Lesson learned: count more than two days before departure so that you’ve got time to get refills. Some are controlled substances and, being a former customs inspector, I find traveling with pills to be a wildcard. Some people check, some don’t. I carried on everything in their original bulky containers and, of course, nobody’s checked. Just my luck, they would if I hadn’t.
  • Rest — I envy people who can sleep on planes. I finally managed to fall asleep about eight hours into the flight only to be awoken again by the most godawful snoring by the guy next to me. He remarked to his wife after we landed that nobody could hear him because the plane was so loud. Yes, there was jet noise. His snores rose well above it. I had bought day passes to the airline’s lounge for my layovers and I think it was money well spent. I had four hours of quiet in a comfortable chair, along with access to a much-less-crowded bathroom, a chance to shower and change clothes, outlets galore, and an assortment of food and drinks that I didn’t have to stand in a loud line for. It was the next best thing to sleep.
  • Unforeseen — I had worn business clothing on the plane in case my luggage didn’t arrive when I did. This included a pair of comfortable wedges that had never given me problems before. Naturally, my legs cramped if I extended them too much, they didn’t take kindly to bending, my feet swelled, and I got blisters all over. A spare pair of shoes is going into the carry-on next time. I also hadn’t counted on having a hard time walking or how bloody far security and immigration checkpoints are from the arrival gates. Everyone on my flight passed me, as did a good portion of the flight that arrived after mine. Even the slidewalks were broken — just my luck. Lesson learned: if you think you might need mobility assistance, better to have it waiting than not have a prayer in hell of getting it later. Secondary lesson learned: I’m glad I checked my suitcase. Having to drag it along would have sucked.
  • Motion Sickness — Another thing that never used to bother me: a 777 taking off into a headwind is bumpy. Adding in that everyone around me had their window shades closed and my stomach was not happy. Years of making a few dozen trips to the bathroom to not pee has conditioned me to prefer the aisle seat, but I’m finding I might need to rethink that decision. Fortunately, I’m one of those people who loves ginger and my candied ginger passed muster with both my digestive tract and customs at all stops.

Getting there is not half the fun. I certainly learned I’ll need to budget extra time and money into future trips, maybe pick up a cane as well. How do y’all cope with traveling?

Gingeroid Sig

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2013 1:14 pm

    In regards to the shoes giving you trouble, look for a pair of “fast flats”. Dr Scholls makes them, and probably some other companies as well, I found mine in a drug store next to the insoles and such. They fold up into a little pouch that’s small enough to fit in a purse, and they give you an option when you just can’t stand another second in your shoes. I keep a pair in my desk (when I’m working) and other at home for nights out. And they still look reasonably presentable if someone spots you walking around in public (unlike some of the fuzzy bunny slippers my former co-workers kept around for my-heels-are-killing-me days).

    • gingeroid permalink
      December 3, 2013 3:42 pm

      I’ve tried similar products. Unfortunately those super-flat flats are equally bad on my feet. I’ve got a more supportive pair to wear home.

  2. quiltluvr permalink
    December 3, 2013 2:43 pm

    I travel with a walker (a rollator with a seat). I can walk quite long distances but it is pure heaven to have a place to rest for a moment when I want one. Our last trip was to Michigan, then to South Dakota and then home, with a layover in the Minneapolis airport. The walker helped get the guy with the electric cart to stop for us. The walker was also very useful in the museum we went to; instant chair anytime I wanted one.

    I also always buy a second seat; three seats for my husband and me to share is very convenient. (and yes, I understand how lucky I am to be able to afford to do that).

    • gingeroid permalink
      December 3, 2013 3:50 pm

      Are those walkers collapsible?

      2 seats for 3 comes down to 1.5 each so not quite as bad as paying 2 seats for 1. I had looked into business class but couldn’t justify quadrupling the ticket price.

      • December 3, 2013 3:57 pm

        Most rollators collapse, and you can usually have them tagged to leave at the end of the jetway 🙂

  3. December 3, 2013 3:24 pm

    I travel with either a cane, crutch, or my own manual wheelchair, plus controlled medications and a TENS unit, so traveling is usually interesting. I generally start with making sure I’m at the airport early because 9 times out of 10 the TSA searches me (although when I have my wheelchair, I usually get the privilege of not standing in line….requesting a wheelchair from the check-in counter can usually do this as well, although expect dirty looks if you stand up from the chair). I’ve never had an issue with my medications in a pill box, although my one trip out of the country I used the bottles for the controlled meds (with only the doses I needed in case something happened). As for the TENS unit, it’s easier to put it in the carry-on or purse but it is possible to go through security with it attached….you will be searched and required to rub down your pockets and the control box and have your hands swabbed (although I found this better than trying to attach the electrodes in an airport bathroom because I use it on my lower back & glutes).

    • gingeroid permalink
      December 3, 2013 3:48 pm

      Doing anything in an airport bathroom is the pits, especially when there are motion sensors involved 🙂 I agree completely with extra time for security. TSA is so unpredictable. One time I’d visited a crime lab’s firearms room prior to a flight and TSA went crazy trying to find explosives. After getting positive hits from every square inch of me and my bag, the failure to find anything convinced them to let me through. Oddly TSA decided they needed to feel up my ankles on my outbound flight.

  4. December 3, 2013 6:00 pm

    Traveling… I have to travel a lot for business, and I’m expected to be fresh and smiley when I arrive, so here’s what I’ve learned so far when I’m not on the company’s dime (and in business class):

    Arrive at the airport in business clothes. Go through security in business clothes. Enter next bathroom, take off make-up and change into comfy sweats you carry in your carry-on bag. ALWAYS pack a warm sweater! I prefer flip-flops when I travel and pack a pair of thick socks with a sturdy sole so I won’t have to wear any shoes on the plane. Be aware that bathroom stalls in Europe are beyond tiny but that nobody bats and eye when you change in front of the sinks. Flight attendants do it, too.

    Carry an empty bottle to fill up at clothes-changing bathroom. No need to pay $3 for water. Save that money and buy a lounge pass (good thing!), or a shower at the destination airport.

    Leave ample time for layovers. Seriously. Zipping around in these carts is fun, but not if you arrive at your transfer gate and the plane left five minutes ago because your other flight was late.

    Ask the flight crew for: An extra blanket, a bottle of water… Anything. Most people are way too polite to push that button, but you’re actually entitled to snacks and all the non-alcoholic drinks you want on a long-distance flight.

    Pack something to eat. Plane food is nasty and hurts your body a lot (preservatives/tons of salt), so have a little baggie of fresh fruit and veggies, maybe a small sandwich. You’re allowed to take fresh food on the plane as long as you consume it before reaching customs at your destination.

    On long-distance flights in Economy, window seats are key. Extra space! Also, it’s not that bad to spring for those Economy Plus/Comfort seats- the $60 are well worth the extra space and especially the extra recline inches.

    Ask your doctor about prescription anxiety and sleep medication. When I know I’ll have a 6 hour+ flight, I board, pop a pill, wait for the OK to recline my seat, curl up (I prefer sleeping on my left so I choose an Economy window seat on the left if possible), and sleep for six to seven hours. There can be people snoring, babies screaming, one kid apparently kept styling my hair (I seriously considered suing the mother, especially because she was kind of unapologetic about her kid’s transgressions)… I’ll sleep thanks to those magic little pills. A lot of help with jetlag, too!

    Check in online as early as you can (most airlines OK check in 24 hours before take-off), and if possible, get a mobile boarding pass. Will make you look like the most seasoned of travelers, and I’ve had a lot more luck getting through TSA checks quickly when I’m carrying my boarding pass on my cell.

    On less crowded flights, offer to move. Grab a flight attendant as you’re boarding and tell them that if there’s a row of seats free, you wouldn’t mind moving there. Works about 60% of the time with them coming to fetch you before seatbelt signs are switched off to take you to your new sleeping place.

    Be nice to every flight attendant everywhere in the airport. They tend to upgrade you at the gate if they remember you as the person they had a pleasant chat with in the bathroom as you both changed your clothes, or the one holding their coffee as they juggle scanners, papers, and a bag.

    Ask about an upgrade, especially if you’re stuck in a middle seat. This generally only works if you’re a somewhat frequent traveler, but I’d say I’ve been successfully upgraded about 25% of the time. Screaming babies next to you practically guarantee you an upgrade if there’s any room anywhere else.

    Get melatonin capsules. Keep jetlag controllable.

    Drink drink drink drink drink. Every minute you’re awake, try to drink a sip of water. You need about 1/2 gallon (!) to compensate for a long flight in dry and thin air.

    Carry facial and hand cream. Airplane air is stale, dry, and thin. Your non-cracking skin will thank you for it!

    Keep prescription meds in a separate ziplock from make-up and creams. Carry doctor’s phone number to have someone on call to confirm prescription for hardcore stuff like some painkillers.

    Don’t let yourself get stressed. Roll with the punches and smile. Might get you an upgrade next time. Don’t be a doormat, though- yet another snooty mother tried to usurp my aisle seat (short distance flights under six hours: ALWAYS go for the aisle seat for extra leg room!), I told her she should’ve planned her travels better if she’d wanted it, snooty mom got booted to the back of the airplane to the seats that don’t recline because she didn’t move her kid from my seat. 😛

    Most people will not have a lot of experience traveling by plane- if you’re a frequent traveler, try not to get annoyed at the umpteenth grandpa who forgot he’s not allowed his nail clippers on the plane. Just chat with someone who looks friendly, update your schedule, check your e-mails… Traveling WILL take time and there WILL be hold-ups. Just roll with the punches.

    Final, and first: COMFORT over STYLE. Even stars don’t travel looking the way they do when they walk out the airport. They use the bathrooms at their take-off and destination airports to get comfy/styled.

    Umm… I’m sure I’ll think of some more things if they’re needed :).

    • gingeroid permalink
      December 4, 2013 12:18 pm

      Great tips! Sadly, the overseas business class policy was discontinued a couple months before this trip. I did bring a fleece coat that doubled as a blanket at airports with the a/c cranked up.

      Completely agreed about Economy Plus. When faced with a choice of middles, I wanted at least one direction to expand in… until I snagged an aisle seat at the last minute. I’ve got exit rows and bulkheads for my return trip.

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