Friday, March 7, 2014

Flying Solo

I had this photo taken at the RIC gym last week.
Ok, so I have already blown it with respect to the fact I was going to write more regularly than I did last year. I did not write anything last month,  however,  in my defense, or to offer up an excuse, I have been painting a lot lately. I guess it is all good and all a means of expressing myself, whether writing or painting.

Good news, I am going to visit my friends Marguerite and Paul in Biloxi next week. This will be the first time I have flown since the loss of my second leg over three years ago. In fact this will be the first time I have flown alone since the loss of either leg. Back in 2010 as you recall, I went on that cruise with my friend Shawn but we flew together from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale. This time I will be entirely on my own.

Fortunately my dear friends M and P are giving me this trip as a belated Christmas gift and to make it even more wonderful, I will be flying first class. I have never flown first class, I think the main reason they opted for first class was to make this trip easier for me. I will have more room, it will be more comfortable and it is a direct flight. I am actually flying into New Orleans where they  will pick me up and we will spend an afternoon in New Orleans then afterward we will make the 90 minute drive back to Biloxi.

With the help and advice of some friends I think I have all my bases covered. I actually called American Airlines, spoke to someone in "Special Services" I explained about my being a wheelchair user and I wanted them to explain step by step what and how to do everything.

When I arrive at the airport, my assistant, Frank will let me off in front of American Airlines and I will do a curb side baggage check in. I am going to download my boarding pass from my computer before I leave home. I will ask the skycab person to get me an attendant who will take me to security and wait while I am checked through security and then the attendant will take me to my gate.

I am not sure, having never flown first class, whether or not I will preboard 30 minutes early because I am flying first class or because I am a wheelchair user. Nonetheless, I was told I will transfer from my wheelchair to a smaller wheelchair that will fit down the aisle, then I will transfer from that smaller wheelchair to my aisle seat.

Fortunately this is only a 2 1/2 hour flight so I am not that worried about having to go to the bathroom. If it were a longer flight I am not sure how I would handle the bathroom aspect of the flight. There are so many more things to take into consideration when you are in a wheelchair than when you can walk freely.

If you are in a wheelchair, my advise to you is to mentally play out the trip in your mind before you embark. Call the airlines in advance with any questions or concerns you may have and be prepared, taking time to make sure all aspects of your trip are taken care of in advance. As you may know most anything is possible even though you use a wheelchair, it just takes more time and more planning.

Most airlines make exceptions about friends and family meeting special needs individuals, allowing them to meet you at the gate  (like the old days) and take you to baggage claim. It is probably not a good idea to drink too much before and during your flight to eliminate the need to deal with having to use those cramped airplane bathrooms. My plan is to wait until about an hour before we land and then have a little something to drink.

I know all of this may sound almost childlike but sometimes we forget and have a couple of cups of coffee and that could turn into a real nightmare. Of course if you are an amputee like me, there are all those things to remember to bring, like in my case, I am taking my short legs and wearing my long legs, my long leg charger, walkers, canes etc it seems endless sometimes.

With a little forethought you can have a pleasant flight both coming and going. This will be quite an adventure and I am looking forward to sharing how it all went when I return...until then take care.

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