To Fly or Not to Fly…

Gepost door Elizabeth Forst inChristopher and Dana Reeve Foundation BlogDagelijkse dosis on June 16, 2016#Reis 

Since my injury two years ago, I have successfully flown as a fully dependent quadriplegic six times, visiting many U.S. cities. My next trip will be to my first international destination – Cozumel, Mexico for a scuba dive trip. Flying is no easy feat these days as I operate using a sip and puff power wheelchair. When I fly I require 100% assistance from caregivers and airline personnel to safely transfer in/out of the airplane as well as protect my expensive equipment.

The most important piece about flying as a quad is to choose a flight later than 12 o'clock so I can do a proper bowel program before to prevent an involuntary bowel episode during transfers. Having an involuntary bowel movement when traveling is probably my biggest fear; the embarrassment is overwhelming and provides for a very uncomfortable travel experience.

When choosing an airline, there are many options. I have flown United, Delta, and Southwest airlines thus far. My preference is Southwest airlines as their airline personnel are extremely friendly, cooperative and willing to learn about how to safely and efficiently transport individuals utilizing wheelchairs. They always seem to have a smile on their face, treat you like an individual rather than an alien and encourage feedback on how to make their process better for our safety and comfort. Further, Southwest Airlines allows people with a disability to sit in the front row, for an easier transfer from the aisle chair into the airline seat. The supervisors actually walks you onto the plane to ensure proper process. You do not get charged for sitting in the front row, and there is a two free bag allowance. I always ask for extra assistance, preferably a strong male who can help with the transfer and they are always happy to oblige. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

Arriving at the airport with ample time, the usual 2 to 3 hours, is paramount especially since getting through security takes much longer in a wheelchair. I always check in at the ticket counter so the ticket agent can call ahead to the gate to ensure the availability of an aisle chair for transfer – this is crucial for ensuring not delaying the flight as the disabled community boards first and cannot do so if the aisle chair is MIA. It is also important to be knowledgeable about the weight of the wheelchair and what type of battery is utilized – spillable or non- spillable. I find it crucial to choose a window seat for myself so I can lean on the window for trunk control– as I have none. This is incredibly important upon takeoff and landing of the airplane as the flight surges forward and backward.

I travel with a comfort carrier sling, a specialized transport sling that essentially wraps you up like a burrito during transfer protecting your elbows and knees from harm during transfer to the aisle chair and airline seat. Letting a caregiver direct the transfer is essential for proper communication between airline personnel assisting in this process.

Once comfortably in my seat, my caregiver returns back to the power wheelchair – I use a Quantum Edge – in which the sensitive pieces of the wheelchair are dismantled, placed in a carry-on bag and the entire wheelchair is wrapped in a green cellophane wrapping to alert the airline maintenance crew not to place other bags on top of the wheelchair when in the belly of the plane. I say goodbye to my chair and hope it ends up on the other side undamaged. To date I have been very lucky and I attribute this to my due diligence on detail oriented wheelchair protection and communication with airline personnel.

Ik reis altijd met extra medische benodigdheden in mijn handbagage, inclusief een extra urinedagtas, handschoenen, babydoekjes en handdesinfectiemiddelen als er ongelukken zijn. Het is altijd belangrijk om de suprapubische katheter na transfers te controleren en de inhoud van de urinedagtas in de gaten te houden bij klim en afdaling, omdat de depressurisatie in het vliegtuig het vermogen om goed af te voeren kan beïnvloeden. Het hebben van een lege waterfles om een ​​dagtas uit te voeren is nuttig en discreet. Ik neem ook extra kussens mee om onder mijn ellebogen te plaatsen om geen drukzweren te krijgen. Een quad pad voor onder de voeten helpt een goede positie te behouden bij het ervaren van turbulentie.

Al met al heb ik het geluk gehad zes succesvolle vluchten onder mijn riem te hebben zonder Snafus. Het kan behoorlijk stressvol reizen zijn en er zijn veel details aan dit proces die de wereld rondreizen als quadriplegic, maar het is mogelijk en opent veel deuren voor veel nieuwe avonturen. Dus wanneer de vraag wordt gesteld om te vliegen of niet te vliegen, zeg ik dat Fly ... er is een hele wereld die klaar is om te worden ervaren, vooral als quad.

Ga door met doorgaan,

Elizabeth/EB Forst

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