Wednesday, May 26, 2010

First alone flight with GP/CIP and since College

I just returned from Washington, D.C. for the first time on my own since I was a student at University of Maryland. Since I'm no longer able to drive because of my visual impairments, I had to fly, which I hate doing under normal circumstances let alone with all of my medical needs. So, I was super-prepared for the travel. I downloaded the Travel Packet from the Oley Foundation ( website, which was awesome and amazing, and had me totally and completely prepared. Between that, and what I got from the FAA site and Kris from Carolina mobility to prepare for the Oxygen and my wheelchair, I sailed through check-in and security with absolutely no problems! They even told me that they had to turn someone away earlier that day because they didn't have the proper documentation, but were very impressed with my documentation. So, they gave mom a gate pass to wait with me until I got on the plane. So, we went up to the gate, plugged in the Portable Oxygen Concentrator (POC), and waited. We spoke to the gate attendants and they knew that I was there and in my power wheelchair, a Quantum 600, which is a big, heavy power wheelchair. As we were ready to board the plane, they informed me that my wheelchair was too big to fit on the plane to DC. I would have to be re-routed to a different flight that would take me from RDU to Charlotte, and then from Charlotte to DC. The flight that I was on was supposed to stop in Charlotte, but then go straight on to DC. Well, that didn't happen. The flight changed and it was going to go to Atlanta, and my flight was in a different terminal, and the flight got to Charlotte 15 minutes late. By the time that they got my wheelchair up off of the plane, they were finished boarding the plane. They were talking to the gate attendants and the flight attendant asked if she had to hold the plane. The pilot said that he would, but the flight attendant didn't want to be late, and so they didn't hold the plane, and told me that they would get me on the next flight out. As it was, I wasn't going to get in until 7:30, so I wasn't happy. I was in tears by the time that they got me over to the special services desk, and Mom and Dad were ready to just drive to Charlotte to get me. Luckily, I was working with a very nice man who was not much older than me, and he didn't want my whole trip to be ruined. Unfortunately, also, between RDU and Charlotte, my feeding tube bag exploded in the airplane. So, I was just a mess. The next flight wouldn't get me in until 9:30 and by the time that I got off the plane, I wasn't going to attempt to take the metro. The special services representative found a handicap accessible cab company in Maryland that would pick me up at the airport in DC and take me to the hotel in Silver Spring. He gave me a voucher for the cab since it was their fault, and I got on the next flight. Carol met me at the airport, and we got to the hotel and checked into our room at 10:30 or closer to 11. At that point, I went to plug in my oxygen concentrator, and I had no bag with the Oxygen concentrator charger and cords. So, I called the airline, because they gate checked and stowed my bags for me, and were supposed to help get everything back for me, and gave me absolutely no help. Fortunately, they found the bag and delivered it to the hotel. Unfortunately, I had to sleep without oxygen for a night. I also had blood from my feeding tube, stoma, and stools, and in the morning, I developed a nose bleed and fever. So, I ended up missing my meetings, and my dad came to pick me up. I will get a DVD of all of the meetings, and will still be able to submit written comments. It was a frustrating trip, but a huge step for me because it was the first time that I travelled all by myself since I was a student at Maryland, and I took care of all of the problems myself. I also managed to get a refund for the return flight which I was unable to use because we drove home. :) All in all, it was a good experience, even though I had some major problems. I'm resting now, and improving I think. Sometimes, I think that stress doesn't do good things to me, especially with my tummy problems!