Handicap to Go
Handicap travel is a bitch!
First, I must admit that I’m not sure if I qualify for the category under the true definition of the word handicapped, since the medical professionals construe my infirmities as mobility impaired. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think there’s a correlation between the two terms, though heaven forbid the medical professionals should commit themselves definitively.
Yet, as I see it, if I only have limited use of both legs...missing cartilage, a torn ligament (left leg), and osteoarthritis, the cartilage in my right shoulder has deteriorated to nil...left shoulder quickly following suit due to the same medical condition, osteoarthritis, with the extra added bonus of a torn rotator cuff... I’m handicapped. I’ve been told the only thing that can be done for me is to replace all parts involved with this deterioration.
Plus, did I mention that both arms have carpal and ulna nerve damage, which can only be remedied by surgery...prognosis undetermined.
Look out medical professionals, you may have to redefine me as handicapped. And wouldn’t that go against all of their inherent medical practicing beliefs?
Hey... I’m not bitter. There is no animosity.
Oh-kay, moving right along.
My mobility-impaired ass started out on a journey to see the Panama Canal...oops, my bad, I meant to say I started out on this journey, a retreat, to gain a collage of knowledge from fellow writers--the real deal, the published, the professionals, the experienced ones.
To begin this journey of awareness and self-exploration, preparation began to unfold a week before my scheduled departure date. I found myself clambering over boxes and furniture in an attempt to extricate clothing, which I hadn’t unpacked since my recent move.
Hold on, now. I hear you making those snarky noises…tch…tching. Before you make a comment about my mobility issues in conjunction with clambering -- where there’s a will there’s a way. Surely, you wouldn’t expect me to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Panama Canal...oops, my bad again, I mean opportunity to get together with friends and mentors.
So, I sweated and strained and accomplished my goal. I clambered.
Oh wait. Did I mention I only recently moved into my new home, hence, boxes and clambering?
Anywho… Clambering took a day and a half.
With clothes in hand, I now had the task of ironing and packing. Although these may seem like mundane tasks to most, for a person with limited arm mobility, the task before me seemed insurmountable. Yet I persevered.
I took my over-the-door ironing board and hung it on the front of the door to one of the guest bedrooms so it would extend out into the hall. This intelligent maneuver would allow me to look down the hall into the master bedroom so I could watch television while I ironed.
Since the ironing board extended across the hall, touching the opposite wall, evidently, I never intended to go to the bathroom.
Hey, not to despair.
My next brilliant move was to take said ironing board to the laundry room, which is off the family room. Again, I could iron and watch television. Should I mention at this time that the laundry room doors are bi-fold? With my determination to travel, I finally managed to get the ironing board hung.
Let me just take a moment here to mention that I started this ironing board junket at ten o’clock in the morning. With ironing board hung and ready for use, okay…so it was already two-thirty in the afternoon, I was ready for a break.
Hey, what did you expect? It’s painful to raise my arms above my head.
Break time over, I pulled a bar stool over to the ironing board and set about my task. The first shirt I attempted to iron... Every time I slid it across the ironing board, the bi-fold doors would begin to fold and slam the ironing board into my abdomen. Am I batting a thousand, or what?
So now I had the task of finding something heavy enough to prop against the doors to keep them from folding. Oh hell, you really don’t want to know how long that took.
Moving right along.
Suffice it to say, it took me three days to iron my travel clothes.
Because of the nerve damage, I have limited pushing and pulling motions. Certain movements and manipulations of my hands send a tingling shock sensation up my arms. Then there’s the atrophy. Sometimes I don’t have full extension in my extremities, plus, another bonus, my fingers can get stuck in a gripping position or in an outstretched position. So, as I move toward my travel goals, I know I have to get this right the first time.
Clothes neatly folded and ready, I pull out my nifty Pak-Max plastic bags. You know the ones...you pack your clothing in them and either roll or vacuum the air out. Well, I’m sure by now you know which method I chose.
I stuck the vacuum hose into the bag after neatly packing my clothes inside. I zipped the bag closed, except for an opening to accommodate the vacuum hose. As the air is sucked out, the catch is to leave the vacuum running as the hose is withdrawn, and then you quickly zip-lock the bag. Are you getting the picture here?
First try, I sucked a pair of socks into the vacuum.
Several tries later, I managed to get everything vacuum-packed without the vacuum absorbing my clothing. Vacuum packaging aside, it took me two days to pack. Hey… I was going to be gone for thirteen days. I needed clothes…shoes…for formal dining, semi-formal dining, and casual dining. Sporty outfits for onshore touring, lounging, swimming… Okay… So I like to profile.
Packing done, it was now time to load my luggage into the back of my SUV. It only took me a half-hour. Pulling, dragging, lifting...rolling duffel bag, garment bag, laptop case.
Yes, it took a half-hour. What…you think my legs work any faster than my arms? Then obviously, you’re not acquainted with Osteoarthritis.
At this point, I am in so much pain, it’s a struggle to shower and dress, and I didn’t even have the luxury of popping a Vicodin. However, once that was accomplished, I was good to go. And in a panic.
It was nine-thirty at night. To catch my flight scheduled for twelve-fifty a.m., I had to drive ninety-nine miles to Las Vegas.
Yes…I’m allowed to drive. I have a license. And doesn’t that just make you feel safe out on the road with my handicapped ass behind the wheel of a SUV?
Anyway… As I pulled out of the driveway, I remembered that I had to stop at the pharmacy and pick up my medication. I pulled my truck into the first available spot, hoping and praying there wouldn’t be a long line. I hustled into the pharmacy...if you call my stiff-legged Frankenstein pace accompanied by the tap-tap-tap of my cane hustling…then yes, I hustled into the pharmacy.
Prayers answered, I was the only customer…retrieved my medicines and hotfooted it (work with me here) back to my truck. I headed for Las Vegas: time, ten fifteen.
Where I live there are no interconnecting expressways, or freeways going into Las Vegas. Mostly two-lane highways with the occasional passing lanes. I made it to the airport at eleven fifty-four still in a panic, until I realized that Arizona time was an hour later than Nevada time. Arizona doesn’t play that Spring ahead, Fall back game with the rest of America. So, I assumed I had time to spare.
Airports are not mobility-impaired friendly.
I parked in a handicapped space, rented a luggage cart for three dollars, loaded it with my luggage, and then I headed in the direction indicating the check-in counter. I took the elevator up to the second level as noted and followed the signs. As I entered the terminal, I noticed signs designating gates A, B, C, and D just inside the doors. But, if you think the check-in counter was in that vicinity... Oh, hell no.
You had to walk the length of the terminal for check-in. Then go back down a level...like the level I was on when I parked, check the baggage, only to be re-directed back up a level (yeah…you’re getting the picture) to the front doors in order to get to gate D.
Why didn’t I ask for a wheelchair, you ask? Because at that time of night airports operate with a skeleton crew, at least the Las Vegas airport does. So, I walked my happy ass back to gate D, and security.
Let the games begin.
To Be Continued