The first thing I want to mention before I really get into what this blog is about is the good news about my Medicaid. I received a letter Friday that my Medicaid has been reinstated and I will not have to go through the appeal process or have a hearing. I don’t know what transpired because I had several politicians making calls on my behalf, so I think either somebody got in trouble or that the people at the Medicaid office finally used a bit of common sense that they could clearly see that these donations were strictly for the trip to California and I had plenty of receipts and documentation to back that up. Whatever it was, I am extremely thankful that it was quickly settled and I will not have to go through the three-month process of appealing my case. Although my battle has been won, the war is not over. I am now asking my state legislators about the possibility of changing the stipulations and the law about donations being considered income. I was astonished by how many other people commented that they have had the same difficulties trying to receive the benefits they deserve and legitimately need. I don’t know if I can make a difference, but I will most certainly try.
What I really wanted to talk about was my trip to California that is just barely 5 days away. I’m starting to have severe anxiety and need to write it all out to help relieve some stress. Like I said in my previous post, I’ve been responsible for all the planning and reservations. I have double and triple checked myself multiple times but I’m still concerned that maybe I’m forgetting something. My mother has assured me that I’ve done everything that I can and now it is out of my control, which is probably what is giving me so much anxiety now. It is scary to trust everybody to do their job and making sure that everything falls into place as it should. Then, there are also all the horror stories I’ve heard from people about their chairs getting damaged on the plane.
For those who don’t know, because I don’t think I ever really discussed it, I sit in a regular airplane seat like everybody else. I am very lucky that I was able to go on an airport outing with the Shepherd center back in the spring. I was supposed to go on this outing in 2012, the first time I went to Shepherd, but it just did not work out. Then, ironically, I almost did not go this last time because the outing was the day after my unexpected hospital stay because of a horrible UTI. At the time, other than not feeling 100%, I also didn’t really care to go because I did not think I would be flying anytime soon. But I guess God knew something I didn’t. Now, I am so extremely thankful I got the opportunity so I’m not going into this completely blind. I am not nervous about the actual flying part; I have flown plenty of times before my injury. But flying in a wheelchair is a whole new ballgame.
So, how do you fly in an airplane when you are in a wheelchair you ask? Well, let me tell you what I know just based off my experience from the airport outing. I can opt to either check in my power chair with my luggage and cruise around in one of the provided wheelchairs that they have at the airport or I can stay in my power chair and have it boarded underneath the plane than I am on right before we board our flight. I will go through TSA where I will have to instruct them that I’m unable to stand or really help much for them to thoroughly pat me down, but we still don’t get off the hook that easily. Because I will require extra assistance, we are allowed to board the plane first. I will drive my chair to the door of the plane and I will have assistance from people who work for the airline to help transfer me into an airplane wheelchair that is small enough to go down the aisle. Then, they will push me to my seat and transfer me into a regular airplane seat. I will take the cushion from my wheelchair and put it on the seat because the special Roho air cushion I sit on is good for my skin and you don’t want to risk getting a pressure sore from sitting on a denser surface for too long. Because of my level of injury and lack of core strength, I will also bring a chest strap to put around me and the seat so that a little turbulence doesn’t throw me into a stranger’s lap. It is up to me to be able to clearly vocalize what I need for my personal safety and what needs to be done with my chair to ensure there is no damage. I’m just so concerned about the likelihood of something getting damaged. Not only because this chair cost more than any car I’ve ever owned, but if something happens to it then I am up the proverbial creek as far as just having my basic mobility, which is obviously a necessity for anybody. Especially since I have a layover in Atlanta and we will probably have to book it across the airport to catch our next flight. Breaking my chair is the equivalent of breaking your legs. There better not be any damage to my chair at that point because like Sweet Brown said, “ain’t nobody got time fo dat.” Like I said, I have just heard too many horror stories and know that no matter how thoroughly I explain what needs to be done, there is no guarantee that it will not have the possibility of somehow being damaged. It is simply out of my control and I just can’t stand it.
In addition to the flight, it is also making sure that the equipment gets delivered to the hotel prior to our arrival. Plus making sure the rental van gets there in a timely manner on Monday morning before I begin at Project Walk that afternoon. I’m definitely anxious about the traffic out there, especially after I was told it was worse than Atlanta and I absolutely despise Atlanta traffic. Fortunately, I was able to get a shuttle to take us from the airport to the hotel, which is about 40 miles, so I’m relieved we will not have to drive at night in an unfamiliar area after seven hours of traveling. Project Walk is located in Carlsbad and we are staying about 6 miles from facility in San Marcos, I believe about 30 miles from San Diego. I’m hoping the traffic will not be as bad where we will be staying, but I would really love to go to either San Diego or LA over the weekend. California has always been on my bucket list and I hate the thought of being so close to so many places I want to go and not taking advantage of it simply because of heavy traffic. But the thought of driving in such a busy place and not knowing where we’re going gives me so much anxiety that I would just rather avoid it; so, unless I can find different shuttle or accessible public transportation, we might just be sticking around Carlsbad. Of course, if it is just as beautiful in person as it is the pictures I’ve seen, I wouldn’t mind just sitting by the beach all weekend and enjoying the views.
Speaking of the beach, it might not be as warm as I had hoped. Based on what I’ve read on the Weather Channel and people I’ve talked to who are out in that area, it can be warm in the day and then cold at night, which is making it that much more difficult to pack. Then again, packing has been difficult already anyways because all the extra things I do have to bring that most normal able-bodied folks don’t have to worry about (medical supplies, equipment, etc.). I just made the decision not to bring my manual chair as a backup. It would be great to have it in the chance of anything happening to my power chair, but the thought of trying to bring that in addition to my three suitcases and Laura’s two just seems like a nightmare. Plus, there would have been the added stress of worrying about something happening to the manual chair as well.
I know I can do this. I have no doubt that I will get through it. Maybe not without a bottle of Xanax, but I will get through it and will be so proud of myself for it. I’ve been so stressed and anxious about the packing and traveling aspect that I have not even thought about how hard therapy may be! The next couple weeks will be tough, but I know it will be so worth it. I’m still in shock that I have this opportunity and so extremely grateful for it. When I was first contacted and told that somebody had donated the money for me to go, I just could not believe it. I thought for sure I was getting punk’d. Actually, I had a dream the other night that it was all a prank and when I got to California, nobody at Project Walk knew anything about me or why I was there. When I started seriously considering whether or not this trip was financially feasible, the challenge of the trip itself kept drawing me in. I feel like this is something I have to prove to myself, that I can be responsible and independent again. It is amazing how an injury like this can make you feel like a kid again and you realize that you subconsciously revert back to childhood feelings of helplessness and dependency. No matter how old I get, with my high level of injury, I can’t imagine ever feeling physically secure enough to not feel so vulnerable in my situation. I mean seriously, taking something from me is probably easier than taking something from a baby! I hope that by accomplishing such a daunting trip it will give me a boost of confidence and optimism in regards to reclaiming my independence because there are so many times it seems nearly impossible. This trip will be a test and I’m determined to pass with flying colors, even if it means having a couple panic attacks along the way.
Regardless of all my anxiety and nervousness, I am very excited about the trip. Like I said, California has always been on my bucket list so I cannot wait to see the Pacific Coast and get a taste of Cali life. I am also super stoked about the opportunity go to the original Project Walk after hearing so much about it. Not only am I looking forward to getting a second opinion, but also the chance to learn new techniques and exercises to help me in my recovery as well as the possibility to make new friends and meet new people. I look forward to writing again either during or after California and tell you how great everything is going and share all the photos and videos that we will be sure to take. Please keep me in your prayers as I finish preparing and packing for the trip and as we travel on Saturday out to the Golden State. Cali or bust!
The only way out is through. – Robert Frost