Monday, May 2, 2011

Leaving on an airplane

Everyone has a story about airplane travel. Anything from awkward barefoot security encounters, the missed connecting flight to long waits for luggage. Including highlights such as aching knees from bumping into the seat in front of you or the intentional lean to the right because of the sleepy stranger seated at your left.

Whatever the tolerated situation maybe most airline passengers don’t endure what the physically and medically challenged traveler does. A travel check list is long enough without the need to add wheelchair or ventilator as must have items.

Traveler, Carrie Salberg can not be without certain medical items such as those two, due to her muscular dystrophy diagnosis. A Star Tribune investigators article says in January, aboard a return flight to Minneapolis from New Orleans, Carrie Salberg was asked to get off the plane. A battery brought on board by her nurse, which had a certificate of compliance, caused serious inconveniences. Things were done correctly, yet still not enough. Interesting to note, her flight to New Orleans from Minneapolis went without issue, even included a free first class upgrade.

In a small way, I can identify with medically challenged passengers like Carrie Salberg. Although only traveling once with Michael by airplane during his fragile medical years, I understand the complexity involved with adding critical details. Along with the normal vacation preparations others have, that one trip required extra phone calls, particular doctor appointments and many additional considerations other travelers don’t have.

Michael received air travel approval from his medical team but it came with a promise to have a medical letter with us at all times and act in accordance to it, if necessary. The letter explained Michael’s rare disease and said should he experience stroke symptoms in-flight, parents will alert flight crew of an emergency medical situation. Airplane will be expected to land immediately. Right before our trip I saw myself banging on the cockpit door yelling, “Land this plane, STAT!” Fortunately, it was only a dream.

Even something normal like attending a school field trip required extra time and details to assure Michael’s special wheelchair needs were accommodated. It’s surprising the number of locations, which are not easily “handicap accessible” despite the signs suggesting otherwise.

Be The Change asks you to demonstrate large doses of patience and tolerance for physically and medically challenged travelers. Let’s not add to an already extensive list of concerns. Be the one who holds the door in assistance and offers a helpful hand. Always give a smile instead of a stare and Be The Change!

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