Traveling with SCI

This past week I did something that I hadn’t yet done since my accident. I got on a plane and traveled to a destination, wheelchair and all. I had legitimate fears and questions with the process of air travel: How long would it take to get through security? How would I get on the plane? Where would the wheelchair go? How sore and tired would I feel after hours of sitting in one place?

Having traveled for work and pleasure for a number of years and having logged hundreds of thousands of miles flying, I was well aware of the physical challenges that come with air travel, albeit for a healthy person. I remembered how good it felt to get up in the middle of a long flight and stretch my legs (not to mention do stretching and pseudo-yoga poses in the aisle amidst the strange looks and glances of the other passengers). I knew that sitting for that long didn’t bother me so much because I would often be out for a run within only a few hours of landing. How would all of this work now?

My trip was a modest but still significant 3 1/2 hour flight from San Francisco to Minneapolis to visit my girlfriend’s family, something she insisted had to happen in the warm summer months so as to avoid the harsh Minnesota climate of the other nine months of the year. It was either now or next summer, and I didn’t want to wait that long. So off we went…

In a nutshell, most things weren’t as bad as I expected. The check in, security, and pretty much everything at the airport were smooth. Boarding the plane was hilarious as I had to transfer from my wheelchair to a tiny wheelchair that could easily fit down the narrow aisle. Never mind that even my skinny ass barely fit on the seat as they strapped my arms and legs like I was in a straight jacket and tumbled me down the aisle of the empty plane before everyone else boarded.

The one thing that was as painful and frustrating as I expected was sitting in that airplane seat for the whole time without being able to move my legs around or stand up. Thankfully I was able to sit on my cushion from my wheelchair which eased the pain a bit (and raised me up in my seat so I looked like I was about seven feet tall) but at the end of the day, sitting still for so long and feeling my blood circulation struggle and my feet and ankles swell wasn’t ideal.

All in all, I’m happy I overcame this minor obstacle of air travel, especially since I had such a great reason to make this trip. I was grateful to have my girlfriend there to help me through this process and we had a great weekend together. I can’t say I’m ready for a longer flight anytime soon, but I’m looking forward to the next travel adventure.

Stone Arch Bridge - Minneapolis

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30 thoughts on “Traveling with SCI

      1. I’m not going to be patronising and say ‘well done’ on the flight.. but I do know the difficulties at a physical and, probably more importantly, mental and emotional level for these ‘first times’. Not as easy as it sounds by any means…

  1. Your post is beautiful! It represents so many aspects and qualities required for life endurance… the ones I see among many are courage and hope but what hit me most is the strong bond you two have. Now I understand from where you get all that strength.
    Don’t they say “behind every man is a great woman”?
    All my wishes for a complete and speedy recovery.

  2. You make a very attractive couple. You’ve both got lovely smiles. Nice to see you setting off on some adventures. (For that’s what they are, no doubt).

    ‘Firsts’ are always nerve-wracking, but now you’ve done it once, I hope you both have many more adventures in the future. Many people find plane travel boring, but I always used to love that take-off……when you’re on the way……having left the familiar behind…..all set for some new experiences.

    1. I always had the same feeling as you with planes. I loved take off, loved airports. Something about the transient nature of everything. Hope to continue to travel more in the near future. Best to you -AB

  3. Great to hear that you’ve been able to cross off yet another hurdle Arash & be back on your travels. As Sue says, the physical let alone the mental challenges, are difficult for me to comprehend. There was an extraordinary doco on TV here last night about a young woman who recovered from a very serious traffic accident and it reminded me of you and your determination.

  4. What a great picture!!! Looks like a beautiful city … but now that you have broken the ice, we have to start getting you ready for a trip here to the east coast…..

  5. I’m glad you could have a laugh about it, what with the little wheel chair and being seven foot tall all at once. And now you have overcome that obstacle, you know what to expect next time you go do some air travelling. Well, to a degree. And your girlfriend looks beautiful in that photo. How long have you two been together? Keep smiling – you look gorgeous when you smile – like you can conquer the world. Hugs from Australia.

  6. Hey Arash, Dan here…I read all your posts and am always moved…I love the picture of the two of you, it shouts ‘happy’ to me. I had a plane ride once upon a time with a guy in a chair–he got on first and I happened to sit right next to him.. In the process of the trip from LA to Portland, I learned about his injury (cliff dive in Mexico) and quite a bit about him–sold medical devices for Spinal Cord injury folks among other things, had a special van equipped with all the ‘stuff’ so he could drive, pretty cool to learn about it all…At that point in time, he was on his way to Portland to play wheel chair rugby, ended up he was very good at it–I watched him that weekend..He made the para olympic games, got a gold medal, pretty cool…I stayed in touch with him for a couple years and lost track..couldn’t help but think of him as I read your note today.
    Hope we can catch up a bit when you have a moment…numbers the same…Hello to your mom and dad…Dan

  7. I love this post so much as I can only imagine what a big milestone that must have been for you. I know how much you loved traveling and exploring, and this is such a huge part of you! So, big kudos my friend for keeping this passion for travel alive – as challenging as it might be sometimes. And I love love love that you had your girlfriend there to support you every step of the way. Just lovely all around.

    You amaze.

  8. You were pleasantly surprised by air travel!? You do realize that almost never happens, right? I think that counts as a total win and you’re ready to tackle the next trip.

  9. hey, love…a little behind in my correspondence…glad you made the plunge…Xander (my son) flew to Canada about 6 months after getting home from hosp. for Live It Love It Camp (which you shd check out…free 3 day extravaganza in Calgary…but you have to cover air and (very cheap) dorm. He did the tiny wheelchair thing…and endured the ride (tho he can’t stand ever…unless standing frame)…but when they flew back he didn’t want to wait to be the last person off the plane so he just wheelbarreled off with the help of his buddy and the amazement + amusement of the passengers + crew. Aaron Baker was also along for this trip. Always an option, i guess (if you’re not a quad) Hope this finds you well.

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