Kyros accompanied his husband on a work trip to England, Sweden, Switzerland, and India over the course of two weeks. He and Monica thought it would be a good opportunity to blog about traveling with an Invisible Illness. For those of you who don’t already know, Kyros particular Invisible Illnesses are peripheral neuropathy in both feet, a torn meniscus in my left knee that has refused to heal correctly, and somewhere in-between severe lactose-intolerance and a medium dairy allergy. So this is his story...
If you missed previous installments of this series, go here to catch up before reading this.
Day 8 - 1/28/18 - London / Frankfort / Mumbai
Getting to the airport was quick and easy this morning. I wasn’t feeling the greatest, but it took me back a bit when the woman working the check-in desk for the airline asked if I was okay. I told her that we’ve been traveling a lot in the last few days and that I was just tired. She said she saw that I was limping when I walked up and asked if I would like assistance to the gate. I initially said no, but she insisted. She flagged my reservation, ensuring that I would have assistance for all of my remaining flights until we get back home to San Francisco.
I thanked her for her consideration. My husband and I walked the short distance from there to where the assistive people were set up. They were quite nice and quickly got me a wheelchair. The assistant took us to the airline lounge to wait for our flight. He dropped me there and assured me that another assistant would come for me when it was time to go board our flight.
I took the time in the lounge to download a couple podcasts to listen to on the plane. When it got close to time for our flight, another assistant arrived with a wheelchair. He took me all the way through security and down the jetway to our plane. That meant I only had to walk the short distance from the entrance of the plane to my seat. By some miracle, the flight from London to Frankfurt was comfortable and problem free.
Once we touched down in Frankfurt, I exited the plane right into another waiting wheelchair. The purple-haired woman (who complimented me on my blue hair) pushed me through several layers of security and to my connecting flight. One bonus to using the airport wheelchair assistance is that, typically, you get to skip any and all lines for security and boarding. Truthfully, I’d much rather walk, even when it’s painful, than suffer the stares and dirty looks from people already in line, but you have to do what's necessary to take care of yourself.
The flight from Frankfurt to Mumbai presented a few challenges.
The first challenge was that my seat was in the first row behind the mid-ship galley. This meant that the only place I had to put my things was in a small cargo net that was practically on the floor. It was difficult to reach anything while actually buckled in.
The second challenge was since there weren’t seats in front of us, our tray tables and view screens were stored between the seats. This made the seats narrower than normal with hard walls on both sides (not a good thing with my wide butt).
The third challenge was that the row I was in had four children all less than a year old. For an eight hour flight. Sigh. Guess who didn’t get any sleep during the long flight? I found out the reason the cargo nets were so low on the wall once we were in the air. There were large metal clips at eye level when seated. They were for hanging bassinets.
The last challenge was that the flight was packed. There weren't any free seats that I could move to and get away from the aforementioned challenges. It also meant that I couldn’t really get up and move around very much. Anytime I had to get up required major gymnastics. I had to pry myself out of my seat, juggle my electronics into or out of a cargo net which was practically on the floor, dodge the bassinet so as not to wake the baby, and avoid multiple people in the aisle. And that's before taking into consideration my painful feet and general instability.
By the time we got to Mumbai, it was 2 am local time. As soon as I got off the plane, I was met by an attendant with a wheelchair. I almost refused the help out of... well, shame. I felt like people were going to judge me. I look like a perfectly able-bodied guy. I almost talked myself into just walking on my own. Sure I was hurting, but we were staying in the airport transit hotel for the night, so I knew I wouldn’t have to go far after getting through customs.
Boy am I glad I swallowed my pride. The walk from the gate to customs was just over a kilometer, then I would have had to stand in a very slow moving line to get through customs. I would have been in agony. As it was, I ended up in pretty bad shape from just sitting in the wheelchair with my heavy backpack on my lap for 45 minutes while we waited to get through customs. The attendant wheeled me all the way to the Niranta transit hotel.
Side note: Always tip the assistant who wheels you around. Yes, they get paid by the airport, but especially when they try to make things easier for you by going slow over bumps in the floor, or as was the case in London, wheeling me into the pharmacy so I could purchase a couple things before my flight, they usually go the extra mile to make life easier for you, so they deserve a tip.
I was exhausted by the time we got to the transit hotel. It was nearly 3:30 am local time. My body had no idea what time zone it was in anymore. Normally, before I go to bed, I set everything up for the next morning so that I can just get up and go. I was hurting so bad that I just set up my CPAP machine and passed out.
Distance walked = 2.56 miles not including wheelchair rides.