It's that time of year. Time to head home for the holidays. If you have RA that might make you cringe just thinking about it. Well never mind, maybe you can still dread it and not have RA. Oh hey family! If you’re reading this can't wait to see you on the holidays, Yay!
I'm going to start with airplane travel. The summer after I was diagnosed I traveled alone from CT to FL with luggage and an 8-year-old. It was a piece of cake! I just used the resources offered to me.
When calling to make the reservation I mentioned that I was disabled and I have a wheelchair.( If you prefer to book online, to so then call the airline and tell them about your disability) For those who don't have one the airport will provide one for you. Don't bother waiting for those carts because you won't get the same perks that I am about to tell you. Also mention you will be needing assistance on any connecting flights and the return flights. They actually tag your account in the system so they are aware of everything on your date of travel.
The airline will have someone on staff to meet you curbside. You just tell them what time you will be there. The staff member takes your luggage out of the car and wheels you and your luggage to the airline service desk. (psst...I got to cut in line!) They check the bags you want checked, then off you go.
You see that long security line ahead? Bypass! You are wheeled to a side line and checked through security. You will have to stand to walk through the metal detector but that's it. They also have to wipe down the chair quick to make sure there aren't any explosive powders on it.
Next stop your terminal. Here they hand you over to a flight attendant and they are made aware that you are here and ready to go. When it's time to board you are the first to go. They wheel you all the way down to the plane and drop you off. If you have a personal chair they check it with the carriages. If you don't they just bring it right back up to the airport. The flight attendant will help you to your seat and place all items above in the bins for you. They will also get them for you during the flight if you need them. Try to also get up and move around every hour to prevent blood clots and bone stiffness.
Once you reach your destination (unfortunately you are the last to get off) your chair, or a chair, will be waiting at the planes door to escort you to baggage claim. Once there you will get help with your luggage and be escorted to your party or car/shuttle service waiting for you. Now think about this timeline I gave you. We are talking waiting at the first airport, the flight, and the second airport. Over a few hours you may have stood or walked 10 minutes total over a few hours! How stress free is that?
A second thing you might want to mention when you are on the phone with the airline is that part of your disability is in your legs. Tell them you need the seats with the extra leg room in order to straighten your legs. If the flight is turbulent you won’t be able to stand up when needed.
All prescription medication must be labeled with the original prescription label in the vial that the pharmacy provided for you. A side note; it is illegal to have prescription labels on you at any time (not just in the airport) that has someone else’s name on it. Unless you are that person’s caregiver you can be arrested and charged with drug possession. All pill bottles must fit in a QUART size zip lock see through bag. If all your bottles do not fit, you need to check them.
Injectable medications and those needing refrigeration can be carried on to the plane. You must declare them at the security checkpoint and provide a note from the doctor saying yes this medication needs to stay with you. This medication CAN NOT be x-rayed and can be carried on in a small cooler. You can also include the syringes with the medication. Every once in a while I get a know it all security guard that says you can x-ray the injectable medications. They won’t stop arguing with me until I inform them that I worked in a pharmacy and I have my license. I also tell them that the x-ray machine compromises the integrity of the medication. If they would like to pay you $2,500 for the damaged medication they can by all means proceed. They usually stop at that point. You will have to let them take the cooler or bag to their supervisor to check. Again make sure prescription label is on this medication showing your name. If you need one because you threw the box out your pharmacy can print you a new one before you leave.
For more TSA guidelines for travelors with a disability go here.
If you can it would be best to be a passenger rather than the driver. Not having to be aware and drive defensively will keep your body's stress level low and your mind more rested.
Bring a pillow with you. Pillows will help ease the stress on your joints. You can position them to support you where you need it.
Wear comfortable shoes. Nothing is worse than taking your shoes off because they hurt and not being to get them on when you are stopping to take a pee break.
Stop the car every hour at the least. You need to get out and stretch to prevent joints stiffening up and blood clots.
Pack a bag full of your comfort items, an iPod with soothing music, anti-nausea medication, wash cloth, cold water, etc. Items that will soothe you if you start to feel sick.
One thing I also do is purchase my daughter a new coloring book, or new crayons to keep her busy. Kids love getting new things and it usually will work to get a bit of quiet time.
Depending on the station you use you might be able to get assistance to the bus/train. Call and ask for the destination trip and your return trip.
Same tips apply as the car. Try to get up and walk the aisle and stretch. Bring pillows and other comfort items. Wear comfortable footwear.
I hope these travel tips have helped you and inspired you to take your RA by the bull horns, say FURA, and travel wherever you may. If you have any to add please feel free to comment below.
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