Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Perils of Travel

With school out and summer stretching out before us in a long golden arc, I've been thinking about traveling.  We live in the Pacific Northwest, and most of our relatives are scattered around the far south, with the vast majority concentrated in Texas.  At least a couple of times each year we board a plane and make the exodus down to spend at least a week or two house-hopping so that Connor gets a chance to be equally spoiled by everyone before we make the journey back home.

Truth: it's getting harder. 

As Connor gets older, not only does he get heavier, which makes him much less portable than he was in the past, but he also develops more opinions of his own, and he isn't afraid to express those opinions through a combination of signs and top-volume shrieking.  He also continues to add more equipment and medication, all of which needs to be carried with us rather than checked.  And then there's the added excitement that his apnoeic seizures have been wildly out of control in the past few months, and this means that if we choose to fly by plane we could potentially be performing mouth-to-mouth at 30,000 feet.  Basically we've developed into a flight attendant's worst nightmare; we're required to have a doctor's note releasing us to fly before they'll even let us on the plane.  And I won't even mention the looks we get from the poor passengers crammed in next to us. 

Driving comes with its own set of fun problems; length of time spent in the car, mapping out a route that has us spending the night only in cities with major hospitals, trying to figure out what we would do if Connor had a seizure while we were driving on the highway through, say, Buford, Wyoming (population: 2) . . . the list goes on. 

And then once we get to our destination, we have more hurdles to leap over.  Wheelchair van rental (provided we didn't drive).  Communication barriers.  Connor's severe social anxiety and reliance on routines.  Non-wheelchair accessible homes.  Certainly it would be easier for us to stay home.

But the connections we make and renew with family and friends are too important to us to not try and make it down, one way or another.  And I have an instinctive dislike of the idea that rather than face the challenge of travel head-on we turn into some sort of hermits; it wouldn't be good for Connor OR us. 

This year we may try the train; a leisurely (though extremely long) journey that might make it easier on the little guy as we could get a private car, but it would also make sure that if he had a medical issue we would be somewhere we could get immediate help.  And it might make for a refreshing change of pace; it could potentially turn the journey itself into a vacation instead of a giant hassle.

Here's to new adventures!



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  1. I am thankful to not have to deal with the medical issues, but I can definitely commiserate with the shrieking and signing on the plane. Our last flight (one hour from San Jose to LA) nearly put me over the edge. We're making people come to us for a while :)

  2. We love all of you so much, and selfishly covet the times when you do make it down here to the surface of the sun. We can't wait until both you and Connor can meet Baby Will (to be honest I am very curious what Connor will think of the baby, though like many new things I kind of expect a "don't like, goodbye")
    All my love,

  3. We're always happy to come see you ... you all live in such a beautiful location.
    I've always thought a train vacation would be fun and relaxing. Hope there is a relatively easy route between Seattle and Dallas. Uncle Doug and his family often take the train from DC to Florida to visit family.
    Looking forward to practicing my communication skills with you all next time we are together!

  4. I completely understand this, though circumstances are different. It sounds like from the comments, though, that your family is pretty supportive and aware. Some extended "unvisited" family members can be kind of bitter about the inability to just pick a date and go. Honestly, it stops me from even trying because if we experiment with one visit, then we have the rest of them lining up their expectations regardless of how the experiment works out. A funny thing that when we did go for a visit once a few years ago, everyone was welcoming and encouraging beforehand, but when we arrived I was left to figure out how to help my daughter navigate through a house that was set up for her. Nobody moved things or had suggestions, no one tried to distract her by engaging her in something, they just watched as I rushed around in front of her, catching things she'd knocked, scooping her up as she fell, guarding stairways, carrying her all to often.... It was exhausting - no quality reconnection happening for us.
    So I feel for you. Though it sounds like your family would be right in there with you. I hope you are able to figure out the logistics and enjoy a new adventure!

  5. I can certainly appreciate the challenges of traveling with Connor. We were forced to live like hermits for a long time with X, forcing visitors to come to us until we felt relatively comfortable driving the half hour to my parents. It may sound ridiculous to those who haven't lived it, but marking the hospitals, police and fire stations along the route does not magically ward off acute life threatening spells or reduce the parents' anxiety. I'm sure that you would handle a seizure at 30,000 feet as well as you do at ground level, but if taking the train is a safer and more relaxing option, it sounds like a fantastic alternative.