We arrived last night at our second home in Ireland. We were all delighted and relieved to be here. Traveling can be rough for anyone, but it can be particularly challenging when one of the passengers has special needs.
This trip the airline staff at each location went out of their way to help assist us with making Nick comfortable and happy. It really was wonderful. We were traveling on Delta Airlines. Starting in Seattle, the gate agent asked us if we wanted to store his wheelchair in the closet on the plane. We didn’t know that was possible. It seems that if you make the request, and the chair folds up to fit in the small closet at the front of the plane, wheelchairs have priority over wedding dresses, and coats, etc. We learned something new.
Having the wheelchair in the main cabin of the plane, relieved a lot of my usual concern as to whether his chair would actually be brought out of the hold to the door of the airplane. Usually it is, but sometimes it isn’t. One time it wasn’t even put on the plane that we were on. Mistakes do happen sometimes and getting angry doesn’t accomplish anything, but it is frustrating when we have needed to react to a situation like that. Especially if we have had a tight connection.
On the second flight we pre-boarded as usual. Just as we were settling in, the flight attendant came up with two large plastic bags. She explained that these were a special pillow and blanket that were designed for the crew to use, but she wanted to offer them to Nick so he would be more comfortable. I know that she sleeps on airplanes all the time for her job and that the flight was only 5 and a half hours, but it really touched me that she would sacrifice some of her own comfort for a stranger. He really did enjoy the nice pillow and comforter. He slept for 3 hours of the flight which was a great blessing.
Taking Nick to the toilet on long flights is a challenge. It requires both Arden and I supporting him front and back to help him navigate the narrow aisles of the plane. If there is any turbulence at all it is even more difficult. We do get some odd looks as the three of us traverse the distance in a tight group hanging onto one another.
On both flights, the flight attendants offered to stand at the toilet door while we were making our way there, so that we wouldn’t need to hold Nick standing up in the aisle waiting for one to be available. In addition they each helped me hold the curtain to cover the open door, as a privacy screen for Nick, while Arden was assisting him in the restroom.
These curtains usually separate the various cabins in the plane from each other and are wide enough to give Arden a bit more room to tend to Nick. Those airplane restrooms are barely big enough for one person, let alone having room for a caregiver to assist someone. We have been on flights in the past where I have stood with my back to Arden, holding up my coat, trying to create a privacy screen for them, while Arden is assisting Nick. In those cases, when we are trying to make the best of it, I have felt that if someone looks in and is offended, they shouldn’t have looked in the first place.
As we were deplaning in Dublin, Arden and I remarked to each other that we had received the best service ever, on both the domestic and international flights. It really made the long day much easier.
It reminded me that we can change the world. Can you imagine what it would be like if we all just did a little more to serve others? I know that my day was much brighter.
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