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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Mobility and Traveling with a Quadriplegic Child

This post has been a long time in coming and concerns all the things in its title. If you have been reading this blog for long you will know that Ellie is a bit of a world traveler. And when I write that I can hear us saying to her in the Aussie accent of her favorite toy – globee. “Ellie, YOU ARE A WAAAAAOOOORRRRRLLLLLDDD TTTTRRAAAAVVVVVVLLLLLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAa!” Much to her delight. And in truth as a second generation American it took me until I was 21 to get to fly in a plane and nonetheless to Europe, on my own, from money I had saved up from many part time jobs. Ellie has been to Madrid, England, Ireland, California (she was born there) and many other places. Hardly a world traveler in a foreign news correspondent sense but she’s only just turned 5 - give her some time.

The truth is, this was the hardest trip ever. And we have used our Peg Perego stroller for the last time. It just won’t be viable by the time this summer when we go to England for her therapy at Advance. Her Kid Kart Express is too heavy and bulky and falls apart if you jostle it – so it’s not an option. I can’t imagine checking it on the plane and having it come back all in one piece. Also it would never fit in any European style car along with our cases.

We have also heard that if you bring a person on board in their wheelchair they are expected to stay in it the entire trip. God I hope that is not true as Ellie would need to stretch out after a short time sitting. If anyone in a wheelchair is reading this and has flow – please, I beg you, tell me how it works. Do you wheel on, get into your seat and then someone takes your chair? Do they leave it on the plane near you or do they check it below? What if you can’t ambulate, how do you go to the bathroom? Simple questions and I am so not joking because I need some perspective on how to transition from traveling with little baby Ellie to little long legged girl Ellie who will rapidly turn into teenage Ellie and so on if we are blessed.

One solution for to and fro airports is to get a portable stroller set up for someone with CP. Ellie’s classmate Lizzy has one and her mom brought her to Ellie’s party in it. It folds up to about the same size as the Peg Perego and is only ever so slightly heavier but offers a great deal more support. This is the stroller I am going to ask insurance for. We need it. As soon as I get the name of it I will post a picture of it in this post as well as the link to it.

Ellie’s Kid Kart Express, though it provides great support barely fits in our car and is HEAVY. I have to drop it about a foot each time getting it in and out of the car because it’s an issue of be gentle with the stroller or kill my back and my back wins every time – self preservation. This dropping it 12 inches each time takes it’s toll on it rather swiftly and I am forever tightening bolts and readjusting it.

Also traveling in the narrow confines of a plane are tough. Ellie wants to be on our lap and when the person puts their seat back there is no room, in fact it’s dangerous if they do it quick. We narrowly missed her getting clocked with a flying seat back. She will sit for a little bit in her own seat which we line with many pillows and both of us lean over to support her. And she is getting to be a much better sitter. It’s just that if the plane ever did lurch forward or experience any real jostling turbulence, Ellie would suffer like a rag doll being thrown this way and that. So we hover by her and hold her and basically are on egg shells the entire trip.

And you can’t let that guard down for one second. I did so as I was pushing her in her stroller out of the airport bathroom. As we were going by the stalls, a bathroom door stall flew open fast and I thought it hit her. She began to really cry hard. I have never felt like a worse mother. I thought it hit her in the head but there was no mark so I think it actually hit the side of the stroller. Just the same I was in tears before I realized it had probably not hit her but scared her. I felt all the breath leave me when this happened and got this sharp pain in my chest. Ellie getting hit in the head by anything even a feather is so not allowed in my realm of experience. Hasn’t she had enough head trauma for f$%&sake!

So I picked her up and carried her out of there. She was hysterically sobbing and I was trying to push the stupid Peg Perego at the same time with tears rolling down my own face and both of us were trembling. That really sucked as far as experiences go. I did think it was partly my fault however. Instant karma coming back to torment me in repayment of the fact that I gave a woman a dirty look who was using the handicap stall before us who was clearly not disabled.

Changing her in public toilets is a bit difficult as well. We usually just do it in disabled stall in the stroller itself by putting a pad down underneath her. But this obviously is not a long-term solution. Getting her walking or ambulating and potty trained are long-term solutions. We are working on the walking and its time to potty train her too. Again, I have no idea where to begin or what equipment to get. Any pointers on this will also be much appreciated. I do know she understands going potty so at least we have that to work with as a starting point. God, Ellie is going to kill me when she is older for writing any of this.

I realize that we are still caring for her in many ways as if she were a baby. It would not occur to me to sit her on the toilet since she does not do this at home. What is the transition? I probably should have potty trained her already but just and a lazy sloth of a mother. I really have no idea if we are doing any of this right. Where there are lots of rules for kids who can sit and walk and talk there are none for one that doesn’t do any of these things.

It just seems like going into the world transport system is dangerous for someone who can’t readily jump out of the way of all that surging humanity. Does this mean we just road trip it everywhere? Can’t drive to England though and I don’t fancy being on a boat with limited meds and food for her for any amount of time.

Dave and I love to travel. And Ellie did enjoy looking out the airplane window (this is the first time she has ever done that one – and very exciting for us to see). And I know she loves seeing her relatives and visiting beautiful places of the world and getting to be with Dave and me 24/7.

I really need to know with all these limitations and concerns, how do I keep the world from closing in on us?