Updated: Jul 2
Lesson of the Day
Preparing a for a getaway is no easy task, especially if you have a physical disability and have complex medical needs. We plan a year to ensure that we minimize any possible disasters, but sometimes, no matter how hard you plan, things just blow up in your face. You always need a solid plan of action to start with and then 2-4 contingency plans (+ contingency plans for the contingency plans, you can never be too careful). The Finkelstein family lives by the motto, "you don't plan to fail, you fail to plan," and despite all of the planning, we most definitely miscalculated the powers at be. No matter how foolproof your plan might be, think again and be prepared to shift gears at a moment's notice.
Jetting to Miami is a Process
Step 1: Find an airline accustomed to working with power wheelchairs and handing them with extreme care. My wheels are my everything; without them, I cannot move as independently as I'd like. In the past, I have had other airlines that damaged my wheels and needed significant repairs. Unfortunately, airlines damaging wheelchairs is not as uncommon as you might think. It happens, and then what...you're stuck on vacation, unable to move because you have a physical disability, but I digress. Jet Blue has been the only airline to date that knows how to handle a 300+ lb power wheelchair (a nod to the Henry Viscardi School, my alma mater, for being a part of the education process). I have and will always stick with Jet Blue from here on out as I know that my wheels will be safe in their hands. Three weeks before our trip, we spoke with Jet Blue's leadership team to discuss the details. Newsflash, I do not travel lightly and have many medical bags/machines/boxes that need to be checked in and others as carry-on items. This airline, in particular (unlike most), does not charge extra for any medical, which is a huge plus, as long as you clearly separate medical from personal items.
JFK, not gonna lie, you absolutely sucked, big time. Upon arrival, everyone in the airport just watched us schlep and slam our luggage in from the pouring rain with no assist into JFK. Granted, we did look like deranged people, but it would not have costed Jet Blue in JFK arrivals to lend a hand. It was not until I frantically called Jet Blue leadership that we received support but by that point, we were utterly emotional wrecks. Thankfully, TSA took us in and physically helped us get to our gate.
Upon boarding the aircraft, we soon realized that my FAA approved harness from CARES did not fit the dimensions of the Jet Blue fleetline. As we had no other back up plan at the time, my mom had to be my harness and we used any and all jackets and bags we had at the time to position.
Miami Jet Blue, you rock. No complaints here. 100% support upon our arrival. You literally helped us get through the airport with our massive amount of equipment and to our pre arranged pickup ride.
Step 2: And on that note, find yourself a driver that transports you via special medical transportation from the airport to your hotel. Without ART Transportation, we would need to take at least 4 Ubers and a very inaccessible cab with a driver that has possible terrible hygiene. And to our driver, Bobby, what would we have done without you, I don't know.
Step 3: Find a respiratory company willing to work with you directly to ensure that you have all the medical equipment you need to survive. PediStat has been my ride-or-die company for the past thirteen years to ensure that I can replicate my at-home ICU setup. PediStat, you came in clutch. Thanks for rushing out after hours with emergency medical equipment. Complete lifesavers.