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React, Reset, Keep Rolling Out of Line

It was while my medical equipment was plugged into a wall at JFK and I was tethered for over seven hours to a charging station located inside the JetBlue terminal, while watching my mother crawl on the floor trying to find a place to rest for what felt like a never-ending flight delay (it was only 5 hours) that I decided I needed to reset the way that I approach most things in life. It was also when a couple of extremely anxious and angry birds were flying around the terminal that I realized that my long list of irrational fears was not as irrational as I originally thought. Don't fret, my mom and I wore zip-ups with hoods so we were semi-protected from any possible near-bird explosive shi** catastrophe and my mom sought refuge under the very charging station that I was now chained to - it definitely was touch and go for a while. I personally didn't think we would make it out alive. Read on if you dare and you've been forewarned, this entire trip was captured on my GoPro.

Adventures with JetBlue

We used an accessible transportation company to get to JFK and carefully placed each piece of luggage like the game, Jenga, into the van, and my brother, Joel, met us at the airport with the the overflow of medical equipment. We arrived at JFK at 11 am and a JetBlue manager and his team (I lost count how many, but it was a lot) assisted us in checking in (at the Mint check-in counter) and schlepped all of our medical bags, equipment, and luggage through the airport (If you ever see us going through JFK, please look the other way as you will never see us the same way again). TSA took us right away and closed down a lane (because we're that special) to help us get through in one piece (roundtrip). For those who don't know, all wheelchair users must receive the traditional pat down and in addition to checking the usual personal items, all medications and pieces of medical equipment must be thoroughly checked. It helps if you apply for the TSA Cares Program at least 72 hours prior to your flight to ensure that the team is aware of your arrival (as if the fanfare of an abundance of airport workers dragging and wheeling our unchecked items to TSA was not enough). They will then communicate with the airline to ensure everything goes smoothly at TSA. And fun fact, if you try to ask TSA if they could 'lose' your dad's lumberjack coat circa 2002, they won't do it. My mom and I tried but we failed miserably.

Throughout the delay, JetBlue made sure we were still alive and breathing (just another service that they provide). Yes, we might've started a riot in the JFK Starbucks after they mixed up our drink order multiple times, and yes, our KN95 masks smelled like vomit (one of the unfortunate long-lasting side effects of Covid - attractive, no?!) but 'technically,' none of that was our fault. One confused semi-muscular fellow passenger couldn't decide if he wanted one leg of his pants pulled up or down, so that was one talking point in the terminal amongst our group of delayed passengers, along with the killer birds, and just like anyone on The Price Is Right, we spent every single penny of our food vouchers. Once we were ready to board, JetBlue made sure that the supervisor put my wheelchair safely onto the plane (for anyone on wheels, make sure your wheelchair goes in a separate container - and if you fly JetBlue, they do not have to turn your chair on its side). We made friends with strangers who soon became family, then strangers again. Our plane friend (let's call him tennis guy) put Australian tennis on all of our TV screens so that we can watch the match together. Like I said, we were all family, mind you, a dysfunctional and delirious family, who were all just a tad punchy. We arrived in Miami International at approximately 11:00 pm and the JetBlue accessibility team assigned to me was just as prepared as NYC. Accessibility rating: 10/10 for the roundtrip from New York to Miami.

The Tales of Our Miami Musings

Night one in Miami at the Eden Roc in Miami Beach was a whirlwind as our initial room was the size of a shoebox (in relation to the amount of stuff we had shoved into it) and we were missing three medical boxes containing necessary medications and equipment that our medical company didn't include in the initial delivery. The next day, we moved rooms to ones that were adjoining, extremely spacious, and with an ocean view, and our boxes were delivered. The first half of our trip consisted of lots of piña coladas (virgin of course, as we are all on way too many medications), reading books, naps (disguised under cat-eye pitch-black sunglasses), windy bike rides to Lincoln Road, spontaneous retirement hat purchases, artsy vibes at Wynwood Walls (both Lincoln Road & Wynwood Walls & Zak the Baker are extremely accessible and worth the trip), and a visit to an Assisted Living facility known as 'The V' (which in itself warrants its own blogpost).

The second leg of our trip was well, powered by Team Peri. 'The' Bobby from ART Transportation, who certainly does not get enough credit, helped us transfer hotels. My dad might’ve dropped the pieces of my shower chair at least 10 times in front of the 4+ star Eden Roc/Nobu Hotel but hey, we're just classy like that. Don't worry, my dad's new hat survived the transfer (as luck would have it). We arrived at the Trump National Doral Miami and were greeted by our new friends who truly made the entire weekend an inclusive and accessible experience and took all of my feedback from last year to heart. From an accessible Cabana, a spacious room and ADA bathroom with a roll-in shower, to the pool staff that catered to our every need (like royalty), our stay was one for the books and I have a collection of Trump Doral staff business cards to prove it.

The same day that we arrived, my mom and I attended a Female Founder Collective networking event in Downtown Miami, decked out in blazers. Our friends at the Doral arranged for an accessible cab, and we just went for it (yes, we brought blazers on vacation because you never know when you're going to have a blazer emergency). We got Starbucks (no riot this time, Miami starbeez has a different vibe than NYC), had a killer mucus plug situation in the condominium's bathroom (always happens at THE worst moments - like yes, pick now as the time to die), and listened to some amazing female founders speak. Two caveats are that I was wearing a mask and the fact that I am extremely tiny in person, attached to a giant wheelchair. It was challenging to network, but I am still glad that we did it and did not schlep these super cute blazers from New York for nothing.

The rest of the weekend was uneventful, that's if you minus the time that I almost died in an elevator, my mom almost lost all of her fingers, and my sister, Katy, had a panic attack, all right before Shabbat dinner. But...almost doesn't count. How did this happen you ask? An elevator closed on my ventilator circuit and emergency services weren't coming fast enough. I was struggling to breathe and we forgot to bring my emergency backpack (which carries my Ambu bag for life-threatening situations like this). So, my mom made the executive decision to pry open the elevator doors as Katy was screaming "No! Not your fingers!". Katy said she saw all our lives flash before her eyes: I'm dead, my mom is fingerless, and she is just there, standing, watching it all go down. Once we got out of the elevator, Katy and her boyfriend ran to a bar to get drinks and my mom and I met up with our team members, who all had no words. My dad went back to the room to get my lifesaving backpack and we changed my vent circuit. While we all still have PTSD, we're alive and have all of our fingers, so that's a plus. 

While some of us didn’t make it to the finish line due to logistical reasons (this is a whole other blogpost - that which is rather raw and lacks the usual sass and I need a little more time to pass before I am ready to share that I, a female founder of a nonprofit that focuses on matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion, was robbed the chance of crossing over the finish line), our team represented and was there for me in places that I couldn’t be. That is what #TeamPeri is all about - having each other's backs and standing together all while stepping, rolling, crawling, and stumbling out of line.

So the lesson we have learned, everyone, is that while initially you might react to your life blowing up in flames (poorly), you learn to reset, move on, and keep rolling out of line. Just roll with the punches and live to fight another day.

Next Up: Miami Public Transportation, The Much Anticipated Incident at the Retirement Home, 'The V,' & Our 2024 Mantra

This is #TalesofWanderlust by Peri. XX


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