So the only chance I get to be a VIP and there’s no Business Class 😭. C’est la vie!! But I do have my own entourage.
It started when I arrived at Mount Pleasant Airport MPA. So I was very nervous. I hate my crutches and have avoided using them. I know that’s not particularly helpful especially as they are going to be my only mode of transport in the coming weeks and I should have spent more time practising with them. Unfortunately I slipped using them on Saturday night and I have lost my confidence. Just presenting the facts! I’d fallen off a step and broken my ankle so what damage could I do to myself with out-of-control crutches.
I had a number of worries. As I left the hospital the first snow flurries of winter had made their appearance. I had no idea how easy it was to control a wheelchair in the snow and so would the driver of my wheelchair slip and I go rolling off down the pavement and off the curb? It’s definitely possible to slip without the addition of snow. I fell off a step after all! Then there was the rest of the journey to navigate. How will I get to the aircraft? Will they let me get the high lift? How will I get to my seat? Will I be able to get to the toilet? Rather than ask questions, I internalised them. I imagine that the outside I probably came across as being relatively ok, but on the inside I was really anxious. I so wish I hadn’t been taught risk assessment during my recent project management course!
When we arrived at the base, I was taken to a nondescript military building. Outside was what looked like an old fashioned army truck with a large Red Cross in the side. It reminded me of the type of unit you see in a disaster movie. You know the type, when you the military come out in chemical warfare gear and start putting up cordons and isolating towns. My imagination taking over again and I promise I wasn’t on anything more than paracetamol. Please remember that when I also describe the experience on the plane later on!
I met the medical team and they took me into a room to assess my current situation. Took observations (blood pressure, oxygen levels, pulse) a whole list of questions about current medical history, previous medical history, shoe size, favourite band. They told me about the regular injections which I knew I would be having during the flight but reminded me that I had something else to worry about – the feared DVT which would be a higher risk to me with a cast and being heavier than I should be.
We then sat in a waiting room which I assumed was the Primary Care Unit because every now and again a man or lady in uniform would appear from one of the doors and call a waiting person also wearing uniform. Thinking about it, I never actually saw anyone return from those rooms. Hmmmm….. I am sure I wasn’t there long enough.
In the short time that I had left the ambulance driver and returned from the assessment, it had started snowing heavily and the area outside the med centre was white. I was asked to put on my coat, given an emergency blanket which was green and much thicker than the silver type I remember from watching the London Marathon years ago. For some reason it reminded me of a large thick sheet of scotch tape or panel of insulation (I suppose it is) and wasn’t as comfortable as it looked but I guess it would do its job.
I was then introduced to my med team; Lee, Holly, Bobby, Sarah and Rachael. Lee was my nurse and dedicated carer for the duration of the trip. Ooooo I have my own entourage. Well I do have to share them with one other passenger but he is walking wounded: I have a wheelchair. I am far more important. Oh this was definitely starting to feel very VIP!
I was then wheeled through the snow to the other side of the road and along to the terminal. Ok so we got there – didn’t slide off the curb, blood pressure reducing slightly!
So the next hurdle was how they were going to get me into the terminal. The door to customs was too small and the usual wheelchair route was a long way and they wanted to avoid because of the snow. However, because it was me and my entourage (I’m liking this) they decided to avoid customs altogether and one of the uniforms was sent off to open a set of double doors. I waited there in anticipation. It was like standing behind the main curtain on stage and waiting for sound of the pulley to kick in.
The doors open and I’m pushed through to my audience which was the entire group of passengers waiting for their call. Of course everyone turned round. I don’t blame them, I would have done the same. I saw a sea of faces and al I could do was laugh and imagine hundreds of cameras and flashes. Well after all it was my entourage and I! No cameras but inquisitive faces. Some smiling, some nodding acknowledgement to my bad leg, some sympathy looks, some wondering I am sure why does she have her own entourage. Well that’s because I’m a very special lady today! VIP I’ll have you know. Can you see my leg? I did start saying ‘thank you, thank you’ quietly under my breath. I think some of them caught the irony and I thought it was a really funny.
So now everyone settled down and got back to their magazines, books and toddlers. As we sat in the terminal building, I noticed the snow was getting heavier and suddenly it was a white-out! Oh dear this wasn’t looking good at all.
Eventually we were called and taken to the front of the queue. Me and my….. yeh ok it’s getting a bit boring now isn’t it.
We were taken to a large yellow lorry towards the back of the plane and the back was opened and I was wheeled in. Thankfully I had worked out that this would be the lift that would take us up to the plane’s rear doors. Ok so this was ok and looking good. At one point I was told over the weekend that the RAF plane would not accept me if I couldn’t walk up the steps on crutches and I may have to be flown to Chile. There was no way the crutches were happening on stairs! Did they not realise that I was a danger to myself on one step? Let alone on stairs with crutches. Where’s the man with the clipboard for god sake? Don’t they know who I am? 😂. So very relieved to be on the lift. Blood pressure reduces slightly! I managed to use my crutches to get to my seat, blood pressure reducing even further now and I gave myself a little pat on the back. Maybe my confidence is coming back too.
We are getting ready for takeoff when the captain says he needs to de-ice the plane. So we sit on the tarmac for another hour while we wait for the snow to stop and the de-icing process to take place.
Right hour later ready, take off. All is good and then they most surreal experience happens. Please remember just paracetamol! Water starts to rush by the window and it’s really strange, really really strange. So strange, we are all making comments to each other. Clearly it’s the de-icer on the plane being blown from the front of the aircraft to the rear but it looks and feels like we are underwater. Really does, I expect to see a whale or a shark swim by at any point: It seems to go on for a while too. Almost too long, but eventually it stops and the ice starts to clear from the glass and the sun starts to poke through.
And that’s it really I have 10 hours to relax, my team are on hand to look after me, I am having regular observations taken. I had one earlier where my oxygen seemed a little low (normal on the ground). I have a blood thinning injection every 12 hours. I have to make a trip to the loo soon but once I’ve done that my blood pressure should be back to normal.
So if anyone has ever flown Medocac before then you will know what I have been through today. I guess though that you may have been upgrade to business class and perhaps had a bed. No such luck for me, this is the RAF! I did have the option of a stretcher though it would have required a jump so I declined. I do have 3 seats to myself though and 5 for my uniformed entourage. I forgot to mention the uniforms! Hahahah I am really milking this entourage thing can you tell. Please allow me this pleasure just this once – I have broken my ankle after all!
It’s quite entertaining. I already mentioned that I don’t like asking for help but I really don’t need to. I am holding myself back from giving any impression at all that I need anything because my dedicated nurse, Lee is amazing. He Jumps up at the slightest move of my head checks I am ok and asks what help I need. A couple of times I have had to say no it’s ok, I’m just stretching. I think he may be on appraisal but I don’t mind he is really looking after me well and I feel absolutely fine.
So I am going to settle back now. Next stop Cape (cape) Verde! 10 minutes to landing Cabin Crew!
p.s he was on appraisal!