Category Archives: Travelling with PMA

European Travel with PMA

European Travel with PMA-ALS-MND
All set to start the European Trek

WestJet Ottawa-Halifax-London Gatwick

European Travel with PMA – WestJet

This was my third time traveling with WestJet with a mobility scooter and the second time, transatlantic. On the whole, they do a good job of making life easier for those with mobility issues. My key piece of advice to avoid damage to your scooter or power wheelchair is to be sure to wait with it until it is completely collapsed and ready for storage in the hold of the aircraft.

  My scooter was damaged on 2 of the last 3 flights simply because the baggage handlers did not know how to correctly stow it. Armed with this foreknowledge, I was able to ensure that it arrived safe and sound. Mobility assistance at Ottawa, Halifax and London Gatwick was good and it was a great help having done it before and therefore knowing what to expect and how to avoid potential pitfalls. My key recommendation, if you are traveling alone, as I was, is to check everything possible and keep hand baggage to the minimum. Personally, I need both hands for crutches and/or cane, so my hand luggage must be carried by an assistant.  Be aware that almost all airlines now require that any and all lithium batteries must be removed and carried on board.

Traveling in Europe with PMA-ALS-MND
Arriving in Halifax

On arrival in London, I needed to take a bus to Oxford. When traveling with the National Coach Service, you need  to let them know ahead of time if you will need assistance boarding the bus. In the case of the Oxford Bus Lines, every bus has a lift/ramp to avoid climbing the very unfriendly stairs.

Accessibility in Oxford

Although great strides may have been made in recent years, many countries, England/UK included, have a long way to go. Many times, I found myself trapped on a sidewalk with steep curbs that my scooter was unable to navigate, necessitating tiresome detours. Also, many stores, restaurants and cinemas have threshold steps that are not accessibility-friendly.

Accessibility in Oxford
Lots to see and do in Oxford

To visit the Oxford Botanic Gardens, we had to make a detour of at least 1.5 kms because there is only a single accessible entrance. All the others have either steps or turnstiles that are not friendly to scooters or wheelchairs.

Accessibility in Eastbourne

My next stop was in Eastbourne, in East Sussex on the South coast. Because all of my family’s homes all have  accessibility issues, mostly in terms of entrance steps or bathrooms on second floors, I was forced to find an accessible hotel. The only one available, due to an international tennis tournament, The Grande Aparthotel, was not nearly as accessible as claimed. The worst aspect was the steep slope down to reception that would be impossible for many scooters and power wheelchairs. Upon checking out, with my luggage on board, some kind stranger had to give me a push to get me up the hill! In addition, fire doors often made passage through corridors extremely difficult.

Accessibility in Eastbourne
Eastbourne pedestrian mall

Eastbourne has some of the same problems as Oxford when it comes to getting around on a scooter or wheelchair, although since it is a somewhat more modern town, more streets, sidewalks and stores are still fairly accessible.

Next stop: Switzerland

 

 

You Can’t Beat Gravity!

Triaxe Sport

What goes up, must come down!

Unfortunately, the reverse is not always true, as I discovered to my detriment today!

Ever since my diagnosis of PMA, I have adopted any tool, device or method that would help mitigate my declining mobility. I recently purchased the mobility scooter pictured above, a Triaxe Sport. It came back from Florida to Ottawa and has already taken a second flight to Windsor, Ontario. It is light (49 lbs without battery), speedy – 21KPH  and takes the bumps better than my previous scooter, an eWheels EW07.

Already, I had tipped my previous mobility scooter a couple of times. I believed the new scooter to be much more secure. It has two small outrigger wheels on the front and two more on a bar that CAN be extended at the back. And therein lies the first problem. I did not extend the back wheels today!

Center of gravity is a concept that most of us understand to some degree. It is also a matter of degree. The higher the degree of incline, the greater the likelihood of mishap. I will be the first to admit that I am a person who does not shy away from risk. So, when I saw a path that was interesting, I took it. It was paved, to start with. It wasn’t too steep, to start with.

Well to cut a long story short, I now found myself at the bottom of a steep incline at a point where stone changed to pavement. This transition prevented me from getting a run up to make the hill. From a standstill, I managed to get partway up and then the scooter would go no further. I was leaning forward to put more weight on the front wheel, or else it tends to spin. Once the scooter had stopped moving, I applied the brake and leaned back on the seat.

The Gravity of Wounds or Wounds of Gravity?

That was the tipping point, literally! It happened in slow motion and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Yet again, I am indebted to strangers who got me back up and tended my wounds (pictured).

Wounds of Gravity

The same gentleman who unceremoniously hoisted me back to my feet also pushed me up the hill and made sure that I was back on track before leaving. Luckily, nothing was broken. My camera and cellphone survived being thrown to the ground and there was no lasting damage to the scooter. My elbow and right hip will be a reminder of my folly for a while to come.

The Lesson to be Learned?

When I called my wife to related the incident, as she was laughing, she asked: “And what have you learned from this?” I replied: “Absolutely nothing!”.

Will I be more careful (fearful) next time? Probably not! I know my limits and those of the scooter. The real problem is that I don’t like limits and always try to push them. Gravity, however, will not be denied!

Travelling with PMA

Travelling with PMA/ALS/MND

Traveling with ALS/MND

One of the questions that arises soon after being diagnosed with any motor neuron disease is: “How will it affect my ability to travel?”

When I first got my diagnosis back in October 2017, this was one of my primary concerns. My family is very spread out across the world and my wife and I love to travel (we met in France). At that time, I was just starting to adjust to walking with a cane and found one called a flipstick which converts to a seat on the fly.

In Nov. 2017 – Jan. 2018., I spent 2 months travelling about Europe by air, car and train and foolishly insisted on behaving like an able-bodied passenger. As a result, I arrived at my destinations tired and stressed. During those 2 months, my legs deteriorated considerably, perhaps, at least in part, because I asked more of them than they were able to supply. By the end of my trip, I was starting to think that it might be my last!

Finally, obstinacy gave way to practicality and comfort. My most recent trip to the Caribbean was so much better once I registered for assistance with the airlines and I allowed my travel companions to take over caring for my luggage and other details. On the one airline, LIAT, where we had omitted to request assistance, they noted my struggles climbing aboard and had a wheelchair waiting for me as we disembarked.

My main hang-up was that I didn’t want to appear lazy (I look as though I am still fully able-bodied). Also, I worried about losing my precious independence. I realise now that both of these were a hindrance. Friends and relatives and even strangers are only too willing to help. We pALS have enough to deal with without adding additional roadblocks for ourselves.

In the picture above, you can see my wheelchair waiting for me as we disembark in Bridgetown, Barbados!

Although the assistance offered by the airlines is far from perfect, they do try. Be sure to check with your airline or travel agent to discover what options they offer for the mobility impaired.  To those who are nervous about travelling with PMA, I would say: Go for It!

P.S. There is a Facebook page dedicated to Travelling with ALS and most of the information, support and advice offered is applicable to Progressive Muscular Atrophy. There is also a great deal of information available on the ALS section of the PLM Forum