Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

We returned from Vegas yesterday evening totally worn out exhausted from the trip yet we had a wonderful time. We were in bed by 9 PM woke this morning at close to 10 AM we couldn't believe it, it's nice to get away yet nothing beats the comforts of home.

Overall our trip went very well although it did remind me of a time when I used to enjoy fishing in Algonquin Park each July. At that time MS had taken it's hold yet I was able to walk on my own. Every year I could sense its hold or grasp more and more encompassing. Each year especially on the last day of our trip I would sit overlooking the lake and wonder whether or not I would be capable of making it the following year. One year I went fishing with a friend and realized I would not be able to make it for our annual trip. That hurt for certain and it still hurts a bit every time July rolls around yet I think about it less and less as it's been so long.

This trip was similar in some ways, we had not really traveled since our last trip to Vegas in order to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, several years later I could feel and taste the progression of the disease a fact evident from the onset of our journey.
Previously I was capable of standing from my wheelchair in order to transfer to a small chair the airlines utilize to bring mobility impaired clients to their seats. The chair is very small and narrow it can fit between the aisles, unable to transfer I required assistance for what is termed a full body lift, simply put they begin by lifting you out of your wheelchair and position you on the small chair, once in the aircraft they again lifted me up and deposited me into my seat, luckily we were traveling executive class having ample room to move around yet at that moment I had to accept the reality of the progression and wondered how many times I would be able to make a similar trip. Luckily I was able to have a few scotch on the rocks which made the memories fade quickly and the trip enjoyable.

The room I reserved for physically impaired guests was adequate "we stayed at the Paris hotel" yet it's quite daunting going from one environment to another you must adapt which can take quite some time, at home in your personal environment you are accustomed to where things are, what you can reach grab hold of several things to transfer, everything from the height of the toilet seat location of grab bars in the washroom in your bedroom etc. now all of a sudden everything is different. It goes without saying I relied on my spouse much more than usual transferring from the bed to the chair or vice versa proved to be quite a challenge at times exhausting. The washroom also adequate yet different from what I am accustomed to in terms of height location of grab bars also proved to be a challenge. By the end of the week I was getting better and had adapted fairly well another week would've done it I'm certain yet I don't believe I could have taken the heat is hard to believe that 100°F in late September is regarded as a typical autumn weather!

We saw several great shows the first being the rat pack a tribute to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Junior. The following day we saw The Jersey Boys also a fantastic show with terrific music. On Wednesday my spouse went for her surprise trip to the Grand Canyon by helicopter landing a few hundred feet from the Colorado River they had lunch toasted their trip with a glass of champagne prior to their return in the afternoon upon which she was summoned for a massage. The photographs she took are amazing, they allowed me to experience the canyon once more as the first time I had seen it some 35 years ago. On the Thursday we saw Jubilee another great Las Vegas icon long-standing 28 year show which unfortunately will be closing sometime in December. We finally closed out the week by seeing Terry Fator, the ventriloquist who one America's got talent last year. He had me in tears for the entire show, absolutely spectacular. He's the only one I know of in Vegas who starts his show by informing the audience of one rule that there are no rules he continues by informing his sold-out audience the pullout the cameras which were obviously smuggle in and take as many photographs even film parts of the show. At the end of the show he would also make himself available to sign autographs as long as there were people waiting for him. One of the advantages of being wheelchair bound is that most places treat you very well in this case we were moved up to the front of the line and had a chance to speak with Terry Fator as well as getting his autograph on our picture.

A few closing notes,

When making reservations to see a show do not rely on the local ticket agencies similar to ticket master, if you require special seating try and obtain them by contacting the hotel hosting the show directly. The rat pack and Jersey boys were purchased from a ticketing agency and while I paid top dollar the location of our seats were in my opinion substandard. The shows that I booked personally with the hotel were what I was expecting number one.

If you are unable to board an aircraft by yourself it is impossible for you to visit the Grand Canyon they simply won't allow it similarly there are no handicapped buses or tours available for mobility impaired guests.

Everything else in Vegas is excellent when it comes to meeting the needs of the mobility challenge individual. There are elevators or ramps everywhere even outside to get from one side of the street to the other the elevators bring you up to a bridge which crosses the street and only in Vegas would you find air-conditioned elevators. You gotta love it!
Hopefully God willing I'll be back in a few years.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

As I write this I can't help but think that in less than one month 15 years will have passed since my official diagnosis.
Even with everything this illness brings on time still flies which I presume is a good thing.

We're in the final stages of getting ready for our trip to Vegas. Traveling without a disability takes a certain amount of planning multiply that by 100 to give you a sense of what is required when you travel with a disability especially if it involves mobility issues.

The first thing of course is the fligh, here you have a choice being stacked up like sardines at the rear of the aircraft or paying a few extra bucks for business class. I can almost guarantee if you do it once you'll never go back to that sardine can approach. For one thing accessing the aircraft is much easier our seats are 1A and 1B meaning they are the first as you enter the aircraft. I can take my manual chair enter the plane roll up to my seat and transfer to the aircraft seat. Once transferred my pit crew "spouse" takes the wheelchair apart in a matter of minutes, most parts are stowed inside the cabin once the chair is folded the crew slow it in the bulkhead which makes it the first item out upon our arrival.

The transfer in Toronto is a pain as there are no direct flights but it's a simple transfer and other than the physical effort required to move from seat to seat there is nothing special to mention. Upon our arrival in Las Vegas we require a wheelchair accessible taxi to transport us to our hotel, these taxis generally do not stay at the airport previous arrangements are required to ensure they are there when you arrive.
You finally arrive at your hotel and in all likelihood will need to repeat the requirement for an accessible room, even though the travel agent may have requested it rarely does the information make it to the appropriate person assigning the room. Finally your set, just have to check and make certain that electric wheelchair you rented has arrived and is waiting for you at the Bell desk. I could use mine yet I find it easier to rent one from a local establishment that way if I run into any problems I have someone to call and it's their problem, in addition they deliver it and pick it up upon departure. I find the cost $175 per week reasonable considering the service they provide. On this trip we have booked four shows the first being "The Rat Pack" followed by The Jersey Boys, Terry Fator who won America's got talent last year and signed a $200 million contract for a show in Vegas, he's a ventriloquist and is amazing. The final show is possibly one which depicts the Vegas that once was, called Jubilee I've seen it once and will see it every time I go to Vegas. Finally since I cannot see the Grand Canyon as it's impossible to get there in a wheelchair and besides I have seen it before my spouse will be going there in style! Picked up at our hotel with a black limo no less she will be driven to the McLaren airport to board a helicopter for a ride of a lifetime. The aircraft will land 100 feet from the Colorado River were lunch will be served along with champagne ending with a return trip including Hoover dam, the strip before finally returning to McLaren airport. I'd love to go with her yet unless you can board the aircraft on your own you are disqualified.

Reserving seats for shows requires little effort other than ensuring there are spaces allotted for wheelchair patrons ordinarily you would purchase tickets through a booking agency however with a specific requirement you usually end up calling the hotel directly. It is difficult to question pricing as the seats are usually predefined. You take what they have but luckily they are usually some of the best seats available.

Should get back to multiple sclerosis, in my view the worst preparation for the trip. Imagine sitting in an aircraft for five hours unable to walk it is impossible for you to use the facilities. You're left with two choices, you can either abstain from taking in any fluids whatsoever several hours prior to the flight during the flight. I tried it once wearing a diaper as a preventive measure yet little enjoyment is derived from sitting in business class and not being able to have a glass of wine, a beer or something to eat. As I am writing this I have shaved and I'm wearing a condom catheter attached to a leg bag, I'm drinking a lot of cranberry juice and water to test the system before we leave I've used this system in the past with good results it's just one of those things you have to do should you wish to enjoy and partake in all which is offered. All of this sounds easy yet it is very difficult many things that have to happen in sequence for you to urinate most have to do with signals from the brain specific muscles opening while others contract mechanical stuff but one of the hardest things is sitting there in a seat and letting yourself go. That in itself goes against everything you've ever been taught so far I've drank more than 1200 mL of fluid the urge is there yet I just can't seem to let go since it's close to noon I'll grab a beer instead eventually I will have no choice I will find out for certain if this bloody system works.

Have a great afternoon

Friday, September 4, 2009

September 4, 2009

We are preparing for a one-week vacation in Las Vegas, I had been there previously when I was 17 and returned in 2007 for our 30th wedding anniversary. I enjoyed the trip as the city is wheelchair friendly almost everything being accessible, transportation is a breeze, when making reservations if you request a room for someone wheelchair-bound what you get is very appropriate and modified to suit the most discriminating. At least that's been my experience and it is the major reason for our return. We have in the past enjoyed trips to Mexico including the Dominican Republic yet both locations leave much to be desired when it comes to accessibility. Personally I am at the point where I cannot take a chance on whether or not a resort is suited to my particular needs, what I consider adapted for the physically challenged varies greatly based on your destination. Las Vegas is geared towards satisfying everyone's needs it is a simple matter of letting them know beforehand and chances are you will not be disappointed.

We're not leaving until later this month yet something which I consider very special happened to us on our last visit in December 2007 which I would like to share with you I hope you enjoy the read the experience well I believe it will be there with me permanently as if it were etched in stone, I trust you enjoy it.

December 18, 2007

December 15 my wife and I returned from one week in Las Vegas, a trip we had planned for quite some time to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Several weeks before leaving I developed a urinary tract infection, had to have a Foley catheter installed, it wasn't a big deal but carrying a Foley wasn't part of my plan. Fortunately it was only required for a brief period of time a few days later it was removed.
Things started getting better a week or so before our departure, the Foley catheter was removed I received instructions on how to self catheterize "which later proved to be totally unnecessary." I was set to go! Then a week before leaving my wife developed bronchitis, it's ironic it when you're the one with a chronic illness can never expect your spouse to get sick. After a visit to the doctor a prescription for antibiotics she began feeling better and we managed to embark on our trip as planned.

We saw several outstanding performances while we were there although something happened at one of them which totally blew me away. Those of you in a wheelchair will undoubtedly relate to this as I'm certain all of us have been in a position where someone will make an off-the-cuff remark about how wonderful it must be to have a chair or how they wished they could have one, a comment made when you’re usually in a lineup waiting. My standard response “you can have the chair as long as you take everything that comes along with it". They usually look at me for a moment then chuckle realizing they are better off without it as if all of a sudden they realize I'm in it not by choice.

Being in a wheelchair they normally bring you up to the doors of the theater once opened you are ushered into place. My wife and I were waiting when a woman approaches me and asks if I could get out of her chair? I thought to myself, here we go replying with my usual response to which she replied I'll trade! No one had ever said they would trade, frankly she caught me completely off guard, I told her I had progressive MS, she asked me how long I had been in the chair, how long since my diagnosis, the medications I had to take and finally my age. She replied "I have you beat I will still trade". I was dumb found not knowing what to say I asked her what she had? You could tell she was weak and at one point she had to kneel beside my chair because she was feeling faint. Turns out she was at the Celine Dion concert her ticket sponsored by the Dream Wish Foundation due to her affliction with leukemia, considered stage four her prognosis was bleak she did not expect to live for more than one year and had just prior to the show received her chemotherapy treatment. She did not qualify for additional treatment there was basically nothing else that could be done for her.

At that point I wish to God I would've had the strength to get up and give her my chair, to look at her you could never tell she was so ill, she was dressed in a formal dress for an evening out alone. The dream/wish foundation offered her two tickets yet other than her caregivers she had no one so she decided to go alone. Several times while we were waiting she had bouts of weakness at one point my spouse offered her to sit on my lap while we waited she was too proud to do such a thing and left several times with the security guard only to return a few moments later. I suspect the chemotherapy treatment she had just finished was having its effects on her. When we entered it took me a while to locate her sitting near the exit with security close by in case she had to make a quick exit. Yet we were relatively close she left several times finally entering just before the show started.

My wife told me the performance was excellent, I cannot say I saw a lot of it mostly I was in tears. I felt so sad for this woman realized that I had met my match that even I had to wonder whether or not I would trade places with her. After the show she rushed over to give me a big hug and told me that she would pray for me she then hugged my spouse and told her to take good care of this guy.

There were many people in wheelchairs waiting for the doors to open to see this concert, why she picked me I will never know, if I could have gotten up and given her my chair I would have done so in an instant I felt so helpless in my inability to help her that day. Something that I took for granted was someone else's last wish and that affected me greatly. We did not even get to know her name yet I decided to call her Cathy, why? Don't know but everyone deserves a name. I will never forget her, grateful to have met her and to have spent a few moments in her presence sharing in her grief and happiness as she was experiencing one of her final wishes one which I easily took for granted.
To this day it is difficult for me to think of her without shedding a tear, as for the show on DVD I can only watch bits and pieces each time it leaves me heartbroken.

God bless

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