Yesterday, I made a joke with my sister about “the last time I stood upright,” and the backstory is one that I would like to share with you.
Just over six years ago, at the end of 2013, my legs were amputated. I knew that I would never stand again, or so I thought…
In late December 2016, I was visiting one of my favorite cities in the world, London, England. Despite the chilly weather, I had a great trip, and even got to go on the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour — a must-see for any fan of the boy who lived.
On my last night in the city, I met up with a friend from university at the Barley Mow Pub in London’s Mayfair District. We chatted, had a couple of pints and went on our way. I was staying at the Hilton in Wembley Park, and had only a few blocks to go in order to reach the accessible Bond Street tube station.
Distracted and thinking about my flight to London the following day, I took my eyes off the sidewalk. As (bad) luck would unfortunately have it, at that exact moment, I encountered one of the few central London curbs without a ramp.
Before I knew it, my legs (residual limbs, stumps, whatever you want to call them) slammed down onto the street’s pavement. I found myself standing there, holding my six-wheeled power wheelchair on my back, not sure of what to do.
My legs were locked in place and I was stable, but the street was empty and there was no one to help. If I had collapsed, the chair would have fallen on top of me. That wouldn’t have been good, so I decided to drive the wheelchair forward, ever so slightly, to get the two rear casters off the curb and onto the pavement. By a stroke of luck (good luck this time), I fell back into the wheelchair seat after inching it forward onto level ground.
In the nearly 45 minutes that followed, I made it to the underground station, boarded the train and rode to Wembley Park. It wasn’t until I saw my hotel in the distance that the pain set in. It was excruciating initially, but tempered to a manageable level after an hour.
If the injury had been more severe, I would have seen a doctor. Although that wasn’t necessary, I still faced more than a month of pain, which further restricted my mobility.
Within this random story are two lessons: First, and I know it is obvious — wheelchair users should always scan the sidewalk. Obstacles are everywhere and potholes or curbs without ramps can lead to injury. Secondly, all travelers should be protected with a travel insurance policy. Although this accident turned out okay for me, that wasn’t a guarantee. If my knees had buckled and my wheelchair had fallen on top of me, I’d have likely been taken to the hospital with much more serious injuries. Travel insurance is your shield against the unexpected. Just last year, I found myself in a Singapore hospital courtesy of my gallbladder.
What’s the biggest or most unexpected challenge you’ve faced while traveling? Let me know in the comments below!