My sister gave a nod of approval and to the rest of my family’s shock, I proceed to move towards the conveyor belt.
Since my accident, I am more cautious when it comes to taking risks. The first time we attempted airline travel, we landed at O’Hare International Airport. For those of you who have never been there, it is a huge airport (one of the biggest and busiest in the US) that manages thousands of daily passengers with flat conveyor belts to speed up the flow of foot traffic.
When we got to the first moving walkway, I wheeled along the side. Further down the terminal when we approached the second moving walkway, I wheeled around the side. When I got to the third moving walkway, I said, “Should I?” My sister gave a nod of approval and to the rest of my family’s shock, I proceed to move towards the conveyor belt. The first few moments were entertaining as my younger sisters smiled and waved from the parallel walkway. We observed the slower moving traffic of those travelers who opted to walk.
Then my mother, who was concerned from the beginning, but was too caught off guard by my uncharacteristically risky behavior to say anything, turned to the man behind us and said, “we have never done this, you may want to give us a little space when we are exiting the walkway.”
Instead of my wheelchair easing over the lip at the end of the moving walkway, it felt like I hit a brick wall! Because of the continual feed of the conveyor belt, my wheels did not have enough grip to get over the threshold. My mom was trying to push from the back while my dad was pulling from the front and I was no longer contributing because the initial impact caused my head to knock the wheelchair drive out of reach. Meanwhile, as my mom is getting sucked under the wheelchair with the conveyor belt, my ventilator becomes disconnected, and disaster is imminent. Thank goodness for the man behind us. With all of his weight, he grabbed my mom by the seat of her pants and shoved all of us – wheelchair included – off of the moving walkway into the short space between the next moving walkway.
The man must have thought we were ridiculous, because he did not even wait for us to thank him before disappearing. The prolonged disconnection from my ventilator at the time left me a little dizzy. We immediately hooked up the ventilator and tilted my chair up to lift my feet into the air so the blood could flow to my head.
While everyone waited for me to stabilize, another traveler came up and kindly recommended how, “it would help the flow of traffic if you moved this entire operation ten feet to the side.” Before my mom was able to react, my sister smiled and politely told him we would take his suggestion under consideration.
In the moments immediately following the incident I told my family I never wanted to talk about this ever again, but a few minutes after pulling away from the airport we all started laughing. It has become our favorite travel story and needless to say I never use the moving walkways, but I still fly and travel!
The views expressed by Loa are not necessarily the view of the Ventec Life Systems, its members or the clinical board. These blog posts are the personal experiences of Loa. The blog posts are not intended to provide clinical advice or training related to VOCSN. Always consult a physician or trained clinician prior to using VOCSN. Please refer to the VOCSN Clinical and Technical Manual for detailed instructions, including indications and contraindications for use. VOCSN is available by prescription only.