“Not that one. You aren’t someone who will be okay with a porta-potty for a week.” Mary states definitively.
“But it’s half the price of all the others.” I protest weakly. “And there’s a shower inside, so it has running water.”
“Okay.” I say with a shrug. Not a big deal. I’ve already eliminated the repulsive options, so any of the other airbnb rentals are fine for my week trip.
It’s comforting to have Mary help me. It feels safer to have her functioning and decisive brain check over my plans before I spend hundreds of dollars on anything. I know, post mTBI, that my chronically fatigued brain misses things, sometimes important things.
We look through the other options and Mary gives the green light on either of the two remaining apartments.
I feel a tug of fatigue from this interaction and my computer use. My mentally clear time is ticking down, so I refocus us. “Now, will you look at my flight with me?” I ask. My flight is the most important thing we need to discuss; it’s the first step to making my trip a reality.
I open up the website, and I show her my chosen flight. Brilliant, I think. All flights from where I am to where I’m going have two layovers. There is no way around that. This one, however, is great because the short layover is after the first short flight, and the longer layover is after the second longer flight. A longer flight means a bigger chance of being late, so – hey – won’t that help to make sure I make my connection? Plus it leaves in the early afternoon, so I’ll be able to sneak in an HBOT session before I go.
Mary’s brows furrow as she looks at it. “I don’t think you should have any short layovers, especially not at JFK. It’s a big place, and you’ll have to change terminals.”
“No, it will be fine.” I say. I’ve spent hours over the last several weeks looking for the right flight, and I like this one.
“I’m really concerned about you having any short layovers.” She insists.
I sigh. “I guess you’re right. I have to remember I can’t run for a plane like I use to.” I sigh again. I hate all the stupid shit I can’t do anymore because of my limited energy.
“Why don’t you change the settings on the search. Make it so there is at least a 1 ½ hour layover for all your connections.”
I grumble, loudly, but I do it. This is why she is here, to help me. To help me implement strategies that fit within my new paradigm. I reset the search criteria and new options pop up.
“How about that one.” she points.
I click on it. Two hour layovers at each airport. Ugh. “But that’s going to make the trip take forever.” I whine. When I check my original flight choice, though, I grimace. The one Mary is suggesting is actually shorter. And cheaper.
Mary smiles. “And that way you’ll be getting in at 5 instead of 10. I feel much better about that.” She says.
“Yes, that’s good. I’ll book it now.” I say. Mary’s work here is done. She goes off to take care of her own stuff, and I settle in to book my flight.
Easier said then done. The flight is chosen, but still so many choices.
Yes, I’ll pay an extra $60 round trip to choose my own seats. Better to choose than to end up in the middle seat somewhere. Plus I’m so sensitive to noise, I need to avoid both over the wing and the back.
I’m an aisle person, now, rather than a window person. I’ve been sitting in the window seats for decades – I love the view. But now, I can’t imagine the extra cramped space nor the (likely) possibility of hitting my head getting in and out. Thankfully, most of my flights have aisle seats available halfway between the wing and the back. I hope that helps with the noise.
Trip insurance? Yes, please. Another change. I never thought trip insurance was necessary, but post mTBI, I am aware how easily something can shift from possible to not possible. So it’s a good $30 investment.
What’s this? Special travel needs? Hmmm… that’s probably me these days. And it is.
How convenient. I can tell them I need accommodations right up front, and then they’ll contact me to follow up. I don’t have to initiate contact. Excellent.
That’s another accommodation Mary and I agreed upon. Someone from the airline to escort me between gates. I might be okay alone. Then again, I might not. I haven’t flown since I was injured, so I don’t know how I’m going to handle the noise and the crowds and the stimulation. An able-bodied, able-minded person to make sure I get from point A to point B? Yes, please.
I enter my credit card information, click the final button, and I buy my ticket. Done. Only one thousand seven hundred forty three steps to go. Or something like that.
The concrete purchases are challenging in and of themselves – the flight, a place to stay, the rental car. The real challenge of this trip, though, is in the details. In all of the hundreds of little accommodations, the specifics that have to be pre-thought, pre-figured out to make my trip a reality.
For example, my personal item for the flight. United has a very strange size limit of 17”x10”x9”. Normally (pre-mTBI), I’d just take my backpack and not give it another thought. However, for a 12 hour circus of flights and layovers, I’m going to need a computer and probably a book to entertain me. For whatever reason, carrying my computer (all 5 lbs) in my backpack feels heavy to me these days. If I’m in a stressful situation (like a loud airport), that one bit of extra weight can push me over the edge from functional to not functional. I can’t risk that out in the world by myself. So. I’ll have to find some little piece of luggage on wheels to take with me.
Then there is the fact that once I arrive at my destination, I won’t be able to drive. I’ll be lucky if I’m able to speak without stuttering heavily. So, Mary and I have agreed, I’ll take a Lyft to my airbnb rental that day, then take a Lyft back the next day and pick up my car then. That means I need to download the Lyft app, create an account, add my $$ information, and familiarize myself with how it works before I go. I won’t have the mental clarity needed to figure it out then, in the moment. So I have to figure it out beforehand.
And that doesn’t even address the visit itself. My family hasn’t seen me since my first mTBI. My mom hasn’t seen me since my second mTBI, the one that really impaired my functioning and made it necessary to quit my job. Sure, we talk regularly on the phone, but that isn’t the same as understanding what is going on. It’s not the same type of knowing that Mary has, from living with me and my limitations day in and day out. How can I make them understand, so I don’t have to explain endlessly when I’m there, and so they are prepared for my limitations?
Current plan – write a letter. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll say. List my symptoms and limitations? Say what they should do if x, y, or z happens? Outline my expected level of availability and where I can spend time with them (e.g. not at the mall)? Or all of that? Or something else entirely? I’m not really sure yet what I’ll do. I will do something.
So many accommodations, so little time.