Pulmonary Tales: “Air” Travel


I love to travel. I cannot afford to do it much, and a lot of my past travel has either been by plane for video store industry functions, or by car for many vacations. I love to fly, even as the flights and airlines have become more and more crappy.

However, because I also love the journey as much as the destination, I also love to go by car. First, you actually see places you never have before, even if it is from the speed of an Interstate. Second, you control the journey, from departure to detour to final arrival. Third, you control the environment and atmosphere, listening to music or radio that you want to hear, talking with others in the vehicle, stopping and looking around to get local flavor along the way.

Maybe strangely, I like to drive the entire distance, making stops every couple of hours. I also love late night driving on an Interstate. No rush, no large volume of traffic, and the night seems to dull the rumble of traffic to a tolerable volume.

I’ve driven to Orlando and other Florida cities many times, with an overnight in the South Carolina areas. I know all the silly “South Of The Border” billboards, some of the better places to eat that don’t smack of “tourist trap” and many of the local snacks that you pick up to fuel the journey. I have driven to Atlanta from Philly once straight through, no overnights, in order to take my Dad down to see his sister who was gravelly ill. Because I drove, I saw some wonderful small towns that looked just like Mayberry. I saw kudzu for the first time. And, I ate at a couple of wonderful local places with real food.

Recently, travel has been much rarer, mainly because of the loss of work and my lung disease. This has restricted me financially and physically, plus my layoff and retirement from the home video industry took away all of the business reasons for me to travel. A couple of trips to New York City to take my brother Tommy Hickman up to see his friend Kelly Ripa on “LIVE WITH REGIS AND KELLY” for his birthday and a couple of trips to Central PA to see my Dunder Mifflin Infinity friends (Yeah, I’m nuts about NBC’s THE OFFICE, a well).

As a person (I really hate the word “patient” since I am still a person) with Interstitial Lung Disease, I now have to make choices tempering my desire with my reality. As a person with Interstitial Lung Disease, I also have to find the info I need in order to travel as smartly and comfortably as possible. There is so much I have to learn about my ILD, and sadly, so little actually real life support info out there. I get great care from my team of doctors at the Penn/Perleman Lung Center and at Lankenau Hospital, but finding people with my illness and my needs is tough to do. ILD/NSIP is not one of the lung diseases that are the subject of a lot of public talk, as is COPD, lung cancer, or asthma.
That means I have to dig for info.

Next year, my niece, Julie, is getting married in Disney World in October. She and her fiancée are Disney freaks (Like Uncle, like niece). I intend to be there. I would not miss this for anything. However, now the journey turns from leisure to medical necessity.

The following year, my nephew Shawn is getting married there. Runs in the family!

As much as it is convenient to fly, I do not know if I can fly or if the airlines could accommodate my needs, if any. Knowing the changes in cabin pressure and altitude, there are dangers to myself that may not be there for a healthy person. The air pressure alone could fail to provide sufficient oxygen for me, even though I do not need oxygen when I am seated or simply standing. Any sudden change could be catastrophic for me. In addition, the length of the flight can be a concern,

The airport environment itself should not be a problem, since I can arrange a cart ride to the gate, and can also be diligent in arriving early for check in. However, besides the flight, I also need to transport oxygen tanks for use while I am away. Since I would be in a theme park environment, this would require a supply that might equal 1 tank a day.

Airlines do not allow you to bring your own oxygen. That means that if I needed it in flight, I would need to arrange with the airline for the oxygen supply, and this is an additional cost. There is no guarantee that I could be approved for a rechargeable portable oxygen concentrator.

To prepare for the possibility of the flight, I would need to undergo testing that would include tolerating simulated altitude changes and pressures. I would need to make sure that my lungs can handle the oxygen gas exchanges and other lung functions without any danger. I would need to make sure that I am comfortable and confident in my abilities.

Or I could drive.

While I still do not know exactly how long distance auto travel will affect me, it does have my advantages. Anything I require goes in the car, as well as luggage that might cost me $50 or more to check on a flight. My in car and out of car meals are real meals, not snacks. I may sit in a traffic jam, but I won’t get stuck on a tarmac. The in-car entertainment beats inflight hands down. I have room for my butt in the seat and no one will recline their seat back into my knees. Bathrooms along the way will be bigger than a broom closet and my poop and pee will not be blue iced and maybe dropped on an unsuspecting town along the way.

I leave when I want. I control my time, I control my arrival, I control my journey.

And if a medical emergency due to my lung disease occurs, I can get help without panicking and inconveniencing a flight nor having to wait until we land. That means a lot, especially since I still have a lot to learn about my disease. It’s a brave new world, and yes, a bit scary. However, I can see as much of the world as this disease will let me, or I can always wonder what it would be like to travel again.

In this case, I’d much rather do than dream.

And Alec Baldwin can ride shotgun and play WORDS WITH FRIENDS as much as he wants.

2 comments on “Pulmonary Tales: “Air” Travel

  1. Pingback: PULMONARY: The Heat Was/Is On | A View From Under The Desk 2.0

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