Wednesday, March 14, 2012

United we Fall

The visit to NIH was good, overall. The cancer in the kidney remnant hasn't spread and the drs said that at this point, the remnant would fail before I would need it out because of the cancer, so we can schedule the surgery and transplant at our convenience this summer. I haven't talked with Emory but most likely we will wait until July. The fistula isn't forming, but there is still a chance it will if I use stress balls 24/7-- giving it more time is a priority. Another ultrasound is scheduled for June. Unless the remnant fails, it isn't an emergency operation, and that's good news. It is miraculous to me how long it's lasted. The drs warned me it would only work a year or two because it would have to work so hard to compensate for the whole body, and five years later, it's still plugging along.

That's the diagnosis in a nutshell; I don't really feel like going into it too much.

Given this news, it seems odd I'm going to complain about something as mundane as air travel, but it's imminently more relatable; humans being who they are, it seems our nature to bitch about trivial inconveniences, regardless of circumstances in their life.

Because of having to buy government tickets due to the NIH stipend (which, believe me, we are grateful for, do not get me wrong), we are at the mercy of the cheapest airfares. Of course, there is the option of upgrading, but with a kidney surgery to pay for and meds that will cost between $4000 to $6000 a month, swinging for an upgrade or a direct flight on a different airline just wasn't in the cards, so we found ourselves, unhappily, booked on United.

The first leg we flew to Chicago, and then switched planes and went onto the tarmac onto a tiny commuter. To my mind, United is now tied with Skyways as the worst airline in the country. (Although United did manage to deliver our bag, which is more than Skyways ever did in the four times we were forced to endure their 'service.' They are nothing if not consistent, to lose our bag every single time, and once delivered it sopping wet after it sat on the runway in the rain for hours.) That said, everything about United sucks. I told Excy taking Greyhound would be preferable if there is ever a next time. Every employee, from the baggage check to the phone-it-in airline assistants, made it plain their customers were a pain in their ass, to be cattle-prod on and off the plane, and that the less they interacted with us all, the better. To add insult to injury, no wheelchair transfers were ever set up. In Chicago, we narrowly missed a connecting flight we had an hour to make, because we had to wait so long for a chair. I did not realize that Chicago O'Hare has one wheelchair, and thus it gets a lot of use.

The planes were packed to the gills, and they should have distributed packets of oil to slather ourselves with, so we could wedge into the tight aisles and tiny seats that only folks under 4 feet and 80 pounds would be comfortable in. I am not a 'big gal,' but even I had to practically be air-lifted in and out of my seat by Excy, and could only make it with the seat arm lifted out of the way. When the woman in front of me leaned her seat back, I remembered a friend describing an ill-fated airline trip he had taken where he felt he should be shampooing the person's hair in the seat in front of him, the guy was so in his lap. I literally could not use my drink table. But no matter, no snacks were distributed, and I could always hold the plastic cup in one hand and use the other to hold my book...

There were delays on all flights, due to people cramming their luggage in the overhead bins in sometimes vain attempts to avoid the $25 fee. Several squabbles broke out on planes between disgruntled passengers claiming 'their' turf from others, or even between the airline assistants and passengers about too-heavy bags...it was a quite interesting sociological experience, if I weren't so tired and scared that someone would be whipping out pepper spray. On one flight we sat on the ground forever waiting for the pilot to make an appearance. That was the same flight I had to be wheeled on the tarmac in freezing rain and then slowly climb the steep stairs. That was an especially miserable experience.

All in all, it was such crowded, cramped torture, it took two days both ways for the swelling in my ankle and foot to go down, and Excy felt a bit A-fib from sitting for hours in the origami positions we had to be folded into. As I said -- never again. I will find some other way to get us back on our beloved, direct flight by Southwest. Home never looked so good to me...

8 comments:

Ms. A said...

Your description makes a train sound mighty appealing. Except for the actual trip part, it sounds like the hospital part went better than you were expecting. That's a good thing. Now, get out that stress ball!

Peruby said...

Ugh! How horrible. Sending good wishes your way for better days.

Arkansas Patti said...

So glad that there has been no spreading and that the nub is still working.
That flight was a nightmare. Thank goodness I have a fear of flying. Seems I have good reason besides just phobia.
Ms A has a point. A train would give you walk around room and more comfort even if it takes longer.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Remember when air travel was considered glamerous? ha.
Glad there was some good news though to share.
Wishing you better and positive days.

e said...

I cringe when I think of air travel these days, and I'm sorry you both had to endure such a nightmare. I hope the remnant continues plugging along. Best to you both.

Retired English Teacher said...

I'm so grateful you are doing well. I can't imagine the ordeal you went through. As if the medical appointments weren't enough, the fight trauma makes it all seem just wrong that you would be subjected to such nonsense. I can't believe the airport had one wheelchair.

ReformingGeek said...

It seems like we are better prepared in life to handle big things. It's the little things that get s down.

On the other hand, air travel can be a big thing and not many people handle it all that well. Sorry to hear you had such a bad time with it.

Glad to hear the good health news, though.

Chris said...

So that's what that stress ball is for. Sadly, it seems all of what are apparently termed the "legacy airlines" offer an experience similar to yours. A recent study showed only Southwest and Jet Blue got positive marks for customer service, and the rest were abysmal.