Wednesday, January 02, 2008

N-Y-C-U Later

Sadly, I've not posted here for the last month - but that's because I've been busy and distracted. I'll catch you up.

NWA - Service? No way!
I returned to NYC on 13 November, checked into my hotel, and took a cab to HSS for my appointment with Dr. Su. The NWA flight was OK - better getting folks off and on. But the flight attendant refused to help me with my bag (lifting or finding a place for it). This really pissed me off, especially when she told me I should have checked it in. Yeah - right - check in my laptop. What happened to airline service?? NWA should be ashamed of their lack of service for disabled people.

I was fortunate to have 2 good cabbies both from Laguardia airport and my hotel. And my hotel had a surprise in the form of a first floor room, actually cheaper than the one I originally reserved, so I could crutch around more easily.

Last dance with the Doc
I was able to get to HSS around 10am - quite a bit earlier than I expected. The cabbie that took me there even knew the hospital from the address. (That, my friends, is a rarity in NYC.) My doctor's office was not expecting me until later, but I was able to get in anyway. Unfortunately, Dr. Su was not available so I was checked by his PA, Blair, a nice woman that was around for all my previous visits. Blair found no complications and was satisfied with my recovery. I was using only one crutch the whole time, and even showed her I could ambulate easily with no crutch. She showed me a new series of exercises/stretches for 1month+ postop folks. I was a bit disappointed that they were quite difficult - much harder than the ones I was doing for PT. One involves lifting both knees to your chest, and lowering the operated leg flat for a stretch. Another has you sitting, and slowly lifting/pulling your operated leg up and across your good leg with the eventual goal being able to sit cross-legged.

The other thing I learned was how to inject myself with Lovenox. Dr. Su gave me a prescription for this earlier, but I didn't need to fill it until I had a long flight. Lovenox is another blood thinner, and I picked up the self injectors from the pharmacy before I came to the office on this visit. I was unsure how to inject these (but not squeamish), and surprisingly the pharmacist didn't give detailed instructions. Blair had a nurse in the office pool show me the procedure - which involves pinching a fold of your belly skin and injecting subcutaneously. I have a nice layer of insulation, so no problem. The only other issue was the timing of injecting. The prescription said before the flight, but it was unlikely that I could take them past the security check. So, we concluded I should inject one late at night and the other before I left the hotel.
For parting gifts, I got a plastic card with an explanation (and illustration) of my implant, plus a PT prescription. I've been told the card won't really help at airports with security, but it's definitely a conversation piece so far at parties.

Walking Too Much
After goodbyes, I decided to treat myself to some good java at a coffee shop near HSS (forgot the name) that I enjoyed previously. Although I was a bit reluctant not to leave without seeing Dr. Su, I was getting very antsy and decided I would enjoy the rest of my day the best I could. After coffee, I started walking south, hoping to catch some Manhattan sites and maybe an electronics store in a couple blocks before taking a cab to the hotel. Well, I couldn't find what I wanted and ended up walking forever - like 15 blocks. One of the hardest things for me at that time was realizing that I had limits, and that I shouldn't push it. At one point, even walking on one crutch was decidedly painful on my left arm and other parts of my body were also sore. I also felt a bit cold. So, I found a place to eat where I could sit down relatively undisturbed (another rarity in NYC) and after an excellent deli meal I was invigorated. I found that I was actually close to the Apple store, and walked a couple more blocks - then treated myself to a case for my iPod Touch. I caught a cab back to the hotel, where I promptly fell asleep for 2.5 hours.

Although my Manhattan hike was overly ambitious, around 5pm I went out and walked again several blocks. I was starving for dinner, and worried about getting gifts for folks back home (a Japanese tradition that adds another headache for travelers). I found a great video game store, where I was able to pick up a new Wii game for a friend of mine, then after walking way too far, settled on getting organic chocolates from a Whole Foods market near NYU. I also bought my dinner there - way too much food. I was struck by how difficult it was to navigate around the store with one crutch on a crowded evening. It was really annoying, frustrating, and embarrassing. Yes, I had had enough of NYC. And I slept really well that night with the thought that I would be leaving soon.

Manhattan Transfer
I used a private car service (Dial 7) to get to JFK airport the next day. I highly recommend it to anyone that is leery of using cabs or has mobility issues. You have to make a reservation in advance (a day or more is best), and they actually call you when they arrive. And they arrive on time, and get you there on time. Injecting myself was no big deal, just a bit uncomfortable. Even if I didn't get all of the second injection in, I knew it would be OK. The Lovenox was a precaution, and given that I was mobile enough, the risk of blood clots was pretty low. I only wondered what the hotel cleaning folks thought when they saw the empty syringes in the wastebasket.

At JFK, I used curb-side check-in again. I was a bit upset there wasn't a wheel chair ready for me, but I was early enough that it wasn't a big deal. Doing the security check from a wheel chair really saved a lot of wear and tear on my hip (and crutch arms), plus gets you through quickly. Although my mother capriciously used this to avoid getting lost in airports (she is still quite ambulatory), if you are on crutches from something like hip replacement - take advantage of it. The wheel-chair attendant was great: very helpful and quick. The security check was more involved than that at Laguardia or Detroit airports, but the security folks did their jobs well, and relatively efficiently. My implant didn't seem to set any detectors off that I could tell, but I wasn't asked to walk through the detector - just patted down.

Getting on the plane was easy, and the staff kindly switched me to an open window seat row with lots of foot room. The American Airlines crew was mostly American, but they were very helpful - offering to get my crutches whenever I needed them, because they couldn't be stored near my seat. Like the way over, this was a 12-13 hour non-stop flight, and despite having 3 seats I was never really comfortable and couldn't sleep well. The inflight movie selections were impressive and repeated (several movies, several channels), but I still felt restless. My hobby was going to the bathroom, which I seemed to have to do a lot. Despite the empty seats in our plane, there was rarely a time I could get an open bathroom when I needed it. Plus, other passengers weren't thrilled to see my crutch. Aisle space was quite narrow, and although I tried to be careful - I put the crutch on someone's foot a couple times. Oh well.

Arrival in Japan was great, as the airline folks really went out of their way to help me get out of the plane quickly, to an express desk for immigration (actually the office itself) and customs. One guy did it all, even pulling my bags along. And I didn't even have to tip him - it's not a custom in Japan. :-)

But the best part of arrival at Narita airport was the reunion with my nearly 1 year-old daughter. I hadn't seen her for a month and was afraid she had forgotten me. It was a little awkward at first, and she was afraid of me. But she warmed up in a few hours. And I was very thankful that I could actually make it back for her first birthday.

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