Traveling represents freedom from the day-to-day routine of life. For me, it has always been exciting, and is the candy that feeds my brain with fresh images, new smells, and stimulating thoughts.
As the reality of our situation set in over a year ago, the thing that made me the saddest was thinking I might not ever be able to travel far away ever again. Seeing Facebook pictures of other’s vacations was extremely painful. I was envious and jealous to see how much fun I was missing out on.
In the beginning stages after my husband was discharged from the hospital, we couldn't even leave the house. He had an electric wheelchair, but no van to transport him in. The only time he left the house was if he had a doctor’s appointment. We called the “County Connection”-the van service for people with disabilities-and they would pick us up and drop us off. Nothing was more humbling than the first day we rode in that van.
We tried several times to buy a van of our own, but each time there was something that was keeping us from pulling the trigger—in most instances, the height inside the vans that we were looking at were too short to accommodate my husband in his chair. The vans that did accommodate him were so big that it would have looked like we were going camping anytime we wanted to use the vehicle. Although we did a lot of searching, it just never worked out.
As the days went on, we were feeling more trapped, and we needed to find a way to allow us some level of enjoyment outside the home. We ordered a transport chair that you could collapse and throw into the trunk. One day my daughter and I decided to go for it- we were going to get my husband in the car by ourselves. The occupational therapists taught us the technique for car transfers, but we had never actually gone through the motions by ourselves. At this point in the recovery my husband wasn't able to give us any assistance whatsoever. He couldn't stand, or lean over, or move any part of his body necessary to help us in any meaningful way. We slid a transfer board under him, leaned him over, and with one person on the driver-side, were able to pull him into the car. It wasn't pretty, and we fumbled a bit, but we got the job done!
By mid-January of 2013, the kids were back in school and I couldn't rely on them to help me with the car transfers, so I decided I needed to make a transfer all by myself. It took a lot of strength and might. I don't know how I did it, but I did, and after I did it the first time, I felt so liberated! We finally had some level of freedom, albeit a small amount, but freedom nonetheless.
Slowly but surely, Vaughn's movement's and strength were coming back to the point where he was helping on our car and bed transfers. This past Christmas, he hit yet another milestone: he started to bear weight on his legs and get into the car without a transfer board.
When I look back, and anticipate this trip we have been thinking about for so long, I can truly say that we have come a long way! Now it's time for us to finally board that plane. I imagine we may run into a bump or two, but when you put your mind to it, anything is possible!!