I know it’s been a while since my last post so I have a lot of catching up to do. In terms of rehab and therapy, I’m still going to PT at A Step Ahead and practicing how to walk on the prosthesis. When I walk, I walk with crutches. We’ve tried stairs once, just so I could get a sense of what to expect and feel. It’s hard and scary. Walking up is a little painful, mainly because my left leg is still unable to fully bend and walking down is nerve-wrecking because I feel like I’m going to fall on my face. We’ve started to practice walking outside, also scary. I only have a couple of months to practice walking outside because once the snow starts to fall it’s probably going to be extremely difficult to do. So, I have to get myself motivated and practice, practice, practice.
Now onto the title of this blog…Journey to Seattle! Ben and I just came back from a trip to Seattle. Why’d we go to Seattle? Did I plan this trip to a place I’d never been to pre-accident? A place that I knew nothing of and didn’t know if it would be easy or difficult to get around in…of course not. I “won” a free round trip airfare for myself and Ben to anywhere that JetBlue flies to in the continental U.S. I never win anything. Yet another example of how losing my legs in a traumatic accident has brought about “good” things. I kid. So, how exactly did I come to win this flight?
A few months back, a lovely woman named Lisa Colombari, who works for JetBlue, sent me a donation and a hand-written note. I sent her a thank you email. Then, a couple of months later, when I was arranging my travel to LA, I reached out to Lisa to ask her some questions I had regarding traveling. The LA trip was my first time flying since the accident. I didn’t know what to expect. A month following that, she reached out to ask me about my LA trip. In that same note, she also asked if I would accept her nomination of me for JetBlue’s new program called Fly It Forward. JetBlue is launching a new program called Fly It Forward, a play off of Pay It Forward, that awards “deserving” people with a free roundtrip flight to anywhere in the continental U.S. that JetBlue flies to and she wanted to nominate me. I was humbled and honored, not only by her nomination, but that she remembered me. I told Ben about it and then emailed her back to tell her that we would gladly accept the nomination.
We were scheduled to fly out on Thursday, September 25th. On Tuesday, September 23rd, I met the “crew” and they filmed me during my PT appointment at A Step Ahead. The following day, they came over to our apartment to get some footage of me doing everyday things around the apartment and to interview both Ben and I. Our JFK to SEA flight on the 25th was departing at about 8:45A and the crew asked that we meet them at JFK at around 6:30A. Ugh. They wanted to film me arriving at the airport, checking-in, obtaining our boarding passes, etc. Being up and out of the house at 6:30 in the morning is its own struggle, but to be filmed too…Oy! My brother picked us up at around 6A and we headed out to JFK. Upon arriving at JFK, the entire crew was there and ready to “capture” me getting out of the car. So much pressure! After getting our boarding passes, going through security and getting my pat down (always lovely), we headed towards our gate in the JetBlue terminal. As Ben pushed me into the main rotunda of the JetBlue terminal, I see the camera guys and a woman standing in the middle with a bouquet of roses. What is going on?!? It was Lisa! She and I had never met before. It was a wonderful surprise. We hugged, talked about the process, and then she started to get emotional on me. I had to quickly stop her and tell her it was way to early in the morning to get all emotional and start crying. =) She introduced me to her lovely daughter and then we all walked to the gate together. We chatted for a bit, took some pictures, and then she and her daughter had to be on their way to catch their flight to Vermont. She is awesome and without her nomination, we wouldn’t have even been considered for the program. Thank You Lisa.
It was now time to board the plane. With crutches in tow, I was preparing myself to walk onto the plane. Did I forget to mention that this was my first time flying with my prosthesis and that I was going to attempt to walk onto the plane. No? Well, now you know! So, I wheeled myself down to the plane and once there, Ben lifted me and the chair up the little step from the jetway onto the plane itself. He handed me my crutches, I stood up from the chair, and walked myself over to my seat and sat down. Success. Whew! I was so anxious. Luckily we were in the first row. And not only did I successfully board the plane by walking to my seat, I also walked myself to the bathroom and back 3 times, and walked of the plane. And let me tell you, walking on prosthetics on a moving plane, with an unsteady floor, not easy.
And then another surprise. Once we were off the plane and in the airport, I was greeted with cheers, applause, and balloons by the gate agents, as well as the awaiting passengers who were waiting to board the flight that we had just deplaned from. How embarrassing. And naturally my first thought is, “Oh, am I the reason that’s keeping these people from getting on their flight?…Great.” The cycle just continues. I’ve moved on from from delaying subway passengers to now delaying plane passengers. So, after the cheering and balloons, I was presented with a personalized “Fly It Forward” luggage tag. So cute.
After all the pomp and circumstance, we left the airport to head over to the hotel to check-in, settle in, and then head over to Pike Place Market. I caught a fish! Twice! See pic below. Possible video later.
We wheeled around the Market for a bit, grabbed some snacks, checked out the vendors, and then headed across the street to grab some clam chowder. Side note – In case any of you are wondering…prosthetics, coupled with the wheelchair, rolling on cobblestone…NOT a good match. Every few “bumps” I had to pull both my feet back (with my hands) because they kept bouncing off the feet rests. As I was saying…chowder. Ben and I split a bowl from the famous, Pike Place Chowder. Delicious.
Ben chowing down
After grabbing the chowder, we made a quick stop at the original Starbucks and then headed back to the hotel. It had been a long day and we had to be up early for the next day’s activities.
The plan for Friday was to head to the Space Needle in the morning and then take the ferry over to Bainbridge Island in the afternoon. The Space Needle opens up at 10A but since we were filming, they let us in at 9A. Perks of having a film crew with you…a V.I.P tour of the Space Needle.
View from the observation deck of the Space Needle
Stood up to take this picture but needed Ben to hold me so I wouldn’t get blown away!
After getting our tour and learning all about the Needle, we had lunch with the crew at SkyCity, the rotating restaurant one level below the observation deck of the Needle.
Once we finished lunch, we took a little break before heading to the pier to board the ferry that takes you to Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge Island is an island/city off of Seattle that’s located in the Puget Sound. It’s a really lovely and quaint island. The crew conducted their final interview with me on the island. After we “wrapped”, Ben and I drove around and explored the island.
On Saturday, we met up with one of my friends who happened to be visiting from LA for the weekend. Such a nice coincidence! We met up for breakfast at a restaurant called Geraldine’s Counter in a part of Seattle called Columbia City. Another delicious meal. After breakfast, Ben and I went to check out the EMP (Experience Music Project) Museum. It’s a museum dedicated to popular culture. It was definitely a fun museum. See pics below!
My creeper of a husband. Stalk much?
That night, we decided to go to a seafood restaurant. We were in Seattle, after all. We had some amazing oysters at Shuckers restaurant in the Fairmont Hotel.
The plan for Sunday was to go check out the Museum of Flight. Prior to heading to the museum, we went for brunch at The Butcher and The Baker. The museum was awesome, but slightly overwhelming. So many planes all in one place. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do the Boeing tour portion of the museum. It wasn’t handicapped accessible. Boo. They also had a few planes displayed in an airfield across from the museum. Of these planes, a few were open to the public. However, I was unable to check these out also, as a long flight of stairs needed to be climbed first in order to board them. But, Ben got to check out the interior of a former Air Force One plane and a Concorde. I was able to check out the inside of a cut up old U.S. Airways plane. At least I got to do that…
The Butcher and The Baker
Ben deplaning Air Force One
On our last full day in Seattle, which happened to also be the only day where we got stuck with a full day of rain, we just took it easy. We slept in and decided to go for ramen for lunch. After lunch, we went back to Pike Place Market to do some souvenir shopping. That night, we met up with an old high school friend of mine who had moved out to Seattle earlier in the year to take a job with Microsoft for dinner. And with that dinner, our trip in Seattle was coming to an end.
We had a good time in Seattle and overall, getting around wasn’t too bad. As usual, I was very anxious and paranoid about traveling, but even more so because I had never even been to Seattle prior to losing my legs so I had no idea what to expect. What did I learn? It wasn’t as bad I was expecting. If I came across an “obstacle”, I conquered it…or at least tried my best to and if I didn’t, then I didn’t. But I at least I gave it a try. Traveling on my own right now? Impossible. Too many things to carry. Remember, I need both hands to wheel and/or walk (crutches). Hills in Seattle are not my friend, nor is the cobblestone. Rain? Messy and annoying, but at least my legs are waterproof. Hah. So, the most difficult part of the travel was probably schlepping the bags around. But once the bags were checked, we were ok. With each time, it gets easier…
Thanks JetBlue. Fly It Forward.