Rich Thomaselli | September 01, 2015 1:17 PM ET
First 'Leg' Of The Trip A Success
I lost my leg last October.
Don’t feel sorry. It was through sheer stupidity and outright hubris. A diabetic for the better part of my life, I knew the consequences of this silent disease but lived under a mantra of "that will never happen to me."
It happened to me.
So after going through rebab and then getting a prosthetic leg below the knee earlier this year, I knew the day would come when I'd have to take that "first trip." After all, I’m a travel writer who travels for a living. So I embarked this weekend leaving New York for Las Vegas – hell of a first trip, right? – to attend the 20th annual Boyd Aviation Summit. The event began with a workshop program on Sunday and continues in earnest Monday and Tuesday with several big-name speakers from the airline industry.
To say I approached the trip with trepidation would be an understatement. Frightened would be a better term, in all honesty. I wondered how I would navigate the airports, the hotels, and any other obstacles.
My early review? So far so good.
It began by leaving from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on JetBlue Airways. The airport is humongous, bigger than I remember. Of course, that was when I was walking it with two legs. In many ways I am still getting used to the prosthetic and I twice had to slow down and take a rest.
My biggest fear with having the prosthetic was getting through security. I had seen conflicting information while researching the issue on the web – you needed a doctor’s note, you didn’t need a doctor’s note; you had to take the prosthetic off, you didn’t have to take the prosthetic off; you were taken to a special area to be inspected, you weren’t taken to a special area.
In the end, slightly frustrated, I ended up grabbing a TSA agent at Terminal 5. Say what you want about the TSA, but they were great. Fabulous, really. I went through the regular security line but was allowed to keep my other sneaker on so that I was not off-balance by having to take it off.
Once through security I was given a hand pat-down, and the prosthetic and my hands were swabbed for explosives, but, again, the agents could not have been nicer or more accommodating.
I chose to pay the extra fee for what JetBlue calls “Even More,” which allowed me to have extra leg room without being in an exit row, and it was a wise decision. I was careful to select a seat on the aisle on the right side of the plane (looking forward, toward the cockpit) so that during a five-hour flight I could extend my prosthetic leg if need be. But there was no need; I had plenty of space to stretch out both legs comfortably without having to block the aisle.
The only issue I ran into upon arriving at McCarran Airport — besides the fact that it was literally still 100 degrees, on the button, at 9:46 at night — was trying to find an elevator down to baggage claim and ground transportation. I finally gave up and took the escalator down. I was extremely nervous but was able to do it while hauling a carry-on and a laptop.
Next worry? Was I going to be able to get in and out of the back seat of a taxi to the hotel? But, again, it was a needless worry as I got more and more used to the prosthetic.
But my biggest worry was being away from home, by myself without my wife and children, and being in a hotel room. My prosthetic is still temporary, so I don’t have a fancy one nor do I have one that is waterproof. I still need to utilize a wheelchair at times to get in and out of the shower, although I had been practicing stepping into the shower with the prosthetic on, removing it, then starting the water, taking a shower, and putting it back on when finished.
The wonderful folks at MGM Grand set me up with a handicapped-accessible room at The Delano and it is wonderful. The Delano is a luxury arm of the connected Mandalay Bay hotel-casino. My room was literally the first one off the elevator, so it was not a long walk. It has a roll-in shower, and although I did not bring a wheelchair nor request one here at the hotel, there is a desk chair in the room that has wheels that I use to get around both when I needed to shower and when I simply took the prosthetic off to give it a rest.
The shower is hand-held and there are grab-bars aplenty in both bathrooms.
So far, so good. I am sure other yet-to-be discovered obstacles will present themselves, but for now my fears have been put to rest.
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