a woman with parkinson's is shy about using an airport wheelchair

Stop Judging Me!

At last, after holding her breath with worry for half a year, Posy was on her way to Florida to visit her lovely, but very poorly daughter. Posy and her husband had landed in no-man's Land (Atlanta airport) and, so far, this had been one of their better trips. Posy had even experienced a moment of euphoria, vowing to her husband to improve her fitness with lots of exercise and great nutrition on their return!

Why, then, on disembarking from the plane, was Posy overcome with all manner of ills? Why did she feel all kinds of terrible? Was this vertigo? She was horribly dizzy. This was akin to morning sickness, only it couldn't be.

Airport assistance

Ahh ... what a relief it was to have pre-booked airport assistance! At first, Posy was horrified to be offered an actual wheelchair. Surely, someone else must need it more, she protested. "No, this is for you," insisted the lovely chap as he lifted one of the arm rests and gently instructed Posy to get in sideways. "Were there no motorized carts?" He replied that, no, those operated only in the domestic terminal.

Feeling a million years old, Posy was trying to decide between wanting to sob and rage at her unexpectedly fast decline or cheer with relief that she did not have to face walking, standing, and feeling anxious or weak.

With a final attempt not to look old, Posy removed her reading glasses and arranged them prettily in her hair, in the hope of looking like a ballerina with an injured foot. (Well, a girl has to have some dignity!)

Cloak of invisibility

Posy had, in her heyday, been accustomed to being noticed. She was mortified with this new image of herself, humbled and incarcerated in a wheelchair. For once, she was gratified to draw zero attention! Pedestrians rushing around her were too preoccupied with their own situations to stare at anyone.

To be honest, Posy was merely one of many, there being an astonishing number of people being pushed along! Posy was reminded of the movie "Wall-E," where everyone flew around in comfortable jet propelled armchairs! Accepting her invisibility as a bonus in this instance, Posy accepted her lot.

Confidence boost

Posy was offered several restroom breaks. Each stop proved to be a welcome hiatus. This was not only the opportunity to pee and stretch her malfunctioning legs, but more importantly, Posy was rendered inordinately happy to be told, "ou look so pretty/lovely," by the other clientele. Thus, each little visit improved her damaged self-confidence!

Also, on the connecting flight a fellow traveler flattered her. Gratified but wary, Posy immediately made it clear that across the aisle sat her snoozing husband. Away from the wheelchair, Posy was "herself" once more. Of course, Posy also felt a stab of sadness that human nature does not incline us to admire, let alone pay compliments to those who are wheelchair-bound.

Will I be a burden?

Posy was already frightened to acknowledge that one day, she might be incapacitated in this way. The unmentionable fear of being an unattractive burden now hovered ever heavier over our lass.

Posy had only once sat in a wheelchair before this moment. That was a somewhat more glorious occasion as hospital protocol had required a wheelchair for the discharge of all new mothers with their precious babies. Boom! And here she was, suddenly transported into the very different realm of disability. It was shocking.

Happily, she was distracted from her miserable musings by her helpful assistant. His running commentary on every upcoming procedure was interrupted only by his rather bossy shouts to the general public of, "Excuse me! Wheelchair coming through!"

Posy grimaced apologetically to each and every person inconvenienced by her passing through. This was not the kind of attention Posy relished! Was she imagining that occasionally, she noticed that someone's initial sympathy had morphed within a split second into irritation? And, worse, into dubious glances?

Posy feels like a fraud

Were people judging her? Did anyone think she was feigning illness? Why would anyone do that? For the convenience? For speed? For sympathy? Arrrgh! How much easier it would have been if she had had a cast on her leg to show the world why this apparently happy, healthy person was on the receiving end of such royal treatment!

Finally, holding her breath in shame at being so luxuriously seated and wishing a large hole would swallow her up, Posy was whisked past her fellow travelers and plonked right at the front, just second in line to be checked through immigration and passport control.

Overwhelming fatigue

How excruciating! But, how lovely not to have to stand in a queue! Posy had faded, drained by overwhelming fatigue. Determined to get through this ordeal, she desperately tried to hang on to the last vestiges of clarity. We must forgive her, therefore, for the following event:

First in this special line was a nice couple with a big dog. They, unlike our Posy, were ambulatory. (Posy would not have dreamt of wondering why they, too, were in this special queue. Well, certainly not out loud!!) Anyway, maybe the dog had special needs?!

The incredibly well-behaved, calm dog was wearing a distinctive harness. "How pretty!" thought Mr. Magoo (remember where her glasses were?!). Unfortunately, Posy did not notice the inscription on the red border, which apparently clearly announced: "MEDICAL ASSISTANCE DOG: Do not approach."

Posy, being Posy, was delighted to see a dog. She was already sorely missing her own sweet pup and just could not resist reaching out a tentative hand as she enquired, "Please may I ...?" Posy’s long-suffering husband watched, unable to intervene as his glasses-free, garrulous, over-friendly wife raced towards the precipice. One can imagine his gorgeous blue/green eyes inwardly rolling in despair.

Crisis averted

Posy’s brain, though over-tired and over-stimulated, managed to perceive unexpected hesitation ... coolness ... resistance. She promptly withdrew her hand. Phew! The dog’s owners revealed that the gentleman’s highly-trained poodle had just been in the cabin with them on the same international flight from London. All seemed forgiven.

Posy is judged

The final leg of Posy’s wheelchair ride took her from concourse Z to somewhere far, far away. As they boldly sped across the galaxies, Posy spent the countless aeons thanking her handler.

At last, Posy and her husband were left at the appropriate gate. Posy, needing to visit the little girl’s room (again), plodded the few yards as gracefully as she could, in spite of the dizziness and the pain in her foot. Emboldened with success, she also stopped next door to buy a coffee.

Posy is sad to report that, probably understandably, the dog’s family watched this activity with apparent disapproval. It has to be said, Posy emulated the fraudulent Andy from "Little Britain," when his carer (Lou) is not watching, he jumps out of his wheelchair and frolics around! Do watch it. It will make you laugh!

Yes, of course people judge. Just be true to yourself. They may disapprove if they do not have all the facts. Maybe next time, Posy will sport a harness saying: "MEDICAL CONDITION: Do not reproach!"

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