After relaxing in Florida, I returned to an STL that was in full Winter mode. Whee.
The first thing I noticed besides the cold in the jetway, was that the guy pushing my wheelchair was the same one who I’d had back in December! (I’d asked for a wheelchair then because I knew I’d be super tired and was concerned that my healing ankle might hurt from all the travel).
He recognized me and said ‘You teach English in China, right?’
Wow. I was so amazed that he remembered me! After he’d gotten my bags and was wheeling me to the exit, I saw a display: Nominate An Airport Employee. He was a lot friendlier than most of the wheelchair attendants I’d just met in the past few flights, and the fact that he recognized me was a plus, so I asked him to grab me a form.
The first couple of days I spent playing with my cat Greta and visiting with friends. On the third day I drove from Dad’s house by the airport to my friend T’s new apartment in Pacific, MO. It took me about 45 minutes. When I got there we had a good time catching up and then T suggested that we go out and enjoy nature since the weather had warmed up. Great! She said she’d take me to her favorite spot.
She drove us a short distance and then we were at a nice park right on the Meramec River. Even though most of the trees were still bare, it had a nice calm feeling. We walked over to the boat ramp and then down to the river itself. It was quiet and peaceful.
We decided to walk along the shore and I walked carefully among the rocks. I’ve been navigating the outdoors in Missouri since I was little and my Granddad would take me fishing in the Ozarks. We walked for a bit and then decided to head back. We were both hungry and T wanted to take me to meet her horse. We walked along the same bit of shoreline, but, the small area of mud we’d crossed the first time seemed less firm. T crossed ok, so I c a r e f u l l y stepped onto the 3 foot wide swath of mud . . . .
My first thought was not to fall into the river. So, when my left foot went out from under me, sliding quickly down towards the water, I must have pulled back. Because, my right foot was also sliding down (to the left) in the mud and the next thing I felt was an explosion of intense pain in my right foot as I attempted to stand. I crumpled down into the mud.
T tried to help me stand but I was almost stuck in the mud so I just crawled slowly to the rocks. There was a larger rock that I managed to sit on, while T searched for a stick to help me stand up. It took a few tries, because I couldn’t put any weight on my foot. I knew that I had to at least get to the boat ramp to get out of there, so with T supporting me I managed to limp that far.
T got the car and drove to the bottom of the boat ramp. I carefully got in and we left the nice quiet park.
Pacific is not very big. There aren’t many shops. T pulled into the first place that looked like it would have something useful – a dollar store. She ran in and got me some acetaminophen, an elastic bandage, and small bottle of pain relieving rub (lidocaine). I took the acetaminophen right away.
The next issue was that I needed to use the toilet and there are steps up into T’s building. I was pretty sure I couldn’t climb any steps! There was a Subway sandwich shop a few blocks away that we’d stopped at earlier. (To check if they had gluten free bread. They didn’t.) It’s located in a strip mall, so there was just the one step up onto the curb. I managed to hobble inside and then grabbed the first chair I saw, which is used to lean on. I slid the chair across the restaurant and made it to the toilet.
When I got out, the manager had made me a bag of ice for my ankle. T had gotten us some drinks and chips, so I was able to rest a bit before we got back into her car.
T wasn’t going to let me try driving home, but she still wanted me to meet her horse. I said I still wanted to do that, so she drove over to the stable and parked up close to the paddock so that I could see him. She got out to do a few chores and I used the time to call the travel insurance company to find out what I needed to do. They told me to keep all my receipts and they would send me the forms to submit them for reimbursement. I was really glad I’d bought the insurance! I had thought that I might have a weather delay because of it being Winter, but luckily the insurance also covered medical mishap.
After T finished with her horse, we set out for my house. Of course it was the beginning of rush hour, so traffic only got worse the further we went. T had to make a stop to pick up something for work, and then we finally made it to my house. The first thing I wanted was to take a shower! I had caked on mud all over my pants. Afterwards I realized how hungry I was! We’d never gotten to eat lunch and it was 12 hours since I’d had my breakfast. I didn’t feel like trying to fix anything since I was exhausted (and it would mean standing).
Then I got an idea – my brother L was at his friend’s house in St. Charles, which is right across the highway from the Streets of St. Charles shopping area. And there is a Dewey’s Pizza there, which has GF crust! I called him and asked him to pick me up a pizza on his way home, then called Dewey’s and ordered my favorite: Porky Fig. I paid for it with my credit card so L would only have to grab it and go.
The next day T drove into the city of St. Louis to pick up our friend and former co-worker H. She then drove back to Pacific, where they got my car and drove it to my house near the airport. After a quick visit, T drove H back to the city, and then home to Pacific. #oldfriendsarebestfriends
The rest of my visit consisted of a few doctor’s appointments, interspersed with friends coming to get me for lunch or dinner or a movie. (We saw Black Panther the first day and the first showtime!)
I did get an xray and was told I had a sprain. My doctor referred me to a specialist and I was given a ‘boot’ to wear. He said I could use whatever I was most comfortable with: cane, walker, or crutches; but he didn’t have those at his office. So I had to go to Walmart to buy my crutches.
I managed to spend a lot of time icing my foot and keeping it elevated sitting in my old recliner, with Greta keeping me company.
But, I still had to fly back to China ……
STL > DFW > PEK > LZH
I had been so preoccupied with doctor visits, trying to coordinate meeting my friends, trying to shop for the things I wanted to bring back with me that I didn’t really think about the logistics of traveling with crutches and what is essentially a walking cast.
I knew I had a window seat for my last flight and there’s no way I could squeeze past two seats to get to the window on my Air China flight. It took most of the last weekend to find the right person at American Airlines who could help me. I was hoping to get a medical upgrade, but at the minimum I needed seats where I could elevate my foot. The specialist had warned me that I was at risk for blood clots on the 15 hour flight from DFW to PEK. I already had an aisle seat, but I knew there was no room to raise my leg.
I tried to use my frequent flier points (after all, I’d gone round trip to China twice!), but I didn’t have enough. I asked how much an upgrade would cost, but that was $2000!! Even if I could get the insurance company to pay for it, I didn’t have that much cash or credit to buy it.
Both my travel agent and I kept trying, and I finally spoke with someone who understood that yes my current seat does recline, but I’m not worried about my back being lower – I need my foot to be higher. Her name was Margarita, and she not only got me moved to the bulkhead aisle seat on the 15 hour flight, but also on the first leg as well.
She ordered wheelchairs for me, which was a good thing, because the first flight arrived late and I had less than an hour to get to another concourse at DFW for my flight to Beijing. That poor guy had to run when we heard the announcement ‘Final Boarding Call for Flight xxx to Beijing’. But he got me onboard in time!