Traveling via airplane is an experience that is hard to like when you’re 6-feet 3-inches tall and weigh about 270 pounds. Let’s face it, the seats are just not made for tall or people people.
When I first received by C-Braces, the thought of traveling with them did not come to mind–at the time, my head was a whirlwind of grasping the fact that these C-Braces were a part of me now. I was given a lot of information, like about charging them nightly, looking for sore sports and pressure points, and most importantly, needing to get into physical therapy ASAP to learn how to manipulate them.
It wasn’t long after April 3, 2013, that I was flying. In fact, it was in the first week of September 2013 that I was on a plane headed to Florida for a convention with Ottobock called AOPA. This is where I would make my mark FLYING WITH BILATERAL C-BRACES. After researching airline seating, I knew that I would be most comfortable in seats called “comfort coach”. I’m a big guy, now with an additional 3 inches per side because of the C-Braces, and these seats give you four to six inches of extra leg room. I went to the website of the airline I was flying with and researched flying while disabled. There was a lot of information but regarding flying with braces, the only thing I found was a medical card, so I printed and laminated it and took that with me.
The tickets were purchased and it was the morning of my flight out of JFK International airport. With my luggage rolling behind me, I made my way to the baggage-check area, and after getting rid of my bags, found a nearby magazine rack, bought something to read on the flight, and then grabbed some breakfast. As I walked up to the TSA check-point, I thought, “I can’t take my shoes off. How am I going to do this?” We have all heard stories about the TSA giving people a hard time at security. I continued forward and when I was next in line to where I thought I would be required to remove my sneakers, instead of doing so I explained to the lady that I wear full leg braces and that the sneakers are part of my C-Braces—do I still need to remove them? The nice lady responded, “No, you do not, sir.” I gave her a thank you and proceeded to put my things on the rack to be scanned.
The next gentleman asked me if I could stand in the body scanner for 5 to 10 seconds with my hands above my head to be scanned. I said I could, so the scanner went around me, and after that was done I stepped out. I thought, “That was easy.” Once through the scanner I was swabbed down with these swabs that rest in a hand-wand. They swabbed my feet, hands, and the C-Braces. The attendant said, “You’re good to go, sir.” So I collected my things and proceeded to the terminal area. Once I got to the gate, I thought to myself, “That was the easiest I’ve ever made it through a TSA check-point.” I NEVER EVEN HAD TO PULL OUT THE MEDICAL CARD THAT THE WEBSITE HAD SAID I NEEDED.
While waiting to board the plane, I looked at my ticket to find out when I would be boarding, and a very nice lady came to me and asked if I would need extra time boarding the plane. I thought, “Well, not really, if someone else needs it more then me.” The lady said, “We do this for all individuals who have disabilities.” So I said, “Yes, that would be nice, and I may require that extra time, this being my first time flying with C-Braces.” Before the lady left she said, “You know, sir, if your braces are required all the time, especially while flying you do have the right to board the plane early if you wish to.” I said, “Why thank you, I will have to remember that the next time.”
After I got seated on the plane in “comfort coach”, I realized that these were way better seats than regular coach seats—for me, anyway. A smaller-framed person using C-Braces might possibly get away with regular coach seating.
Sitting in an aisle seat when flying is key for me, especially now with the C-Braces. Never take an exit seat as they don’t recline and the armrests are in a fixed position and won’t flip up. So I thought flying was going to be a terrifying experience because of having something new to look out for, but in the end the C-Brace actually looked out for me. It was the most pleasurable flying experience I’ve had in a very long time, and since that first trip on a plane I’ve had numerous other experiences while using the C-Braces on the plane and all of them were equally pleasurable. Life is full of obstacles, but with determination we can conquer them, one at a time.