Somersaults in the Air: the fun of flying with POTS and ME/CFS Part 1

5 Sep
High above the clouds. Photo by Jess B.

High above the clouds. Photo by Jess B.

As regular readers of my blog will know I recently went on holiday to France with Mr B and my family.

Whilst my parents and sister took the ferry and drove down across France to reach our holiday destination, Mr B and I flew from London City, a small airport just 15 minutes by car from our flat. Long car journeys + ME/CFS = one big fat ugly mess and as I’d flown earlier in the year, on a much longer transatlantic flight and not suffered too much during the actual flight, flying to France  was our much preferred option.

We thought that with London City being so close to home and such a small airport it would be fairly easy (all things being relative) on me and my ME/CFS. We took my wheelchair which was a huge help saving my little legs and depleted energy reserves for more fun holiday pursuits. Mr B pushed me – think comedy of him pushing me and trying to manoeuvre our two suitcases into the airport terminal, wide load is a fitting description as we struggled to get inside! But we made it, checked in and all was going smoothly. Once we were inside the terminal we were happily pounced on by wheelchair assistance people who took us through security (no standing in queues for us) through to departures. Come boarding time another helpful assistant appeared as if from nowhere and took us through a maze of ‘off stage’ corridors down to a waiting area separate from the general mellay of other travellers waiting to board out flight. We were the first to board the flight, me being pushed across the tarmac by our kind assistant who then safely stowed my wheelchair in the hold.

So far so good. London City airport is fab for wheelchair assistance, literally couldn’t fault them.

It all went a bit pear shaped once we were on the flight, or to be more precise once we started to taxi and lift off into the air. At this point little miss ME/CFS, or I think more accurately little miss POTS went into a rage. She didn’t like the take off experience and as a result neither did I. I was wearing my (uber sexy) compression stockings and had my feet propped up on my bag under the seat in front – lucky I have short legs – so the leg pain wasn’t too bad. What was bad was the goings on in my head. Light-headed and dizzy doesn’t begin to describe it. I felt extremely nauseous and as if my brain and contents of my skull were doing somersaults inside my head. It felt like my brain was lifting up and suddenly dropping back down. You know that feeling that happens in your stomach when you go over a drop or bump in the road too fast, you lose your stomach for a second. Yes well that was happening inside my head. Repeatedly. Over and over again as we ascended into the sky. Not at all nice.

Approaching land, time to descend. Photo by Jess B.

Approaching land, time to descend. Photo by Jess B.

Once we were up in the air high above the clouds at a stable height the somersaults calmed down and I was able to pop my headphones on and listen to a relaxation track for the rest of the short (1 hr 30 mins) flight.

But what goes up must come down…the descent was equally fun filled for me. Each drop in height as we descended into Brive airport resulted in me feeling like my head was going to lift off momentarily and then drop heavily back down on to my neck. The feeling of pressure on top of me made it exhausting and painful to keep my neck and shoulders upright. I just wanted to curl forwards into a ball and land as quickly as possible.

It’s a stretch to call Brive airport an airport. It is tiny. More like a large shed which just happens to have a strip of tarmac outside where the odd plane lands. But their wheelchair assistance was great met us at the bottom of the plane steps and took us through immigration. Sadly French assistants are more polite / less pushy than their British counterparts and we didn’t jump the queue (I was exhausted by this point so really would have liked to have done) but they located my own wheelchair (with some rudimentary French on my part ‘ou est ma chaise roullante’… a year spent living in Paris learning French during my gap year put to good use) and we were off on our holidays.

To Be Continued… I will talk about our flight home in my next post so stay tuned for more fun antics in the air with ME/CFS and POTS.

If you want to read about our wonderful holiday in France you can do so here, here and here.

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14 Responses to “Somersaults in the Air: the fun of flying with POTS and ME/CFS Part 1”

  1. currankentucky September 5, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    Jeepers, I would have been dreading the return flight for the remainder of the holiday. My head does that wanting to explode thing at normal altitude, can’t imagine the pain on a plane. You are one brave lady! Guts to you!

    • myjourneythrume September 5, 2013 at 11:04 am #

      Some call it brave….some may call it stupid….

      • currankentucky September 5, 2013 at 11:12 am #

        With fine lines like that, id always err on the side of brave!! 🙂

  2. averyfranksenior September 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    Interesting on the planning you must have to do before any such flight. And the dizziness on take off sounds really scary. I admire your resilience, and the top photo is stunning. Cannot wait to read the next instalment of your holiday in the sun. Not quite like Paul Temple thriller with the racy music, but not far off. (Sorry you are far too y oung to know what I am talking about with PT.) Do keep going.

    • myjourneythrume September 6, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Thank you Frank Senior. You hit the nail right on the head, planning is key. I’m writing a post about my tips for flying as we speak and planning comes up high on that list. Afraid to say I am too young to know PT but my Dad speaks highly of him!

  3. marcy westerling September 5, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    Ohh lala!

  4. Lindsay September 7, 2013 at 3:31 am #

    ugh, my last flight experience was very similar. i can absolutely relate to the sommersaults in the head – that’s how it was for me! i got so dizzy i couldn’t tell which way was up.

    hoping your return flight was much better!

    • myjourneythrume September 7, 2013 at 8:44 am #

      I was thinking about you as I was writing my post, I remembered reading your post about your last flight. Sadly the return flight was worse but hey, at least I got to go on holiday!

      • Lindsay September 8, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

        sorry to hear the return was worse, but good for you for having such a positive attitude about it! hope you at least enjoyed your holiday!

      • myjourneythrume September 10, 2013 at 10:01 am #

        I did have a great holiday so the flight trauma was well worth it. No pain no gain as they say!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] somersaults or nausea. A walk in the park compared to the flights I’ve described in this and my last post. But it was only after that trip in April that I developed significant POTS symptoms. And it was my […]

  2. Flying with ME/CFS: My Top Tips | my journey thru M.E. - September 9, 2013

    […] relived my flying experiences in my last two posts (read them here and here) you may think I would recommend not flying if you have ME/CFS and / or […]

  3. My Journey Thru M.E. Part 3: 2013 Turning the Corner | my journey thru M.E. - December 5, 2014

    […] week family holiday in the South of France. Mr B and I flew out and I experienced the worst dizziness and nausea during take-off and landing than I’d ever felt before. My two weeks relaxing holiday was spent in a major ME/CFS […]

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