More Somersaults in the Air: the fun of flying with POTS and ME/CFS Part 2

7 Sep
Approaching Landing, flying over the Thames River. Photo by Jess B

Approaching Landing, flying over the Thames River. Photo by Jess B

This post continues the tale of when Me, Mr B and my ME/CFS and POTS took to the skies. If you missed part 1 read it here.

Of course wonderful things never last forever and our holiday had to end and we had to fly home.

The departure time of our flight home had been changed from early afternoon to 7.30 pm. This was less than helpful. We had specifically stayed an extra night in France in order to get a flight time that wasn’t inhospitable to ME/CFS. Not too early in the morning when my pain levels are always worse or too late when my fatigue would be worse. Air France had other ideas. So by the time it got to check in time at the airport Mr B and I and our trusty travel companions ME/CFS and POTS had already had a long day of basically killing time before our flight. I’d rested as much as I could but I was still exhausted by early evening. The lovely owners of the B&B that we had stayed at ( Le Manoir de Laumeil if you’re ever in the area look it up) kindly allowed us to use their facilities after room check out time which was a life saver. Without their comfy sofas and shaded sun loungers to relax on I would have been in a whole world of trouble. As it was my trouble was bad enough.

Brive airport has been open for two years but still the security staff seemed highly bemused and perplexed by a girl in a wheelchair and how to get her through the body scanner. There was lots of muttering and looks cast in our direction. After we’d finally successfully traversed security, we then had passport control to contend with. At a ‘normal’ airport this takes a matter of seconds, a quick cursory glance at the picture in your passport compared with an even quicker glance at your face usually sees you moved on through to departures. And to give Brive Customs Officers their due, this is what they did…after 20 minutes of us waiting trapped between security and passport control whilst the two customs officer went off outside for a fag break. Yes really. No replacement officer so we just got to wait, not having a clue what was going on. Thank goodness I had my wheelchair to sit in.

Le Manoir du Laumeil B&B. Photo by Jess B.

Le Manoir du Laumeil B&B. Photo by Jess B.

Once that hurdle was passed and we made it through to the cast iron shed type room that Brive airport calls the departure lounge. A cafe? Shops? You’ve got to be kidding, a vending machine was the only option for drinks never mind food.  Needless to say all the waiting around did nothing for my fatigue and pain, both reaching peak levels by the time boarding commenced. I’ve flown a few times now since being ill and requiring wheelchair assistance has always previously meant that me and my little entourage of chronic illnesses and Mr B of course, have got to board the plane first. This means no queuing up the airplane steps, lots of time for my wheelchair to be safely stowed before take off, time to get settled on the plane, for me to rest before take off etc. Gotta love the little Frenchies, we were kept back and were literally the last people to board the flight. We were sat in the departure lounge waiting and waiting, not allowed to cross the 100 yards (max) of tarmac between the departure gate and the plane until an ‘assistant’ came to push me. I’m sure there is some health and safety law that dictated this action but seriously Mr B could easily have pushed me and given we were the only flight to depart Brive airport that day (yes really) I think we could have safely made it to the plane without getting run down by an errant plane or loading vehicle. And Mr B would probably not have nearly tipped me out as the assistant tried to do as we crossed the ridge onto the runway. But no we just got to wait. With no one telling us what was really going on. I was incredibly fatigued by this point and the stress of waiting was making things much worse. Of course we didn’t get left behind but little misses ME/CFS and POTS did not know that and my anxiety, pain and fatigue were ramping up and up.

I was so exhausted by the time I made it into my seat on the plane I was in tears. My body hurt so much. And if I thought ME/CFS and POTS misbehaved on the outbound flight well, it was nothing compared to their antics on the flight home. As we taxied and took off into the air I thought my head was going to explode the pressure inside it seemed so great. Again wave after wave of nausea hit me as the insides of my head did somersaults as if it was in an Olympic gymnastics display going for gold. Tears streamed down my face as I tried to breathe deeply and remain (haha reclaim more like) calm. There was a little girl sat across the aisle from us who kept looking at me, as if to say why is that grown up lady crying? My thoughts exactly. Not a high (pun in tended) point of my life.

On the Ground, Phew! Photo by Jess B.

On the Ground, Phew! Photo by Jess B.

Once we were airborne things settled down for me. Though the heavy leg and ankle pain continued full throttle. But of course then came our descent and landing. Don’t think I need to elaborate on how fun that was. I don’t think I’ve ever been so pleased to get off an airplane before.

I really don’t want to put anyone off flying because of my experiences. The boost I got from going on holiday made the pain of the flights worth it. And when I flew to the USA back in April it was so much better and easier on me. Yes my body hurt and I was very fatigued but there was no dizziness, 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 POTS symptoms that acted up so much, and not ME/CFS, that made my flights to and from France so much fun. That’s my theory anyway.

POTS is still pretty new to me and whilst I’ve got a barrage of strategies to cope with ME/CFS and travel – which I will share in my next post, so stay tuned for that – POTS is still a bit (okay a lot) of an unknown quantity. I’m hoping my upcoming specialist appointment will give me some answers.

If you missed part 1 of my tale of flying with POTS and ME/CFS read it here.

Have you flown with POTS, ME/CFS or another chronic illness? What’s your experience of wheelchair assistance at airports?


11 Responses to “More Somersaults in the Air: the fun of flying with POTS and ME/CFS Part 2”

  1. 1brelliott1 September 7, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    Good Saturday morning Peeps,

    Yes, flying is a significantly difficult ordeal to unfold as we desperately try describing it to others. I finally wised up the last time I flew and was amazed at how much energy I saved, by using a wheelchair, within the timeframe of leaving home for the flight, down to getting to my destination where my bedroom awaited my arrival with open arms.

    Not only did my assistant, who waited at the door for me with a little sign stating my name, wheel me about to where I needed to stop, but all the way through a separate line for handicaps which whipped me in and out of the body check in minutes. I was astonished with the kindness and cooperation afforded me by the US Airways, formerly known as Northwest Airlines.

    I was left to shift for myself once all checking in was accomplished, now waiting for over an hour to start boarding. However, once again, I was respectfully and courteously delivered to the door of the plane where I could walk on my own to my assigned seat. My son delivered me to the car with my bags when reaching my destination, leaving the cold and snow of Minnesota behind me in January to bask in the warmth of the desert
    Southwest. My return trip was much the same as my initial flying experience, using a wheelchair and assistant from the airlines.

    I will never fly again without using the wheelchair. It asked while I was making my travel arrangements if I needed a wheelchair so they were all prepared for me. Kudos to US Airways for prompt and courteous customer service.

    While traveling affects everybody with jet lag and being such a long day from the awakening time to hitting the bed again for the night, it is indeed a very long day and I know I have to save every ounce of my minimal energy to rebuild it over the first few days.

    My trip to the ER on my third night there was another situation indeed. My ambulance ride and ER visit along with a three day stay is a story to be told at a later date.

    Kudos to you, Journey, for getting yourself through a very difficult day. My sentiments are with you there. Gentle Hugs! BE

    • myjourneythrume September 7, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      Thanks BE. Good Saturday to you too. I’ve used a wheelchair every time I’ve flown since getting sick and would recommend everyone do the same. Flying is hard enough with chronic illness why not take a load off, make it that bit easier by using a wheelchair. You’re so right, it is THE thing to do when flying. I too have been impressed by airport wheelchair assistant customer service, really good and mostly couldn’t do enough to help. Thanks so much for reading and comment BE. My next post gives my top tips for flying with ME/CFS and using a wheelchair is high on that list. Have a fab weekend.

  2. 1brelliott1 September 7, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    That’s a ditto right back at ya girlfriend!

    • myjourneythrume September 7, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

      Thanks 🙂

      • BONNIE JOHNSON September 8, 2013 at 8:37 am #


      • myjourneythrume September 10, 2013 at 9:58 am #

        Thanks, glad I make you smile! I prefer the witty, laugh at myself attitude, it’s that or crying most of the time! Wheelchairs are the way forward.

  3. Tanya September 8, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    I’ve flown a couple of times since having M.E. and it was pretty unpleasant. I didn’t use a wheelchair. I decided that if we just arrived really early, we’d have plenty of time for me to walk slowly and rest a lot. That side of things was alright, although exhausting. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my husband being my human mobility aid though!

    The worst bit was the massive discomfort on the plane. I’m only 5ft 3in and don’t take up much space but it was SO cramped that I was in absolute agony by the time we got off the plane (after a flight of only an hour, last time). I dread to think how awful it would be for someone taller than me trying to cope with their aching body being squished into a tiny seat!

    • BONNIE JOHNSON September 8, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

      5’8”–WITH VERY LONG LEGS!!!

      • myjourneythrume September 10, 2013 at 10:03 am #

        Yes, being short ( 5ft 3) has it’s advantages!

    • myjourneythrume September 10, 2013 at 10:00 am #

      I’m only 5ft 3 too and I know what you mean about the pain from being cramped up. The worst thing for me was not being able to have my legs properly elevated and so the lower legs and ankle pain was awful. I’d consider upgrading the next time I fly so I get more leg room and space tho would need to win the lottery first!


  1. Mashed, puréed, blended or blitzed, give me baby food and my body is happy | my journey thru M.E. - September 11, 2013

    […] week with a real spike in my ME/CFS symptoms which was to be expected what with the effort of the travel home  but the red meat will not have helped and may well have been a significant contributing factor to […]

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