Friday, November 30, 2012

# 138 - Road Trip Treasures and Tribulations

For so many years I enjoyed car trips. Getting in the car and heading toward a destination, whether it was to visit family or to go on a vacation, I always enjoyed the sights along the way that can only come from traveling on the road. However, my body being glued together, clipped together, plated together, three ribs removed and part of me patched back together with a tissue transplant has combined to make travel, in a vehicle, a torturous process.

My mind still has the same old excitement building with anticipation of taking a road trip, but I am now being mentally assaulted with anxiety as a road trip approaches because my body becomes a mass of pain and struggle as each vibration from the road moves through parts of me that are no longer "me."

I can see that my body can endure approximately two hours on the road, and then it is feeling the impact of the road trip, which is now a great hardship on my body.

This has been devastating to me because I have always loved driving and going places by highway. Even more upsetting, my daughters each live more than two hours one-way from my current home.

One consideration I've been making, lately, is that a truck is not the best form of transportation for my particular difficulties. Since my upper spine has been reconstructed, and is, essentially, in existence due to fused cadaver bone and double-sided hardware with screws and bolts, any road vibration or movement, especially in a truck, will naturally travel to the highest point and one little bump, in a truck, follows the natural course of motion which is not good for the neck area.

There goes my dream of wanting to buy a Land Cruiser! This is another area of shifting changes requiring adaptation to limitations. And yes, I despise the word "limitation." However, that word is simply a vocabulary description of what all of us must confront, in one way or another, sooner or later. Life always has limitations and boundaries that we must face.

A lower profile vehicle with a cushioned shock system is the combination I need to be able to travel, realistically. I had to laugh when thinking about this because I realize this is the reason many people with painful body-issues drive a Buick! Regardless, a truck, no matter how cushioned, is not going to work for my body during long distant travel that will be over two hours. For others, a truck will work, but for my cervical spine, it's a disaster. This fact is not a personal choice, it's a forced reality-check that I must confront.

That being said, I made the road trip from the Houston area to San Marcus as a passenger this week to witness my youngest daughter receiving her class ring at Texas State University. The drive was at least three hours, one-way, and this was a major challenge for my body to endure in a truck driven by my husband. But, I was thrilled to still be able to make it and to see such beautiful moments in life!

With my youngest daughter who now has her university ring!

My daughter, Stefie, was adorable as her 90-pound petite frame crossed in front of the stage area to get her ring and to dip it into the waterfall that held water from the San Marcus River that runs into the Guadelupe river. That is the tradition, to dip the ring in the river waters that play such a massive part of this university's history.

I loved it!

Her achievement is a beautiful time for me, as a mother. I have now witnessed both of my daughters getting their class rings for their university studies and this has been a huge blessing. I sit back and know that something went right for my two daughters to have had the drive, the ability, the support, and the commitment to earn their four-year degrees in such a strict amount of time.

We took our growing family out to dinner to celebrate our youngest getting her class ring, and it was wonderful that she got to be the reason for the celebration; it was her turn to shine. She earned this moment and a parent is always very proud to share such times in the life of their adult child.

Stefie and her Aunt Normandy, both
showing their Texas State rings! A family
tradition that's very special!
The following day, back on the road, I hoped to make it home without any major problems. About two hours into the trip, in a rush of prickling sensation, I completely lost feeling to both of my hands and then, as I stared at my hands and the weird numbness, it traveled up to my forearms. The numbness was a shocking experience because it did not happen gradually, it occurred with suddenness. I was sitting up, alert, moving around in my seat, listening to good music, my arms in frequent motion for this or that, so it didn't make sense. However, as the numbness rushed to my fingers and moved upward with haste, I begin to shift around, I leaned forward, stretched and did everything I could to get feeling back in my arms; however, the numbness kept increasing.

I shook my arms and squeezed my hands together while looking at them as if they were foreign attachments to my body. It was not a good feeling. Unlike impinged blood flow that can be returned with an adjustment of our limbs, this numbness remained for nearly 45 minutes. I could still move my hands and fingers, but they were in a state of being "asleep" in a flash and remained in this manner for an extended period of time. All I can think is that the spinal cord impingement that I still live with in my cervical spine had been jostled a bit too much, and I paid a price.

My spine issues go well beyond experiencing back pain, certain situations cause my spine to be under strain with the spinal cord still being impacted by direct impingement, so this affects the functioning of my body. It's not pleasant. And this, of course, creates issues with my Addison's disease. Many people with Addison's disease are dealing with additional problems that make managing the Addison's a difficult prospect. However, as a precaution, I did have my auto-blood pressure cuff in my purse to help me prevent an Addison's crash.

I can tell anyone with Addison's disease that a wrist blood pressure cuff is probably one of your best defense mechanisms to combat plummeting vitals that are often difficult to measure, until we are feeling the side-effects of fading vitals due to sudden blood pressure dips. Even with stress doses of HC taken while traveling, I still have trouble balancing my condition. It's a challenge.

I've heard many fellow Addisonians discuss travel by plane being just as difficult, if not more difficult, and often shocking, by the impact traveling by air has on their body. It appears that flying requires hydration to be a super-priority for those with Addison's. Also, a person's body endures more hardship with jet-lag negatively impacting an Addisonian on a level that most "normal" people cannot comprehend. I believe that having Addison's disease or Adrenal Insufficiency, especially if your condition is considered "brittle," can make any kind of travel a health challenge.

For me, I can't help but mourn my inability to travel by car without a second thought, as I had done for most of my life. Going on a car trip is now like signing up for voluntary torture for me, but it's amazing the level of torture we will endure to do things we love. Still, I opt to travel by road as infrequently as possible because I need to stay independent and the road trip can take a massive toll on my health.

I guess this is the reason I absolutely LOVE vacationing by cruise. Having the ability to retreat to your cabin and to be supine can be tremendously helpful for a person who has major health challenges, especially if you are not prone to getting seasick. Being able to enjoy such a vacation is empowering, but I can't orchestrate all family gatherings and special events to be held on a cruise-line. Such a shame!

Anyway, I have had an awesome time seeing my baby get her beautiful class ring and to honor her achievements. She's an amazing young gal and has much to offer society. She will make a wonderful Child Life Specialist.

My father-in-law with my Stefie!

And...I am going to work on test-driving vehicles that can better provide a cushioned, low-profile, shock-absorbing ride that is less likely to give me major wobble-head problems.

Then, New York, New York...HERE I COME! :-)