Hawaii – Blast on the Big Island

As colder weather invades the northern hemisphere, I’m drawn to thoughts of balmy beaches and caramel colored sunsets like the ones we relished on the Big Island of Hawaii a few years ago. Year-round the temperatures range from the 60’s at night to the 80’s during the day. Climate perfection! My disability and wheelchair are obstacles in travel situations, but thankfully with focused effort, they can usually be overcome. We’ve trekked across the Pacific several times for both business and pleasure. We were blessed with great situations that made the Hawaiian paradise an affordable excursion each time.

Transportation is an extra challenge with a heavy non-collapsible power wheelchair. When our plane arrives at most destinations, we wait for the chair to be brought to the gate, or I get off the plane and use an over-sized airline wheelchair while we wait for airport staffers to bring my chair. The airline’s ‘manual’ wheelchairs make my small frame feel like a floppy Raggedy Ann doll. Thankfully, I didn’t need to use the airline’s chair when we arrived in Kona. Other passengers disembarked via the stairs while I anxiously waited for a makeshift jet-way/lift-truck that raised my chair to the plane and lowered me to the tarmac. It was the first time I’d felt like merchandise in Home Depot. See the Orange and White on the lift-truck? Home Depot colors, too!

Our next challenge was a short wheelchair accessible ride to our condo on the Kohalo Coast. We splurged for the ramped van rental during our stay to make sight-seeing more convenient.

Pre-planning and research is definitely a must. There are merely a few rent-able wheelchair vans on the island!

We settled into the fully equipped timeshare unit that Brent’s sister and brother-in-law let us use…did I say blessed? Beaches are fabulous for relaxing, but we needed adventure.

We booked a wheelchair accessible snorkeling tour out of Kona. The boat had a ramp for my chair and extra men to help lift me in and out of the water for snorkeling.

I made a superb cart for snorkels, masks and fins, too.  And in case you are wondering, no…I don’t use fins, and Brent shouldn’t need any with his size 15 feet!

The snorkeling excursion was a little choppy, but I managed not to suck water in through my snorkel and afterwards we enjoyed the cruise back to Kona together.

When we took a gander above us, we only saw the feet of fellow snorkelers on the upper deck. Darn. It was not accessible!

We employed a not so accessible mode of transportation in a helicopter.

Only the brute force of several men could get me in the ‘Madge-sized’ seat!  ‘Blue Hawaiian Helicopter’ staff were exceptionally helpful and accommodating.

On our two hour tour we got a bird’s eye view of the lava fields. They were accessible by helicopter, but too dangerous for walking or four wheeling!

Hot lava flowing into the sea.

We headed up the coast toward the fertile Waipio Valley. Note the other helicopter in the distance for perspective of the valley’s enormity.

We marveled at the stunning waterfalls.

Hawaii is truly a paradise. Winter is a lovely time of year to visit not only for the perfect climate, but also for the peak whale watching. Whether you are walking or wheeling, Hawaii is a destination for a bucket list.

Waiting for warm weather,


Beware of Thanksgiving Travel and Latex Gloves

Are you flying the friendly skies this holiday season? Oh, how grateful we are to be home base for our family Thanksgiving and not fighting the Atlanta airport’s holiday rush this year! I feel for you travelers! So glad you get to visit family, but I wish it were under less congested circumstances.

When we fly it is an adventure with a wheelchair and service dog and, of course, my battery charger, travel shower chair, etc. Sure, travel is complicated by disability – maybe not as much as traveling with babies and toddlers though!. There are, however, a few perks…one is that we go to the front of the dreaded security line and I am escorted around the body scanners…ahhh, I miss the body scan and the line! Now the fun begins…

As my personal items are shoved into the gray plastic tub and pulled through the X-ray machine like groceries through a checkout line, I am escorted to the wide gate like a princess…but wait, the blue (or are they purple?) latex gloves are coming toward me. Will they tear off my belt this time? Are my feet safe from shoe removal? Well that depends on the agent, TSA security agent that is. Always female for female as we engage in the ‘PAT’ down. With raised arms I watch the agent as she never fails to ask me to stand up! Joke’s on her because that’s not happening. The golden rule of polite gestures is applied as she feels my breasts with the back of her hands. She grasps my bottom and legs as she continues to feel. Could she be a cute guy instead, please? Just kidding! Fortunately, I’ve only had to remove my shoes and belt occasionally and normally clear security after merely a few checks for explosives with small papers rubbed against different areas of my chair and body. With my personal items returned by the agent our trek to the plane begins.

Periodically, an ‘over-zealous’ or ‘new’ security gal puts me through the ringer and removes my shoes, jewelry and belt and feels a bit too much of my body. She searches behind every movable part of my power wheelchair. On more than one excursion the wheelchair batteries were dis-assembled and removed from their case. Good thing we weren’t in a hurry.

The last time we traveled with Tahoe, he didn’t go through the scanner or get a pat down, and he loves a pat down. They didn’t even take off his vest. Go figure. He could be a terrorist with a weapon in his vest pocket!

For the most part, the security experience is a nuisance of air travel particularly for those of us who get the thrill of the pat down. Pack a little humor, a lot of patience, and an attitude of gratitude to conquer the hassles of Thanksgiving’s travel rush. Give yourself some extra time this week, and be thankful if you evade the latex gloves! Leave a comment and share your funny or challenging stories and we will gratefully enjoy our no-fly zone!

Oops! I Cut My Toe

One of the best and worst things about my paralysis is that I cannot feel pain below my injury level the same way most people do.  Pain may not hit in time to prevent injury and when it does hit, it may not be obvious where and why I am uncomfortable. Strange, I know! This phenomena opens up possibilities for secondary injuries like burns, abrasions, pressure sores and other unwanted pesky and ugly, sometimes scarring events.

A recent clash with unknown pain came one night last summer when I was washing my face. I finished my face and brushed my teeth and was ready for help with the final bedtime routine.

As I backed away from the counter and looked down at the stone tiles, I saw a pool of blood. Alarming?  Yes, alarming, because I couldn’t tell where it was coming from.  In a panic, I called for my sweet hubby and we discovered it was my toe bleeding. Oh my, I had banged it against against the cabinet.  I usually don’t take my shoes off until the last minute, but for some reason this night I did. **Note to self – don’t take shoes off before finishing your face.

Anyway, we called our nurse practitioner neighbor, aka neighborhood 911, and she took no time to ascertain that we needed to go to the emergency room for stitches immediately.  I wanted to wait until the morning… So we went to the ER.

As an aside and perhaps the only value in this post: We have several good hospitals within 30 minutes of us, and because this was a minor injury we didn’t care which hospital we chose.  We wanted to get it done and get home.  As we pulled out of the driveway I called the ER  where we were headed and they reported ‘at least a three hour wait’.  I called another hospital’s ER and they said they had one person waiting but could not predict if someone else would come.  We changed directions and headed to that hospital where we were taken care of ‘right away’.

‘Right  away’, of course, still includes the obligatory half hour here and half hour there while the medical staff helps others and work on increasing your bill.






Brent tolerated the wait well with his iPad in ‘toe’.  Hope you don’t have a weak stomach for blood….Four stitches later we headed home.

…and the next morning Tahoe helped the healing along with kisses. The kisses made the boo boo all better.