Monday, March 11, 2024

My Legs vs. A Long Haul Flight


As much as I plot and plan to pack light, somehow it doesn't quite work out like that. I saw a woman on a ferry in Greece carrying only her backpack and thought, she is my spirit animal. I'm going to learn to pack like that, someday. Fact is, I've never HAD to pack like that. I'm strong, with legs that can carry a suitcase, a big crazy dog pulling on his leash, and a couple of kids up a steep hill. Or so I always thought.

Thing is, bodies aren't always cooperative. If they start acting up, you'll get no notice. It's been months since my body decided enough is enough and I'm still surprised by it. WE HAD A DEAL. My entire life I've had two functional legs that I could count on to hike me anywhere but that look terrible in dresses. I never let that bother me because they worked and that's what counts. At least that's what I told myself as I covered them in jeans and long dresses. 

My hubby wears a brace on one of his legs—has since high school. He’s had many surgeries on them. His legs are the uncooperative kind that you can't count on. It was all good, I always thought, I’ve got you there, sweet hubby. These hunk o chunk legs can carry two, and our luggage if need be. 

Until last summer on my annual long haul flight New York to Athens when something happened. I stood to get off the flight and my legs felt wooden. Painful. Uncooperative. Weird, I thought, but it had been a long haul. It had taken twenty-four hours as I traipsed from home to an airport, flew to a second airport, then a third. Then Athens. Even weirder. after I forced my legs off the airplane and through customs and then to baggage claim and into a taxi, when I tried to get out of the taxi at my hotel, I barely could. I had to use my hands to lift my legs and put them out of the car and then kind of jump onto them. 

Getting up the stairs to my room was tough, especially with luggage. I called a friend who’s a doctor. “Did you wear compression stockings?” She asked. “That’s a thing?” I said. I could practically hear the eye roll. “Elevate your legs. Ice them. And walk. Even if it hurts, walk. It’s not likely to be Deep Vein Thrombosis in both legs, but you HAVE to wear compression stockings on long haul flights.”

I froze water bottles in my mini-fridge. I old-lady without a walker walked the mile to the cold sea. When I got there, I rolled up my pants and trotted into the icy water. It felt wonderful. I step-together, step-together-ed my legs the mile back to my room and iced my knees. They throbbed. When I coughed they screamed. It wasn't just the knees, it was hip to toe, both legs, sobbing. They felt loose here and there, and tight there and here, and stiff, and they howled with every step. 

Yes, I debated going to the hospital in Athens. I debated getting on a flight and going back home instead of continuing another two days of travel to my summer destination. Memories of going to the ER surfaced. They're not fond memories and I was considering going to the ER in Greece which seemed worse. My Greek has not advanced to a hospital vocabulary. Even though I'm sure we could have spoken in English too, I’d long ago decided not to go to the ER unless the problem was obvious and there was a bone sticking out. I decided to stick by that decision and that I couldn’t fly home until I found some sort of chunko compression socks anyway. I didn't want to double my problem by flying home without them too.

For the next two days I traveled deeper into Greece. Another plane. Ferry. Walking miles. Taxis. Moving slow, slower, slowest, hauling my luggage. Possibly cussing under my breath. Anytime I passed the sea and could get there I walked straight into it. Cold. Salt. Thank. God.

My final destination was covered in stairs. I went up and down them, stumped my way to the grocery store, pharmacy, cafes. Every day I stood in the cold sea. May. June. July. By then I’d acquired compression socks and I reverse traveled my way back home. Ow ow ow. 

At home I went to the doctor, and again, and again, and again. It’s post Covid. You don’t just up and go to the doctor. You can get in in three weeks, four, next month. July. August. September. October. November. Schlump schlump, baby steps. Singing my ow ow ow refrain. December and January were blood tests and physical therapy. X-rays. By February I rated other testing. An MRI. Come March I had graduated to an Orthopedic surgeon. 

Right now I'm taking meds that are definitely helping. It's very exciting. I was so happy that I did everything I couldn't do the past nine months and threw my back out. I guess I shouldn't have done everything in a twenty-four timeframe. Now I'm taking those leg meds and icing my back and eyeing flights to Greece because it's time to plan that trip again. Right? Right? 


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