Sand Dunes and Airplanes: Travel Hints for Arthritis Patients

Editor's Note: This article was originally written by patient expert Pattye Snyder.

While hiking, or when I am in a crowd, I've found I must have a cane for balance, as well as to keep from being accidentally tripped. I always have my "stick" when I fly, and am able to take advantage of early plane boarding to avoid crowds and lines. I always carry two smaller wallets (no purse) and keep them in two separate places for security reasons. One of these is more readily available with all of my artificial joint ID cards, passport, driver's license and cash in the event that I need to tip someone.

Wheelchair assistance at the airport can be wonderful. Be sure to request it when you purchase your tickets and remind the agent as you pick up your boarding pass. It is also helpful if you mention this toward the end of your flight to your cabin staff who are usually wonderful about double-checking for you.   (I didn't remind on a recent flight and ended up having to trudge to a different concourse -- I almost missed my connecting flight) The wheelchair service is very much worth a generous tip, where the "drivers" always carry radios so they are up-to-date with the most recent gate changes and flight information. When traveling internationally, this service can be used to expedite those long lines through passport control, etc.

Although most airlines now offer curbside check-in and baggage service, they are now charging a minimum of $25 per bag and most require "plastic" and won't accept cash. On a recent flight across the US, it was chilly in the cabin and I requested a blanket only to find that American Airlines no longer loans out blankets and pillows. These items must be purchased (again with plastic). I decided I'd rather be cold! I use to always make my own flight arrangements, but found I can save a lot by using my AAA agent. On my most recent trip, I was able to save over $200 (almost half of my ticket cost) by driving to a different airport nearby.

Although it's only been about 10 weeks since my most recent osteoarthritis surgery (total knee replacement), I happily discovered that my friend and I were able to take a long hike (A VERY LONG HIKE) over pebbled paths and huge sand dunes to observe a large herd of elephant seals on a local beach. Neither of us broke any land speed records (that's NOT the point), and we will probably not be awarded any medals for our dune climbing expertise and bravery - but we did it!   We hiked those long paths and intimidating dunes in spite of both of us having a variety of artificial joints!


Because of my "history" with joint replacements (I've now had nine surgeries for OA), I am fully aware that proper and consistent exercise and physical therapy are both essential post-op.   (In fact, I have now heard that some surgeons are also giving pre-op exercise programs!) In general, the people I know who haven't had success with their joint replacement surgeries, are those who refuse to do the work necessary. I value my adventurous life today too much to be a victim of my OA or my laziness. (By the way, I knowmuch of the PT and exercises are painful initially, but I refuse to just sit down and give up.)

I was first diagnosed with OA 13 years ago and have had nine joints replaced since. But I've also had the joy of traveling to five continents and 41 countries since that time, lived and worked in Tanzania for several months at a time, and have had some incredibly exciting adventures! (And no, it's not just luck - I work very hard to to earn the needed funds. I sell a great deal of my photography in framed or unframed formats.   We make postcards as well as awesome greeting cards and t-shirts with my photography on them. Many friends and my family have donated money toward my volunteer work in Africa. I even do marathon baking and sell tons of cookies, yeast breads, sweet rolls, hors d'oeuvres and make a variety of chocolates and other candies to support my projects. I even have a wonderful friend who donates her time and her skills to keep my website current.)

So, I've pretty much recovered from my most recent hospital stint and am Back on the Road Again! (Actually, I was in a plane when I wrote this post!)

On a recent trip to California, I was not only able to visit friends (from Rome and Africa), but I also met a businessman who has investors who may be interested in my businesses and my work in Africa. I'm returning briefly to my home in Illinois (have to get the refrigerator fixed), but then will be flying to Maine and Connnecticut to help a friend start a new business before I return to my friends and adopted family in Africa.

Life for me is simply too short to let myself become a prisoner of OA. I've found that hard work, staying active, working with others, trying to keep a positive attitude, and surrounding myself with loving family and friends -- all are "keys" to my success.

I simply refuse to become a prisoner of my OA!

Asante Sana