Let’s Talk Spinal Cords

Our Journey to Healing April 12th


Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Our long awaited weekend getaway came and went way too fast. As you may remember, we headed out to Lake Havasu, AZ to catch up with old friends and try our hand at flying. I am happy to report back that it went very smoothly with only one hiccup at the end of the trip.

Why Havasu? While Derek was in undergrad, he had an internship at Harley Davidson working at their test facility. He spent 3 years (on and off) in Alabama before Harley moved their facility over to Arizona. Derek headed to Arizona for one semester at the end of his senior year and roomed with his friend Matt. Matt (and his awesome wife Lisa) still live out there. For years, Derek has talked about going back to his old stomping grounds and showing me around. When the therapist suggested a trip, we thought this would be the perfect little test run.

Friday, we headed to the airport with plenty of time to spare. After a slightly different rigamaru with security and the airlines, we made it onto the plane with zero complications. We landed at the Las Vegas airport (the nearest airport to Lake Havasu) and promptly made dinner plans. We decided to explore Las Vegas for the evening and wound up at Caesars Palace. In typical Lavender fashion, we ate so much food that we then swore off eating for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday was filled with some of Derek's favorite places to visit. This included the boardwalk on Lake Havasu, a few off roading trails with beautiful views, and a tasty dinner spot. We also sat and watched a jet ski race while frying our knees in the hot Arizona sun.

By Sunday, we decided to be a bit more low key and ended up hitting up the local Swap Meet (where a gentleman trying to sell Derek a hat called him a hillbilly), went on a scenic driving tour where we came across a few adorable wild burrows, and then crashed at home by watching a few painful episodes of Paint Wars.

On Monday, we packed up early and Matt drove us back to Las Vegas. This is when the hiccup occurred:

We boarded the plane with no complications but before we could take off, a storm front started to move in! The captain explained we would wait a few minutes for the storm to pass but we should be on our way in no time. Well, the storm passed fairly quickly, and instead of heading to the runway, we headed back to our gate. The captain explained a federal regulation requires him to only fly a certain amount of hours before taking a 10 hour break. Unfortunately, our small wait for the storm pushed him over his hours and we now needed a whole new flight crew.

With Derek's chair already stored below, we were stuck. The crew told all the passengers that they had no way of knowing when a new crew would arrive, so it would best if everyone just remained in their seats and they would give updates every 10 minutes. An hour passed with the same 10 minute updates. Finally, they agreed we could get off the plane but needed to close because they didn't know when we would take off.

By hour 2, I decided I would step off the plane for a break and to grab us a few snacks. 15 minutes later I returned to our gate (C22) and flew into full fledged panic mode. There was NO plane at gate C22. I checked, double checked, and then ran to the nearest Southwest employee desk asking about our flight.  All I could think about was Home Alone and that this would happen to us. She kindly explained that there was no record of our flight...and then 30 seconds later she corrected herself and said our plane had moved to gate C19.

At hour 4, Derek and I both started to get a little worried. See, with spinal cord injuries, you must take a restroom break every 4-6 hours. You can occasionally push it to 8 hours, but that can cause an AD episode.

Ok, so a little info on spinal cord injuries (SCI). When you or I get uncomfortable from sitting too long, something pinching/poking us, or even just our pants being too tight, we can move around so it is no longer painful. With an SCI individual, they cannot feel that pain or discomfort and therefore don't know about it. The body starts to get really mad and will shoot their blood pressure up. If the discomfort does not get correct within a 5-10 minute window, the person can actually have a stroke. This effect is called Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD). 

At this point, we had been sitting for 4 hours and had at least another 4 hours of flying in front of us. The captain got on and said the new crew was on their way and we were expected to leave soon. So, with the fear of AD seared into our brains, I requested Derek's chair from the bottom on the plane and insisted they let us take a break before the plane took off.

Derek was a trooper and transferred into his chair in front of 110 annoyed fliers. The crew was great and helped us with our request. Thankfully, we made it back on the plane before the crew arrived! In fact, we sat there for another hour. When we took off, everyone let out a sigh of relief. I almost felt like I was living in a country music video. The flight crew was handing out free drinks and the final college basketball game was on, so there was a lot of hooting and hollering. Overall, it is just a funny first trip story but we hope that doesn't happen again!

We arrived home safely and scarfed down chicken noodle soup and crackers before hitting the hay around 1am. When I asked Derek about the stresses of flying now as opposed to before the accident, he said, "I hated flying then and I still hate it now". So there you have it! Southwest did send us a little coupon off our next flight (I want a free flight but whatever). We are already planning our next little weekend getaway!

Thank you for the prayers!

Ps. A HUGE shout out to Matt, Lisa, and Dingo for putting us up all weekend, showing us around, and being great friends. Can't wait for you two to come visit us here in the midwest!


With Love,

The Lavenders