Sunday, August 2, 2015

San Antonio: Give Your Heart Wings

Bookmark and Share
Noah was invited to experience a special needs vacation to Morgan's Wonderland sponsored by Project Angel Fares, a foundation specializing in offering vacations to low-income families who cannot afford to travel so they can have an opportunity to experience a special needs amusement park.  We were really excited for this trip.  The everyday stresses that come along with the special needs journey both for Noah and us as a family can sometimes feel like it's chipping away at happiness and normalcy.  And after a while everything builds up and feels like you just can't catch your breath because you're just trying to make it through each day the best you can.  A vacation - just saying the word out loud felt like relief was in sight.  A temporary time-out from appointments, therapies, emails - bad news with Medicaid and SSI, dealing with hassles of Waiver programs, DME's with poor customer service - all of it.  We were escaping... we were destined for fun. Most importantly Noah was going to have an opportunity to play just like any other child alongside his little brother.
Noah peeking out his Convaid Trekker Deluxe Sunhood from Travel

We flew Southwest Airlines this time.  And I have to say they did a fabulous job.  I was a bit nervous as they had recently been in the news for some questionable service for families flying with children who had special needs.  I tend to think sometimes negative news travels faster than positive news, but Southwest could not have done a better job for Noah.  And flying in some respects is a bit tricky with him.  So I'm always appreciative for extra hands, loads of kindness, and oozing support with understanding for the challenges we have while traveling.  Southwest also brings some fun to flying with really great flight attendants and staff that make it feel like a tiny party in the sky and I appreciated their good humor.  They brought reassurance and tenderness in their care and concern about Noah and it felt like we were among great friends up in the sky.  They made note to even know both of our children by name on each flight and checking in with us often to see if there was anything at all that we needed along the way.  I wasn't sure what to expect with boarding but honestly I really liked Southwest's system of non-assigned seating.  Made it so much easier to position Noah in the plane where he'd be less likely to have difficulties with his multitude of sensory challenges.  I'd certainly pick them again to fly with.  And Southwest's logo - the heart with wings is rather a nice touch.  Gives you the warm fuzzy feelings while you're traveling.

Noah's wheelchair suffered a tad bit of damage on the flight to San Antonio - a broken pin on the wheelchair breaks.  So his wheelchair currently has no breaks.  A minor problem all things considering what can happen to wheelchairs during flights.  I was worried that we had missed our window of reporting the damage (a 4 hour window they give you after damage occurs) due to some bad advice from the gate manager to report it on our departure flight for home instead.  But Southwest took the claim regardless and while we were still in the sky had left us two messages from their global repair company eager to see if Noah needed a loaned wheelchair until they could get out to the house to assess repair and/or replacement.   Certainly a very friendly system.  Usually I really struggle with problems like this - but I'm not even stressed a little bit about it.  It feels all rather under control at the moment.  And hopefully it's a really easy simple fix. 

Noah of course was eager to travel but quick to throw up upon landing - something I think he's
successfully managed to do on every flight he's ever been on.  He is certainly not a fan of landing.  It is a strange sensory sensation even without a disability.  I think Noah wasn't entirely sure what to expect when we landed.  But he was quickly greeted by The Project Angel Fares Team - and a news reporter from Fox 29.   I think Noah was in complete awe that it was all for him.  Noah was given a goodie bag filled with yummy treats, bracelets, & shirts.  And a beautiful van with an electric ramp from Alamo Mobility was waiting for us at the airport.  Something that made traveling so much easier with Noah.  I was just overwhelmed by all of this genuine and sincere love.   Everything so beautifully coordinated.  We didn't have a single worry before us.  And that is something that is very rare in any of our days.
We've Arrived!
Noah Meeting Kevin Johnson from Project Angel Fares
The Van for Noah from Alamo Mobility
It was a breeze getting from the airport to the hotel, the first time either Chris or I had driven out of State.  (Yes we don't get out much).  Project Angel Fares had thought of everything including mapping our way for everywhere we needed to go.  We stayed at the Hyatt Place, a smaller hotel with under 200 rooms.  It was very clean.  Which I think gives any place an automatic 10 stars.  When you are traveling with a medically fragile child, germs are you biggest fear and enemy.  The room was comfortable and equipped with just enough for us to take care of Noah's needs - a refrigerator, two queen beds and a roll out sofa bed.  We opted not to get an ADA room this time simply because this hotel had a King and roll-out bed option only for ADA rooms and we weren't sure about the sleeping arrangements for Noah trying to box him in a hotel bed without rails like has at home with his hospital bed.  I'd say the only draw back that decision was the shower.  Noah is a big kid now and we kind of need a bench to sit on with him and a shower head that has a spray cord and is not fixed to the wall.  Something that I completely forgot that ADA rooms don't have.  But we made it work.  It had a tub so I found a way to plug it up (since the plug was non-existent making it only have shower capability) with a hand towel and had dad and Noah soak together while I washed him.   We can get creative about making any situation work.  I think special needs families are highly adaptable people.  We always have to think outside the box and we pride ourselves on overcoming challenges.   It was great because we were able to push one bed up against the wall so we only had to think about blocking off one side of the bed so Noah didn't roll off.  We purchased some blow up rails called Shrunks.  They were $20 for 2 of them through an online vendor and they travel really well and blow up quickly, added some pillows to that and built a nice fluffy boarder so he didn't roll off.  A really great purchase. Wish I would have found that product sooner.  They will come in handy I think through the years for sure if we ever leave home.  I do wish they were higher but if you pair the product up with hotel pillows it worked well.

Noah in the Hotel Room
The Hyatt Place also had a nice continental breakfast each morning, which was helpful as we brought a blender to accommodate having to puree Noah's foods.  It isn't fun traveling with a blender - but rather a complete necessity if there isn't one that is available at our destination.  We were so thankful that the Hyatt Palace had access to food 24/7, so it was easy for us to make sure that Noah was well fed at any hour that he demanded a munchie.  And I thoroughly enjoyed the complimentary lemon and orange water upon entry to the hotel.  The weather was incredibly hot and then add Texas humidity on top of it and you wanted that water all the time.

Luke at Chili's
Noah at Chili's
Once we had unloaded all of our goodies we had a quick bite to eat at Chili's which was just across the street from the hotel.  Upon arriving at the restaurant Noah really fully realized we were on vacation and just won't stop squealing with delight.  Here in Colorado he would have gathered a lot of stares.... in Texas he gathered nothing but loads of smiles.   We ordered him his traditional cheesecake after lunch and he was in pure heaven.   Noah was so anxious to see what was coming next, the anticipation of any child with good things to come... and so we were off to see the Alamo... Noah's vacation had just begun.


Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.