This summer I had an eye-opening life experience — not with my own mortality, thank goodness, but with my own mobility.
I am 50. In the scheme of things, I am a mere pup in the flying community. I am healthy and very active. I fly, hike and garden. I am always busy doing something, and if I am still, you can bet I am asleep. So it was rather startling to go to bed on a Sunday night and wake up Monday morning unable to get myself out of that bed.
After the Old Man offered assistance, it was downright frightening that I couldn’t walk because of the excruciating pain that radiated from my shoulder and down my arm. Each step was agony. A trip to the ER reassured us that I was not having a heart attack.
A note to any FAA types reading this column: The monitors showed that I had the vitals of a 20- year-old (just as long as they kept the morphine flowing).
I did learn that I wasn’t struck with some exotic disease, but instead I had a pinched nerve in my neck. What? Pinched nerves do not make a person immobile. Pinched nerves do not cause such pain and agony. Pinch nerves are caused by a fall or injury. Boy, was I wrong!
Consequently, the heart of my summer was spent finding the most comfortable position in which to wait for the inflammation to recede and the nerve to heal. It took a long time — eight weeks, in fact. And as I type this on my laptop nearly three months later, I still feel twinges that remind me I am not in control of most things that affect my life.
During my recovery, there was no sitting and no laying down flat. No flying, no driving, no sitting in a restaurant, no sleeping in bed. Trial and error found that I could recline in the recliner in the living room, which is where I slept for several weeks. I could rest comfortably in the ergonomic yard lounger that the kids gave me as a Mother’s Day gift. And thankfully, with a pillow under the affected arm, I could recline comfortably in the passenger’s seat of the car.
I did whine. I let everyone know that I was in pain, but that got old after a while. I really wanted my life to return to some semblance of normalcy. From past experience with the Old Man’s back problems, I already knew that our local diner, the Keithsburg Cafe, had no qualms about serving a customer that “stood” at the counter, so my opportunities for dinner out were not limited to the drive-thru.
The ergonomic yard lounger conveniently folded and fit nicely into the trunk of the car, which meant I could visit my airport bum friends on the porch or enjoy a pleasant tête-à-tête at the hangar while the Old Man flew.
When fellow Luscombe owner, Bill Jennings, posted on the Luscombe List that the Tellico Plains Pilots Association was hosting one of its monthly summer cookouts, I saw the potential for a really great day for this partially immobile woman. I hatched a plan. We could drive up a couple of hours to Tellico Plains, Tennessee, on Highway 411, enjoy some good food and pilot commaderie, then take the beautiful Cherohala Skyway over to Robbinsville, N.C., and then back home. A nice round robin trip.
It was a good plan. The nice folks at Tellico Plains didn’t think me too strange to be lounging among them in a lawn chair that the Old Man conveniently placed facing the part paved and part grassed runway. I was in the shade and was able to watch airplanes take off and land. In fact, Bill and several other pilots related their experiences with the same malady that I was currently suffering. Misery loves company, and I did feel that better days were ahead if I were patient. Recovery was going to take time.
It did, and the experience made me realize that the activities that I enjoy, such as piloting an old Luscombe, can be beyond my abilities in just a blink of an eye. I also came to realize that I am one blessed woman whose companion didn’t mind chauffeuring her around because she was bored, depressed or because sometimes it was the only way the pain would relax. I also have a great airport family whose concern and encouragement really touched my heart.
Now, I just have to see if that 1946 Luscombe 8A remembers how it feels to have a “real” pilot at the controls. Watch out airport folks. She’s back!