Apologies firstly for not having posted anything for a while… The last few weeks have been manic, and I have a lot to write about still including the very successful London Shoe Sale and my little trip down to Cornwall… but for now I will update everyone on my arrival in Kunming.
I flew out with my parents on Tuesday this week, and I have to say the flight was the thing I was most apprehensive about. I am not a good flyer in the slightest, and my experience of flying in the last few years, mainly how the airlines deal with a passenger in a wheelchair, has not helped this fear! My trips to Miami have involved a lot of tears, frustration and humiliation, in particular my first trip over there where I was asked several times to just get up and walk to my seat on the plane. When I told them that I couldn’t walk they then suggested that I just stepped up onto the plane to get into the aisle wheelchair…I again told them that I couldn’t move my legs at all, and I think they finally understood, but not before all the other passengers started to form a queue behind me and I had to be manoeuvred in front of everyone. Ever since then I have dreaded aeroplanes, so on Tuesday I was not looking forward to flying.
This time we had decided to fly with Virgin Atlantic instead of British Airways (who we always flew to Miami with), and they were much much better! There was no fuss or drama with getting me on and off the plane, and they were very quick and efficient with everything so that I didn’t feel like I was holding up the rest of the passengers. We arrived in Shanghai about 11 hours after take off, ahead of schedule, and feeling quite impressed with how smoothly everything was going.
We had about a 3 or 4 hour wait at Shanghai Airport for our connecting flight. We were absolutely exhausted as it was about 2am UK time and we hadn’t slept at all. We also knew that there was potentially going to be a problem with the amount of luggage we were carrying. Six month’s worth of my stuff took up about 2 very heavy suitcases, and then I had one case full of medical supplies, and then my parents had a suitcase as well. Dad had tried to speak to the airline several times about me being in a wheelchair and our excess baggage, but it had proved to be quite difficult due to the language barrier, and also the Chinese can’t seem to comprehend disabilities and wheelchairs (it really is quite astounding at times!)
Anyway, we managed to check in and somehow they took all our luggage without charging us, although they didn’t seem happy about it at all! But the flight was delayed by another few hours so we had to wait. And wait. And wait.
We finally boarded the plane and again it went quite smoothly, but we did get a lot of strange looks. A few hours later we touched down in Kunming. Everything seemed fine until it became apparent that there was no aisle wheelchair (a dodgy looking seat thing on wheels that is narrow enough to go down the aisle to where my regular wheelchair was waiting). And none of the cabin crew spoke any English, although one of them did ask me if I could just walk very slowly down the aisle to my wheelchair… We were all very tired by this point and so it seemed like the easiest option would just be for mum and dad to carry me down the aisle, so they did. The cabin crew all went a bit crazy as they watched this unfold… Chinese people always want to help, so they were all around us trying to do something, but not actually doing anything because it really is just a two-man job when the aisle is so narrow.
So we made it to Kunming about 30 hours after we had left home. The hospital had sent some doctors, nurses and a translator to welcome us, and we were taken by ambulance (which was actually quite necessary for all of the people and luggage) to our apartment. It was pretty late by the time we arrived, and I had been told I was required to be at the hospital at 8am the following morning so we all just crashed out and decided to deal with everything when we had had a few hour’s sleep.
Here is a picture of mum and dad just after we arrived… They were absolute legends on the journey and I would not be here in Kunming if it wasn’t for their efficiency and carrying skills!