My trip back from Morocco to L.A. I see the pattern now: Every time I do medevac travel, something breathtakingly horrible happens :-) But I'm back in L.A., and fine.
Morocco to Frankfurt
Well, that was a nighmare and a half!
I took a two hour taxi ride from Rabat to the Casablanca airport. At the airport, it turns out I was delivered to the wrong terminal. Normally that's not such a big deal, since you can walk between the two pretty easily, but when you have a porter pushing your luggage and a guy from a different airline pushing your wheelchair, it's irksome – and it increases your tip load.
I got to the Lufthansa check-in area so early that there wasn't anyone to
check me in for a good hour or so. That was OK, since it gave me a chance
to use the free WiFi from my phone to give updates and make arrangements.
Then, at check-in. “Where's your paperwork showing that this cast is at least 48 hours old?”
To back up a bit, the PC instructions on Morocco recommends saying we medical evacuees are “on official Peace Corps business,” to avoid complicated questions about medical care. Nice idea, but it doesn't work when you've got an obviously freshly-made cast/bandage sticking way out in front of you. I didn't have the Moroccan PC phone anymore, either. I tried calling to Morocco over WiFi, but Google Voice doesn't work to Morocco. So, I called the emergency duty officer in Washington, DC, and had her call my PC doctor in Morocco, Dr. Tawfiq. He called me (on my US Google Voice number), and we handed the phone to the check-in lady. After about five minutes of Arabic conversation, she was satisfied, and she printed my boarding passes and invited me to the VIP lounge after security.
At security, I was asked “where is your certificate?” accompanied by pointing to my leg. Oh boy.
After some fudging around, they called a supervisor, and ran me through the other scanning machine that works through casts. Good? No. Now the supervisor gets a stick up his butt about how it's not normal that I don't have paperwork. He (and the other security people) also hardly speak French. He can communicate to me that he's not happy I have no paperwork, but he has no idea what I'm saying in reply (which would have been about electronic medical records, and the Peace Corps having received the bill directly). Not understanding French just made him more belligerent. I even brought out my “for medical eyes only” X-ray, and on his direction opened it, and showed it to him. Not good enough.
“Would you like to talk to my doctor?” “Huh?” After like the fifth repetition, he finally understands my very simple French sentence, and he says yes. So, another call to DC. Now the Lufhansa guy pushing my wheelchair knows the drill with my Moroccan doctor, and offers his phone (once I explain why I have to go through DC). He calls him directly, and of course gets a busy signal because DC is busy calling Dr. Tawfiq on my behalf. Ahem. He tries again in 60 seconds, gets him, and passes the phone to the head security guy.
And they talk. And talk. And talk and talk and talk. It's pretty clear to me that the security guy is just beating up on me because his Viagra supply is running low, but there's nothing I can do about that. After maybe 30 minutes of this (and closing in on an hour plus at security), they call the airport head over.
The airport head comes, and I can see from the expression on his face that he's going to be a lot more reasonable. He goes over the case. He then asks to see my “medical eyes only” X-ray. I'm pretty sure this was just to give him enough of an excuse to overrule the security guy. Anyway, he sees my name, the date and the clinc name on the X-rays, and points out these features to the head security guy. Then he gives me a thumbs-up.
On the way out, the security guy asks for Dr. Tawfiq's number. The Lufthansa guy has it on his phone, of course, so he gives it to him. As we're wheeling away, the security guy called Dr. Tawfiq, and had another long, rambling discourse on the unacceptability on moral grounds of not having a bunch of paperwork, and doubtless other moral, ethical and sartorial shortcomings of myself. I'm afraid Dr. Tawfiq may have acquired a new stalker.
Meanwhile, my 2 hours of slack time to use the business lounge, post the blog etc. has dissappeared into a puff of security pissing contest. I get to the gate about five minutes before my 2 AM boarding time, about 30 minutes before the flight leaves.
I hope there's no second security check in Frankfurt with certificate-hungry officials.
Frankfurt: The Nightmare Continues
Actually, the opposite of that. Things couldn't have gone more smoothly. No jetway, so the elevator truck took me to my own private bus. The secondary security screening for US-bound flights was a snap. I was pushed around in a lovely wheelchair for all if it.
In the business lounge, there was plenty of time and internet - got to connect my computer for the first time in weeks! I got to learn how to steer a wheelchair, and experience the majesty that is the modern, Western handicap-accessible restroom. All those handles are amazing!
I completely fit in the Lufthansa A380-800 (the double-decker Airbus).
Maybe the hardest part was figuring out my prescription drug schedule with the time changes! I'm still on anti-malarials for a bit, and I'm taking an antibiotic and an anti-coagulant, both for another week.
I'm comfortable doing things like hopping around, like to the restroom.
I simply wouldn't have fit in coach, since I can't bend my knee, but other than that I'm reasonably mobile. For the same reason, I don't think normal cars will work for me for the next 5-6 weeks. But anyway, the final leg of my journey was trouble-free, and the food was excellent!
My sister Lisle met me at the airport. She took the bus there, and we took a taxi back – they have van taxis with a bunch of open space in front of the seat. I had to have the driver get in the van and hold me up from behind to work my way in, but it was OK.
Now I've had a good night's sleep, and I'm getting ready to do laundry, find out how to get a disabled tag for parking, figure out mass transit options, and basically start planning all those little details. It turns out I can fit in the back of my sister's Prius if the front seat is pushed all the way forward, so that's a game changer.