I’m not exaggerating when I say that SMA requires you to plan ahead for everything. If I don’t carefully coordinate each day with my caregivers, I can’t even go to the bathroom. Fortunately, I usually can plan for a daily occurrence like that, but other things are more complicated and unpredictable, like attending a sporting event.
My annual trip to Eugene for the Oregon football home opener is coming up, so I’m dedicating this column to sharing tips for planning a smooth trip.
Check the weather
This is a lesson I learned in 2008 when I went to my first Ducks game. It was a night game in October, so I nearly froze to death. I can’t tolerate temperatures below about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and it was probably in the 30s. A fellow fan gave me his gloves, and while it was a kind gesture, it only helped minimally. Frigid temperatures are why I only go to home openers now, which are in late August or early September.
Another condition you should plan for is rain. While we might be able to tough out the cold, rain will ruin the entire experience because our chairs shouldn’t get wet. I’ve experienced both outcomes — avoiding expected rain and getting caught in an unexpected downpour.
Locate the first-aid station
A few years ago, I learned that there are often first-aid stations at events. I’ve found them at football games, basketball games, the local fair, and even Disneyland. These rooms have padded tables I can transfer to and tap my kidneys. You can also get hot water there, which helps with the aforementioned cold problem.
Arrive early to park and have a solid transportation plan
As is the case with, well, everywhere, minimal handicapped parking is available. However, at big events, this problem is exponentially worse. If you want a handicapped spot, get there a couple of hours early. It took my family a few years to learn this. We had to park in a neighborhood a few blocks from Autzen Stadium. While that’s not a long walk, parking just feet from the destination is far more convenient.
My experiences going to and from football games have been relatively smooth. My fellow attendees park the van as close as possible. However, my trips to Portland for Blazers basketball games are another story. I went to two games this year, and while my trips to the Moda Center were ideal, the aftermath was nightmarish on both occasions.
The first time, my parents dropped my grandparents, my brother, and me off, planning to pick us up after the game. It seemed like a solid plan until we were caught in a monsoon outside the stadium and my parents couldn’t find us. We had to walk back to the hotel in the rain. Fortunately, no damage was done to my chair, but it was risky.
The second incident occurred when my dad and I rode the train to the stadium. We arrived with no issues, but on the way back, we got on the wrong train. We got lost in Portland in the middle of the night and had to call a handicap Uber.
There’s no denying that traveling with SMA is hard, but if you meticulously plan ahead, you can make the experience more comfortable.
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.