I have mentioned before what a seasoned traveller our little Monkey is. At the age of 2 years and 8 months Isabella has flown to Germany (twice) Portugal, Kefalonia and Bahrain three times. Each time she has been a little star, considering she is unable to sit, play with toys and can sometimes become anxious around strangers. Sadly on the way back from Bahrain on the last trip Isabella had what is known as a ‘Meltdown’.
Parents with any child know how hard it is when their children scream and cry in public. Eyes bore into you the back of you and the ‘tut tut’ noises and loud comments fly into the air colliding with the screams of your child, deafening you. It makes it all the more difficult to calm your child down. When a child with a disability or special needs has a ‘meltdown’ the situation is a hundred times worse. In Isabella’s case her screaming and crying leads to her hyperventilating and struggling for breath. Her body, which she never has control of, goes into what can only be described as rigor-mortis. Her back arches and her legs and arms go into the air and stiffen, this makes it virtually impossible to hold her. Then added to this if she hears sudden noises, or decides to take it up a gear, she startles and throws herself backwards. To the outside world I guess it looks like I have no control, in fact I don’t and neither does Isabella. If Isabella is not removed from the situation and taken somewhere quiet quickly she goes beyond the point of no return and can be like this for hours. We were on plane. A flight that was 7 hours long. 7 whole hours. We had nowhere to go.
The screaming commenced before the plane had even departed. Daddy was stressed and that wasn’t making the situation any easier. I blame the Stewardesses. Isabella was fine. All smiles and giggles until we got to the door and the Stewardesses were being difficult about keeping her buggy (Wheel Chair) on board. It was too big apparently . My blood boiled. I had the same problems on the way out and spoke to British Airways Customer Services, who assured me that they would make the staff aware that Isabella was disabled and that we would need the Buggy on landing and that we would be bringing her car seat on board. Car Seat? The Stewardess raised her eyebrows in way that suggested I had sprouted another head. I could have slapped the Stewardess there and then. The longer we stood there, the more people who brushed past Isabella in their hurry to get on the plane. I could feel her begin to stiffen and start to whinge. More and more people made their way on the plane and this made Isabella all the more anxious. There was no point in pre boarding, as the whole plane were practically on board, due to the hassle and aggro the stewardesses were causing. Then it happened. The scream ripped down the corridor and onto the plane. Paul’s face dropped, as did the stewardesses. We boarded the plane, Isabella arching in my arms and screaming. Paul trying his best not to take people out with the change bag, Laptop bag and Car seat. We located our seats. I had spoken to the airline about getting a bulk head seat (a seat without seats in front) they had not been able to accommodate us. While Paul was trying to put everything away a steward told us that they had found us a different seat. They had upgraded us, compliments of the Captain.
We were now in Premium Economy and had a bulk head seat. Paul almost had a fight with the man across from us who was more than less impressed with the situation. Isabella screamed for 4 whole hours. The times when she was almost calm and asleep the Stewardesses would come clattering down the aisle, asking if we wanted anything. Yes, for you to go away and stop waking Isabella. ( I obviously did NOT say that!) and with that the screaming recommenced and that was pretty much the way the entire flight went.
No sooner had we left the plane, Isabella stopped crying. We swore we would not go through another journey like that. Over the coming months all the things that Isabella had previously loved she now hated. With Isabella being Non-verbal she couldn’t tell us why, but she just let us know that she no longer liked it. She began to dislike the tube, buses, swings all things that she had previously loved. We knew she didn’t like them as you could see a Meltdown brewing, before it escalated we removed her from the situation.
Although we had all had a horrendous flight experience, we didn’t want that to stop us from travelling and discovering new places and absorbing Isabella in world of new experiences. We were now doubly anxious, as she was now not liking things that she had previously liked, but we really wanted to take her to America for Christmas. We wanted to take her To las Vegas, to see all the bright lights, and to Sea World and Disneyland. We knew that what waited for her on the otherside would be worth the flight, but not worth upsetting her. So we decided to speak to Isabella’s Neurologist to see what he could suggest. We talked at length with the Neurologist about medication that would calm her and make her relaxed enough to sleep.
He prescribed her a sedative that would relax her and said she would sleep for 6-8 hours. He suggested that we do a trial first as some children, react differently and they can become hyper rather than relaxed! So we did the trial. It was supposed to take effect after 20 mins. We gave Isabella the sedative and put her in her high chair (to stimulate the flight) 20 mins passed, 40 mins, an hour…Isabella did not look sleepy. After 1 and half hours it was clear she was not going to sleep!
We got in touch with the Neurologist and he upped the dosage. We had another trial. Once again we adminsitered the sedative and placed her in her chair and waited. After 20 minutes her eyes started to get heavy. After 25 minutes she was asleep. BINGO! We settled ourselves on the sofa, watching Isabella. Sadly after 40 minutes she woke up, she looked to us and gave us the biggest, cheekiest grin.
Once again we contacted the Neurologist, because the holiday was fast approaching. He was unable to suggest anything else. He obviously couldn’t guarantee it, but he said as long as she was calm and relaxed on the trials she should be okay on the flight. The should be okay worried up slightly. We didn’t mind her being awake and calm, we just didn’t want her awake and massively distressed for 10 hours. It certainly wouldn’t be good for Isabella or anyone concerned. We tried to put the flight to the back of our minds and tried not to spend the next 4 weeks worrying about it….