Fly with a broken foot and a toddler?
May 8, 2014 9:27 AM   Subscribe

My wife is in the UK, with our nearly 2-year-old son, I'm in Switzerland, where we live. Today she fell and hurt her foot, and it's possibly broken: she's going to have it checked out and possibly have a cast put on tomorrow. Her flight back is on Saturday morning. Is that a good idea?

A broken bone in the foot would ordinarily not be a reason not to fly (if the cast is split), but is it sensible/reasonable to fly with that *plus* a wriggly nearly 2-year-old? (We didn't book a seat for him, so he's riding with mummy). And, assuming it isn't reasonable, might our travel insurance company be willing/able to do anything about it? I'm feeling rather helpless over here, and any advice from the hivemind would greatly ease my furrowed brow
posted by Omission to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
I think you should call the travel insurance company just so you know. Then you can make plans based on that.

How long is the flight? And does she have to change planes or anything like that?

It seems possible with help from the airline (a wheelchair or ride through the airport, etc.) although probably wouldn't be the funnest thing ever.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:30 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

So, if she can't fly with the toddler on Saturday, what would you do instead? I don't suppose an extra week with the cast on is going to make it significantly easier. And I don't suppose a long train journey with changes would be any easier than a short flight.

Could you fly to the UK and then come back with them (or if you can't get on her flight, could you take charge of your son and bring him on your flight)? Would an extra seat for the toddler and a bit of help from airline staff make the difference, and if so is it possible to book him a seat now?

I'd call the airline and see what they suggest and what kinds of support they can offer.
posted by mskyle at 9:44 AM on May 8, 2014

Best answer: I would try to book an extra seat for the toddler, and making sure that she shows up early and gets the wheelchair escort to the gate for priority boarding.

the flight from UK-> Switzerland is what... 2 hrs tops? I think she should be able to swing it IF she gets a separate seat for the toddler.
posted by larthegreat at 9:50 AM on May 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

In the UK I would go to A&E tonight - if it is broken then depending on the fracture she might need to be non-weight-bearing for 6-8weeks, which presumably she isn't at the moment.

She would ordinarily be brought back to fracture clinic the following day for an orthopaedic review. She might get an aircast boot rather than a plaster cast (again, depends on the fracture). I'm not sure how that will fit in with flying (maybe she could just see orthopaedics back home) but it's probably better to not be trying to sort it out the day before she leaves. Thursday evenings are not going to be hideously busy.

I agree that speaking to the airline and getting one of those little jeeps to take her to the gate, plus an aisle seat or upgrade so she can stretch her leg out, should make it managable. During the flight she'll be in her seat anyway. I would go for an upgrade rather than a toddler seat myself (probably same price, and she'll have similar elbow room and much more legroom). Is she getting a taxi/lift to the airport and is somebody meeting her at arrivals? It shouldn't be much worse than flying with a toddler as long as she has somebody to help her get checked in, get to and from the gate, etc. She'll get early boarding etc and it's not a long flight. The airline can provide all that but they will need some notice.
posted by tinkletown at 9:53 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Call the airline and inform them she has limited mobility and will need a wheelchair and help on and off the plane. Make sure she has somebody taking her to the airport who'll stay with her until she's met by her help and that somebody is picking her up in Switzerland. Assuming the doctors clear her for travelling she should be ok as he flight is really short so the main logistical problems are getting onto and off the plane and trying not to lose a toddler you can't run after in a busy airport. Alternatively see how much it would be for you to fly over, meet them at the airport and come back with them. She'll still need mobility assistance though.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:05 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

If flying in particular is the issue, it's only about 6-7 hours by train.
posted by prentiz at 10:31 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Consider the idea of shipping any luggage she may have, so she is only dealing with a carryon containing the items necessary for the flight.
posted by CathyG at 11:11 AM on May 8, 2014

Echoing tinkletown's A&E recommendation, this stuff is free here in the UK, so don't delay. Waiting could cause further problems down the line with recovery.

Depending on where they are staying (in Central London?), it might be easier for them to get the Eurostar to Paris, and you/someone pick them up from there, than them having to get out to an airport (Heathrow?) and wait around and travel long distances inside the airport.

Another option would be to fly from London City Airport, which is tiny, so much easier to get around.

Not sure how much/any of the cost travel insurance would help with, I'd call them ASAP as policies vary so much no one on here can really say what they'll do. I imagine a proper diagnosis from a doctor would help this process.
posted by chrispy108 at 11:22 AM on May 8, 2014

Best answer: I agree with koahiatamadl--definitely request a wheelchair if she decides to fly. This is exactly the kind of situation they are available for.

I want to emphasize that it is really important to have someone go to the airport with her to help out until she finds the wheelchair attendants. This is the worst part of the process. How to find them varies from airport to airport, she should call the airport beforehand to find out if there is a phone number to call when you get there, or a centralized location to go to. Even calling beforehand it is sometimes not clear how to find them, and I have had to spend five minutes calling chains of phone numbers to get help on more than one occasion because the number I was given in advance was wrong. Having someone there to help with your son while this stuff happens will make a big difference! They can also help her check her luggage.

Once she finds the attendants they will be super nice and helpful, and will get her through security fast and help with getting her carry on through the scanner. She should still arrive earlier than normal because you can sometimes wait 45 min for a wheelchair when demand is high. She will be able to board the plane first with help from one of the wheelchair attendants, so it won't matter how awkward it is as long as she can physically do it. Be sure she mentions to them that they need to come back for boarding. They leave you at the gate by yourself to wait, and only come back if you request it.

When she lands there will be someone waiting by the airplane door with a wheelchair. They will bring her to arrivals, so if someone meets her at the airport she will have help the whole way.

The attendants will also be happy to stop by the bathroom with her, so it's a good idea to do this on the way to the gate.

One thing to think about is if your son will have trouble walking all the way to the gate. I don't think he will be allowed to ride in her lap in the wheelchair for safety reasons, so if he can't walk that far on his own she might need to switch to the motorized cart so they can both ride for the trip from security to the gate, since she won't be able to push a stroller while riding in a wheelchair.

I would also try really hard to book an extra seat. Call the airline and explain your wife's predicament to be sure you get two seats together.

Also if your son is a bolter this may be a good time for a toddler leash. If he runs off in the airport while she is waiting at the gate by herself that will not be fun.
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 11:27 AM on May 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I had a green stick fracture of my arm as a kid, the rid to the hospital in the car made me cry. I kind of wonder what pressure changes on a flight will do with a possibly recently broken foot, presumably more seriously broken than my arm was.

I suggest she discuss the flight with the doctor and ask how that might impact her. I might try to find alternate transportation home just because I have a high threshold for pain but my experiences suggest to me this could be ugly for mom, even before you consider the issue of the toddler. And how is mom going to properly care for said toddler if she is blinded by pain and tears?
posted by Michele in California at 11:30 AM on May 8, 2014

I kind of wonder what pressure changes on a flight will do with a possibly recently broken foot

Once set, probably not much. Several years ago my Mother broke her wrist while staying with us. The local hospital set it and put it in a cast (actually just the heavy temporary one — she did all the follow up care when she got home) and she flew across the Atlantic two or three days later. Having a broken bone and a cast can be the cause of minor discomfort in itself, but the plane trip didn’t add to it appreciably as far as I know. But definitely arrange for assistance getting to the gate.

I think the issue is less the foot itself and more the toddler; having a seat for him sounds like the way to go, unless he is a little hellion who needs constant chasing, and will never sit still… in which case a second adult might be a necessity on any form of transport. As long as the kid is reasonably tractable it should be fine (I say this having twice flown across the Atlantic without my wife, accompanied by a two-year-old and a four-year-old, albeit without my also having a broken foot).
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 2:11 PM on May 8, 2014

So you'll know in a little while which of these increasingly difficult situations you're in:

-Not broken, but pretty painful anyways, can walk unaided (if slowly).
-Not broken, or minor break, can walk with a walking cast/boot.
-Broken in a more major way, can only walk with crutches.
-Broken in a more major way, can only walk with crutches, and can't put ANY weight on her foot at all.
-Broken in a major way, needs surgery.

If she is on crutches, she effectively has no hands either. Words of experience here. I spent 3 months on crutches. An airport would have been very overwhelming, even with wheelchair assistance and without a kid.

No hands, no way to carry the toddler, no way to pull a bag behind her. No way to push a stroller. No way to even grab a sandwich without a backpack. Wheelchair assistance is the way to go. Check all bags. Consider flying out to help her.

If she has a cast, she has an increased risk of developing a blood clot. Long flights also increase this risk. She should be aware of, and take seriously, any signs of blood clots or swelling inside a hard cast.

If she is on opiate painkillers, they can make you nauseated, spacy and sleepy. (and constipated.) Mix that all in with a screaming kid, confusing situation, and being pretty darn helpless?

If she is on crutches, once she gets home, do you have stairs? Doing stairs on crutches is fairly terrible. Have her ask for a PT/OT/Physio consult to learn stair techniques. Before she gets home, you can buy a shower transfer bench, and cast bags. This will let her sit to take a shower with her leg sticking out above the tub.

If she is on crutches and painkillers, I think you should consider flying out to help her.
posted by fontophilic at 2:43 PM on May 8, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone: I'll definitely book an extra seat! (The flight is with Easyjet, so no chance of an upgrade). She's in Wales with my parents, and they're taking her to the airport, so we're good on help at that end: I'll meet her at the airport at this end. Talking to her tonight, it sounds like it doesn't hurt unless she puts weight on it, so she shouldn't need opiates.
posted by Omission at 3:10 PM on May 8, 2014

Just stepping in to say that you may need to arrange for a special harness or carseat for your toddler.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 5:41 PM on May 8, 2014

I have sent my wife and kids ahead of me on overseas flights and every time I have done so I have gone with them to checkin, ID in hand, and requested an "escort pass". If they're in a decent mood and understand the situation, they can easily issue a blank boarding card that will get you through security and into the gate area, just not onto the jetway. But that's 99% of your battle here, right?

Some airlines are better than this with others. European carriers are much more sympathetic to moms and kids than American ones but I've had success with both.

So if you can locate a helper for her that is willing to push a wheelchair and toddler-wrangle for an hour or two, that might be a better bet than relying on a porter from the airport. Worst that can happen is that they say no and you're back to the porter. Good luck!
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:37 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

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