traveling with my arm in a sling
May 15, 2014 10:27 AM   Subscribe

Flying and vacationing with my arm in a stabilizing brace - give me hints and tips and answers!

I will be going to Las Vegas next week for five days. Unfortunately, my right arm (non-dominant arm, thank GOD) is in a Townsend Shoulder Sling due to rotator cuff surgery I had about a month ago.

I'll take any advice y'all have, but specific questions I have:

1. My flight out is very convoluted (layover in Chicago and in Los Angeles) so losing my luggage somewhere along the way seems to be more of a possibility - but should I try schlepping around luggage when I don't have another arm that's free? (Plus I'd need to rely upon the kindness of strangers (which I hate doing) to put said bag in the overhead compartment.) (I do have a roller bag, which might help)

Related - I figure already that I'll get additional security checks - what will that involve?

2. Is there a sling that will put my arm in a similar position but not be as warm and black and heat-retaining? (I have a phone call in to my doctor but wouldn't mind advice)
posted by Lucinda to Travel & Transportation (3 answers total)
Do not attempt to tough it out at all. Your uninjured shoulder is going to be doing the work of two or more in the next while. Use every opportunity to minimize straining it. (I speak from experience.)

Call (don't email) the airline and contact their "Special Services" team. Tell them you need help boarding, that you will need to pre-board and cannot carry your luggage. That you will need help on all legs of your trip. If there are different airlines, repeat for each one. Ask each one for the redcap number — who you call to get your luggage to the taxi stand at every airport.

Depending on how long the walk is, how much luggage, and how much money you have, budget $5 - $20 to tip each person who moves the luggage.

The airline(s) will want you to check your luggage, but if your ORD layover is less than 90 minutes I wouldn't be 100% on your suitcases making the connection. (Thunderstorm weather in Chicago right now.) Under the Air Carrier Access Act, you do have the right to bring a carry-on, and they must wrangle it for you, but they may very well argue with you about it for hours instead while you're on the runway.

Prep a go bag that fits under the seat in front. Put in one day's clothing, toothbrush, meds, e-reader. Maybe you can carry it over your uninjured shoulder, but make sure it closes well enough so you feel ok handing it off to a helper. If your checked luggage does get lost, you'll be able to cope. If you have a fanny pack, swallow your fashion pride and use it for your money and tickets. If there's anyone in LV who is on Team You and asking, "Can I help?" prep them with a shopping list for the things you might have lost.

They do make light-colored slings, and your surgery is far enough out that you could probably get by with a bandana, but I'd give a quick call to my OT and see what they have to say (they may have a great sling in the back closet). They're all stinky hot, though. If you have to be outside in the heat, construction workers wear nifty bandanas which stay cold for a long time and recharge in cold water — but they're not damp. You could put one inside your sling. Walgreens has 'em.

If your repaired shoulder is still tender, here are defensive moves to minimize people slapping you, heartily, where it hurts.
  • Make a small sign for the back of your sling: "No touch zone: SURGERY!"
  • Purchase eight small plastic hair clips (Scunci Jaw Clips is one brand) and clip them from your strap down to your bicep. This works especially well with a lightweight sweater or jacket, where you can clip to top seam, with the teeth on either side. This makes it almost impossible for someone to grab your shoulder with collegiate gusto.
  • Obtain an ornate corsage, and attach it to the middle of the zone created by your slung arm and your shoulder.
There are people you can pay to help. It's also okay to ask for help. You'll return the favor, one day.

Best wishes! OK to Memail.
posted by Jesse the K at 12:03 PM on May 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

For the actual travel piece, I strongly recommend going ahead and pre-boarding. I've made both choices (regular boarding and pre-boarding) with similar injuries. The jostling on the way down to the airplane was painful and unnecessary. Also consider just getting a skycap to push you in a wheelchair - really really do.

They can navigate the additional security with ease (it's what they do all day), they'll help you get your bag to the gate, and they'll facilitate the hand-off to the plane and making sure the the flight attendants get your bag on board. You don't need to feel like you're relying on the kindness of strangers! This is their job. Just bring a nice tip, and you'll get over the awkward feeling of being pushed for your shoulder pretty fast. You won't need to worry about making your connections - someone will meet you at each gate and wheel you to the next one. You'll arrive in Las Vegas unflustered having had relatively easy travel. It's the way to start your trip.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:06 PM on May 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just got back today, had a fabulous time! Thank you so much for suggesting getting the wheelchair and pre-boarding - it made things sooo much easier.
posted by Lucinda at 9:30 PM on May 27, 2014

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