Flying with a disability

I recently traveled on a commercial airline for the first time in 14 years. Due to a knee injury, my doctor recommended using a cane when climbing stairs or walking more than a few feet. In order to travel on an airplane, I made use of the airline’s disability services. Most importantly, I needed the use of a wheelchair in order to navigate the check-in and security screening process.

The kindness of strangers made its impression. People stood aside to make room for me. They noticed the cane and offered their help. If I were to need it permanently, it might bother me that people looked at the cane instead of me. Nevertheless, I’m not likely to need it forever, so I’m still seeing the experience through the lens of migraine.

Would the airline have been as accommodating if I’d been coping with a migraine attack? I still wouldn’t be able to walk long distances or stand in line for hours. In fact, a migraine attack disables me far more than an injured knee. Would kind strangers take notice? Would they help me navigate the light rail station or offer to carry my bags?

I think we all know the answers.

Not a single person would notice or care unless I vomited on their shoes. That’s the trouble with an invisible illness. Without the outward signs of impairment, few people would recognize the subtle cues of a migraine attack. That is a blessing and a curse…okay, mostly a curse.

Migraine can be just as disabling as paraplegia. The symptoms can feel like torture. It would be nice, if just for one day, there were enough outward signs to help strangers understand. If it were possible, I wonder what physical signs would be enough, particularly between attacks. There are already so many visible signs. Maybe it’s just a matter of teaching people what to look for.

What are some of the visible signs of a migraineur, even between attacks? Please share in the comments!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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