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What Happens in Vegas… Gets Posted on

The alternate title for this was Me, my Wheelchair… and Hubs. However, I decided to present my harrowing Vegas experience with a smile and a knowing *wink* for those who have been in my latest situation, and as a warning to those who might someday find themselves repeating my story.

So here goes an attempt at humor in the face of adversity. Lots of adversity. TMI alert for those faint of heart…

Our last day in Las Vegas was to be spent leisurely showering, dressing and packing for the long trip home. That was, until I was awakened before dawn, rushing to the restroom in my customary bent over, not sure which end is going to go first position, with a raging Migraine already in progress.

This had happened to me once before on a return trip (alone) from HOH in Washington DC last year, so this time I was prepared. I knew what to do and I began to put my *brilliant* plan into action.

I dug into my meds bag which contained every allowed conceivable medication I’d tried in decades, including a 7 yr old dwindling prescription of my coveted Midrin, and hydrocodone — an opioid that can cause terrible rebound for me, but works well to slow my intestinal tract. I figured the rebound was an issue I could deal with later.

Uh-oh. I realized the hydrocodone wouldn’t work on my digestive system (which had gone suddenly and terribly awry as part of my Migraine attack) because a prescription med taken for my autoimmune diseases the night before works in the brain (and bowels) to cancel out opioids. Oops, I hadn’t counted on that. That meant I had about 4 more hours to wait before I could take it.

Next up, my muscle relaxants, diazepam to quell the nausea and a good gulp of my water bottle by the bedside. Along with my thyroid meds I hoped this might be enough to shut things down, if I could only fall back asleep and break the evil spell.

Thyroid meds are tricky, and normally the cardinal rule is to take only them in the am and wait at least 1 hr before taking anything else, including food or drink other than water. Sometimes my morning Migraines are metabolically triggered, and getting my thyroid meds into my system will stop the attack, so I had to give it a try.

Because I have other major health conditions, I cannot take triptans, DHE, anti-nausea meds nor many other useful Migraine medications. I ride a very fine line management-wise, and I was beginning to realize I might be in trouble.

An hour later I tried to eat in case that might help me, as I do suffer blood sugar irregularities that can trigger Migraine. That’s when I realized that I had a bad case of gastric stasis and the pills I’d had for breakfast were still setting there like lead. I threw down some Tylenol and butalbital praying to sleep it off, but to no avail. As things started to get worse, I grabbed the nearest trash can to catch my meds as they came back up. Then came the caffeine hubs gallantly brought to the room for me, which I then followed with the hydrocodone as I prayed something — anything — would be absorbed enough to get me through the day and the long trip home back to Missouri.

By that time I was positioned with my head at the foot of the bed so I could lie on the left side which hurt so badly, while filling the trash can over the side without having to move my head too much. It was time for my last resort — the precious Midrin.

The first 2 Midrin did nothing to help me. Neither did the next an hour later. They might as well have been breath mints.

My next choice was to find a local headache specialist for a magnesium infusion in time to catch our late afternoon flight home. Teri reminded me that everyone was saving their mag sulfate for life threatening cases like asthma and pregnant women with eclampsia, and the chances of me finding any were slim to none. I knew this, but desperate people will try to make anything work. I also realized that any doctor I saw would need my long and complicated history before even beginning to consider treating me, and experience told me this was likely futile. I didn’t want to be stuck in a hospital again, so, we began discussing options that included staying an additional night.

A couple phone calls later by hubs, and I knew there was no way we could afford the additional $1000 or so in charges and fees that it would cost to stay. We simply had no other choice. We had to make our flight.

Hubs asked me if I could sit up. I tried and vomited in the trash can again. The answer was “no”.

Despite that, hubs packed everything by himself and dressed me in my jeans, socks and shoes in the dark, got us a delayed check-out and wrangled a wheelchair which, after taking my fourth Midrin I managed somehow to fall into. I slumped over a bag in my lap as the closest thing to lying down that I could get.


It was then that hubs realized that he had one moaning wife holding a barf bag in a wheelchair, along with 3 suitcases and 2 carry-on bags to get through the door, to the elevator, across the busy hotel and to a cab and airport — by himself.

Somehow (and I really wish I could have seen him doing it) he managed to pile a suitcase on my lap, push me with one hand and pull the other two bags with the other hand as he slung the 2 carry-on bags over his shoulders. With every tiny bump he said, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry”. Down the elevator we went, and across the casino we rolled.

Uh- oh. Then came the casino floor manager.

“Is she okay? What’s going on? Do you need some help? What’s wrong with her?”

“Did you stay in our hotel last night? ”

The floor boss motions to other workers to come help him block hubs hasty and awkwardly complicated exit.

Hubs stops when he realizes what’s happening.

Poor, dear hubs was being questioned as other casino workers (aka bouncers) came to interrogate him as to why he had a nearly unconscious, highly distressed woman dressed in jammies and jeans, disheveled and half slumped over a bag in a wheelchair leaving the hotel.

They thought he was up to no good and it appeared were prepared to protect my virtue – – either that or they thought we were disheveled homeless folk looking for a place to crash, I’m not really sure which, lol.

Someone came to help hubs with the luggage, and hailed a cab for us which was (thank you God) a van with a bench seat. Heart palps (a result of the Midrin) hit me hard along with dizziness and another wave of nausea, and I flopped onto the seat clutching my barf bag praying I wasn’t having a heart attack while simultaneously thankful hubs is CPR trained. Then we were off.

The driver seemed concerned and had no trouble driving slowly as requested (they’re paid by time and mileage) to the airport. I felt as if I was riding on the bare floor boards of a covered wagon bound for the Oregon territory. I counted out loud as a way to get through the experience I was enduring.

At the airport we had lots of help which was a good thing — hubs having the whole 3 suitcases, 2 bags and the sick wife in the wheelchair thing.

We learned a few things:

  • Bags can be temporarily held at the front desk of most hotels.
  • Horizon air doesn’t have outside bag check. They must be dragged through the line and checked in personally.
  • American Airlines bag check guys will volunteer to help out a desperate guy even when they’re going to a different airline.
  • Each airline has its own wheelchairs. Be sure you get the right one.
  • Beware of airport trams if you’re nauseous. They sway. A LOT.
  • It’s a good thing to ask for help wheeling the sick girl through TSA because the employees know where to go and how to get you through fast.
  • Children’s bikes do NOT fit through the airport scanners?

Of course I made it through quickly (thank you wonderful airport lady whoever you were). Somebody thought we were bucking the line and tried to push me out, but *airport lady* made them back off. My hero.

Hubs was held up in his line by someone trying to carry on a child’s bike (yes, you read that right) that wouldn’t fit through the x-ray machine and got stuck! In the meantime, everybody got to watch me get groped by a TSA agent who asked me repeatedly if I wanted a private screening, to which I answered — “I don’t care just do what you’ve got to do wherever you need to do it.” And I meant it to the depths of my soul. I didn’t care what they did so long as it got me on that plane.

They tried to take away my barf bag, but when I explained to them that if I had to vomit again and had no bag well… they were eager for me to carry it through the screening — no problem.

I felt sorry for the TSA agent as she was trying so hard and, well, in that close proximity I had no shower that sweaty morning nor brushed my teeth and had to have been someone she really didn’t want to get very close to, let alone close enough to *gasp* smell, lol. I never even saw her face, but after our extremely intimate personal encounter I did remember to thank her for being so nice.

Hubs has never had to take me in a wheelchair through the airport before and had no idea what the protocol was. Thankfully, he is a man not at all above asking for help or directions when desperation calls, both which he got thanks to wonderful people who really cared about getting us through our ordeal.

The gate people let us board before they even announced boarding for anyone else. This allowed me to flop myself into the seat, barf bag still in hand, while he wrestled with bags. We didn’t even have to be self-conscious or worry about hurrying.

A wheelchair was waiting for us as we disembarked — the last ones out of the plane by choice. Hubs left me to collect our bags, but was worried about leaving me alone. I was feeling a little better — enough that I reminded him how badly I smelled and looked and that no one was going to want to come anywhere near me, let alone close enough to release my death grip and run off with the computer bag I clutched and rested my head on. Bless his heart he didn’t even think about how awful I looked or the noxious green vapor cloud surrounding me.

We made it to the car (with 2 more absconded barf bags from the airplane seat pockets in front of us for good measure) and I slept all the way home — slightly less than 4 hrs on the interstate and twisty, bumpy highway.

At 12:45 am I was never so happy to see the inside of my dark, quiet house.

We can laugh about what happened now, but we learned a lot on this trip… knowledge which I hope never to have to use again.

Hopefully none of my readers will ever have to deal with an experience like ours, but if you do, you’ll have my story to remember and help you make it home.

Sometimes what happens in Vegas can be a learning experience 🙂 At least I hope it made you smile.

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.


  • Janet
    7 years ago

    How could this article make anyone smile Ellen??? I felt your pain…all of it.

    Janet Jones
    Las Vegas to Georgia

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    7 years ago

    Puppet – He’s a gem. I’m a very lucky girl 🙂

  • Annie
    7 years ago

    It’s amazing how many nice people you can meet during an ordeal like this, willing to help out however they can or trying to protect you. I just got back from a trip where everyone watched my mother get violated by TSA too. They don’t even look at the medical cards any longer since the underwear bomber, but they were as nice as they could be. Your husband sounds like he should be up for saint of the year. I’m real glad you have him!

  • Susan Stacey
    7 years ago

    I find it so amazing that you know what meds you can take to help you! Your hub sounds wonderful 🙂

  • Susan Stacey
    7 years ago

    It must be awful to worry about insurance on top of everything else, makes me realise how lucky we are here with the NHS despite all it’s problems. I hope the Botox works for you. XX

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    Susan Stacey I have been doing this a very, very long time. The unfortunate part is that I have so few options due to other health concerns. I also am currently not under the care of a headache specialist, as the only one within 6 1/2 hrs from here doesn’t take my insurance. So, the beat goes on as they say… I keep looking for better care and have pegged hopes on Botox, praying it might be my answer. But I must find a new doctor before that will happen. Being in pain every day for so long is exhausting.

  • Elaine Gross
    7 years ago

    Bless you Ellen, what a nightmare! But, you survived it, thank God. And thank God for your very loving and attentive husband. Migraine is awful in itself, but to be away, and have to travel, that’s truly cruel and unusual punishment. I’m glad you’re home safe and sound, and I hope you’re feeling better.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    The next day I actually felt fabulous! I suppose it was because of leftovers from the meds etc, but I woke up thinking… “I don’t hurt” “How can this be?” Things came back again by that evening, but it’s been so many years since the last pain free day, that I felt like I was on cloud nine! The bad part was knowing that it wasn’t going to last. Boy, I sure do miss that good day now 🙂 And yes… my hubs is definitely a keeper – yes?!

  • Diana Lee
    7 years ago

    Oh, honey. I knew it was bad, but I had no idea. Migraine can be so damned demoralizing.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    I made it through though 🙂 There have been many times much worse than this I’m afraid. There will be more too. You know the routine… Thankfully, we laugh about it now! And yes, I think there are many colorful adjectives to describe the Migraine experience don’t you? Might be a fun list to come up with sometime…

  • Migraine Monologues
    7 years ago

    Oh Ellen! I’ve had to fly a few times ‘with’ a wheel chair because of migraine complications, must say it is handy for skipping the security line but I’m very lucky in that I don’t vomit with my migraines – so I can’t begin to imagine what this must have been like for you! I laughed a lot at the idea of the Casino thinking your husband was up to no good! Glad you made it back in one piece – but why, oh why, do migraines always know exactly when not to come along! Hope your next plane trip is far more peaceful! Victoria x

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    Me too! This is one reason I hate flying so much. Just the up and down alone can get a good Migraine going.

  • Janene Zielinski
    7 years ago

    Thank you for sharing this…. It is a hilarious recounting of a horrible situation. Glad you are well enough now to tell it.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    I enjoyed writing it. I really wish I could have been a fly on the wall watching what was happening. It wasn’t funny at all at the time, but I’m sure we were pretty entertaining for everyone else 😀

  • Linda Barham Nabors
    7 years ago

    Your trip sounds very familiar to me and my “hubs”. We have lived this scenario, minus the barf bags, many times. I have Fibro and Chronic fatigue along with my migraines that make it impossible to walk through any airport or stand in lines. We have used a wheelchair for 7 years and have found most airports to be so accommodating to those of us who are sick. I always feel bad about going through the airport in a wheelchair, but when I try to walk a little it doesn’t take long to know where I should be. I don’t like the stares that I get, but I know in my heart that I cannot travel without these wonderful helpers. Along with the wheelchair, there are numerous people at airports that are more than happy to help anyone who is sick to get to where they need to be and very quickly. Usually, going through security is when you get the majority of the dirty looks, but I have learned to ignore them all. It is the hardship on my husband that is the worst, although he has said that with a wheelchair and special treatment it is much easier than it used to be. At least with a wheelchair I can carry something!
    I am so glad you made it home safely. I know that feeling of a 6-8 hour trip feeling like 24 hours. It is miserable and then the next day you are so leftover, but not really remembering anything. It is a miserable thing to have to travel with a migraine.
    Thanks for the great description of how hard this can be.

  • Paula Joanne Albers
    7 years ago

    Oh, Ellen. Your vivid experience is too close to home for me (ha ha, so to speak!). It’s frightening once I realize the monster I have on my hands as a migraine starts to escalate like that. To discover that either the meds aren’t working, weren’t brought, or can’t be taken is pure fear and dread. This brings to mind the conversation we had a week or two ago about the ‘doubters’: if they had just ONE experience like this, they would never utter a word again about, “fakers”, “just take a pill”, or “maybe you should see your chiropractor”. This is no disease for the faint-of-heart, weak, or wimpy person, and we are none of those. No wonder we’re blessed with so much courage, open-mindedness and spirit – WE EARNED EVERY BIT OF IT! God Bless, Ellen; I hope you’re feeling better (and glad you made it back to your own bed!).

  • Dan Levesque
    7 years ago

    Hi, I am glad to see that you can put some humor into this gripping death pole experience. I have been there a dozen times and the after effects are just as bad cause of the overuse of the meds. Yes the rebound, but you’re home so a little easier to deal with.
    Hope you’re better.

    Dan Levesque

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    Gotta laugh! That’s what gets me through 🙂 I need those good endorphins, lol.

  • Dan Levesque
    7 years ago

    Hi Tammy, pls do explain.

  • Tammy E Lafleur
    7 years ago

    Dan do you suffer that badly with migraines’ ? If so i might know somebody if you are open minded she might be able to offer some relief !

  • Nancy Harris Bonk
    7 years ago

    Oh my goodness Ellen, when Teri said you weren’t feeling well I never imagined that scenario! Glad you’re feeling better now.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    Jamie Sohn We all suffer hon. Migraineurs need to stick together. When we are together, there is no competition. It’s just the way that it is. We tell our own stories, only to find they are the stories of others too…

  • Jamie Sohn
    7 years ago

    Oh. My. You beat me… Maybe.

  • That M Word: A Migraine Blog
    7 years ago

    Wow! This is a migraine nightmare. What an incredible story. Thanks for sharing Ellen, and glad you have such wonderful support from your family!

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    Me too! It wasn’t always that way I’m afraid. It took a long time before they realized what living with chronic Migraine was like. I knew hubs finally got it when he secretly hid our guns. He told me later he didn’t know how anyone could live a life like this and not be suicidal, and he was afraid for me. We worked through that though. Most of my family still doesn’t “get it”. Hubs and kids do, and they’re the most important. If I have them in my corner, I can deal with the rest <3

  • Migravent
    7 years ago

    Sounds like the trip from Hell.

  • Marietta Johnson
    7 years ago

    That sounds all too familiar… Thank God for sending us those wonderful husbands!

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    I tell people he didn’t start out that way… it took lots of training, lol 🙂

  • Kathy Phelan-DeLauro Mark DeLauro
    7 years ago

    Great and funny story! Unfortunately I have some of them as well!! Life is good tho…we are still here!

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    @Kathy Phelan-DeLauro Mark DeLauro – Telling these stories can sometimes be cathartic. If you have some good ones to share, why don’t you consider telling them on the site. Here is a link to the patient stories section: Something you say might change someone else’s life.

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