I pre-boarded the flight so that I could get a left-side aisle seat. (Thank you for accommodating me, Southwest.) I was bandaged, but walking just fine. To me, myself, and I, I looked like a disaster, but few people can actually tell that I’m wearing bandages… my North Face hiking pants do the trick. Being bandaged up and out in public always makes me a little sad. Holding a boarding pass that says “disabled” feels even further debilitating. But, it’s a necessity. Flare-ups mid-flights aren’t for me.
I’m not disabled… but I digress.
Once I boarded the plane, I took my seat, (finally) unlaced my sneaker, and kicked my shoe off. Before the A group started boarding I was able to stretch my leg out and relax for a moment. As people boarded I stayed seated just trying not to make eye contact with everyone who was silently judging my early boarding privilege… on the one hand, I wanted people to know that I wasn’t making up a condition to get on the plane first… but, on the other, I wanted them to understand. Exposing my foot is my not so subtle way of opening up the conversation.
Towards the end of the flight I took my headphones off and the man across the aisle started to make conversation with me. I cringed knowing in my heart where the conversation was going…
“What did you do to your foot?” he asked.
Not so funny, funny lines flew through my head… Shark bite! Bungee jumping accident! Karate chopping fail!
He looked at my facial expression, “That good, eh.”
I smiled… “Not quite,” I thought. Because it was a plane, I let the words fall out of my mouth. It was the first time that I entertained a discussion with a stranger about my condition:
“I have swelling in my leg. The bandage on my foot goes all the way up my thigh. I wish I could tell you a cool story about how the swelling started, but I don’t have one. The condition is called primary lymphedema.”
He was a medic, so he had heard about it, but knew very little. He asked a few other questions, so I answered them to the best of my ability. I reflected on my delivery… like a new company pitch, I knew I needed some practice.
What does one say?!