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I’m a married 31 year-old who has been diagnosed with fibromylagia for 12 years. I am on a quest to raise awareness and help others by sharing information and staying positive. Read more
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Felicia Fibro - Life with fibromyalgia, EMPOWERED!

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Fibro Feelings – Pain at Airport Security

What is Fibro Feelings?

And now for an experience that The Helpful Hubby and I will never forget:

The last day of our trip we had a morning in Amsterdam. For 4-5 hours we walked around the city. For the previous few days of our trip my feet had been in excruciating pain every minute. I started off the morning with an opiod pain killer. After a few hours my feet hurt even worse than before I took the medicine, so I took another opiod pain killer. While we were walking around we sat for breaks as often as possible. Doing this gave me enough stamina to get through the pain until the next bench.

We headed back to the airport and started going through the multiple levels of security. Once we got to our gate we got in what seemed like a line with no movement. My feet were hurting SO badly the only thing I could do to keep from busting into tears was to rock back and forth, left foot, right foot, left foot, etc… The foot pain I had on this trip was the worst I’ve had in my life! Finally we were only 4 people away from the front of the line. Then the line stopped again, for quite awhile. It was at this point where I told The Helpful Hubby that I probably should have gotten a wheelchair.

At last we were interviewed (almost like going through customs) by a security agent. He told us he was going to give our information to his coworker and walked away. I knew that we were going to be further questioned and it probably had something to do with my rocking back and forth. I hadn’t specifically mentioned why I was rocking because I figured that would seem suspicious on its own. When he walked away it was just too much for me to handle. I had already been holding back tears and knew I’d now have to stand for even longer. I asked another worker if I could sit over to the side because I was in extreme pain. He said yes, I went to sit and started crying. I HATE crying in public, so that just made everything worse. Another security agent questioned The Helpful Hubby for ~15 minutes. The agent said his coworker thought that we seemed rushed in our answers. The Helpful Hubby tried to explain that we kind of were because I was in pain. The agent then came and talked to me, basically confirming The Helpful Hubby’s story about why I was in pain.

After finally making it through the interview process we got to the security area. I was, of course, asked to be patted down. I’d never had that done before. I was anxious it would hurt, but mainly it just overwhelmed me. All the touching all over was just too much when I was already stimulated to the max with pain, stress and background noise. I started crying again. Awhile later a customer service agent came to check on me.

What did I learn from this horrific experience? I should have just gotten a wheelchair! If I had gotten a wheelchair I would have been off my feet, my pain would have lessened, I wouldn’t have been rocking back and forth, neither The Helpful Hubby or I would’ve seemed suspicious, we wouldn’t have been questioned for longer and I probably wouldn’t have gotten patted down! Please learn from my mistake and get a wheelchair before your pain is out of control!


Passports please


Comment from Selena
Time July 31, 2010 at 11:35 pm

I learned this the hard way too, when I almost collapsed in the SFO airport. I will NEVER do that again and ALWAYS ask for a wheelchair. I encourage my other chronically ill friends to do the same, but they always balk at the advice. They are worried that because they don’t look sick, they will be denied a wheelchair. I tell them that this is simply not the case. Since you have traveled recently, do you know if you can be turned down if you ask for a wheelchair?


Felicia Fibro Reply:

Thanks for sharing your story! Every airport operates a little differently, but both The Helpful Hubby and I have gotten wheelchairs for family members with no problems. In our cases we did not even need to provide a reason for why the wheelchair was needed, just that it was needed. I once got one for my mom, who looked fine, but simply did not have the stamina to walk around and stand for long periods due to a reaction she had to new medication.


Comment from Maria
Time September 3, 2010 at 7:25 pm

My husband was not so helpful of a hubby, he thought that I was just sensitive. He didn’t even go with me on my cross the world trip back from his country, which where my fibro spread all over my body to my feet at that point). I was so worried that didn’t take my pain medicine for fear of it causing a panic attack ( which tramadol can do when you first start taking it). So, I got no sleep, in pain, and my husband was not there to help or support me.

Then I got stuck in Abu DAbi Airport because the previous flight was delayed and there was a miscommunication from one airline to another about who would take us to our destination. I was too embarrassed to ask for a wheelchair, but my new found friends who were stranded with me got me one and pushed me in it.
Needless to say, I found out that I wasn’t just “sensitive”, I had fibromyalgia. Yes, never feel embarrassed, if you don’t want to explain fibromyalgia to someone, just say that your pregnant or have Rheumatoid Arthritis. And also, find the courage within yourself and respect yourself enough to get out of toxic relationships. I did, and my pain became so much better. =)


Felicia Fibro Reply:

That trip sounds like quite the ordeal Maria! That is great your new airport buddies got you a wheelchair and pushed you in it! You bring up an excellent point, “Never feel embarrassed.” We should all remember that!


Comment from Alison
Time September 3, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Another recommendation I would add — especially for those who choose not to ask for a wheelchair (I usually don’t bother with one because sitting is just as painful as standing for me, personally) — is this: any time there is a long line, mention your disability and ask if any accommodations can be made for you due to your pain. At security, they usually let me go through the first class line — at a small airport it might not be available or make a difference, but at a big one, it can be a HUGE help. When you’re at the gate, ask if you can have a pre-boarding/early boarding pass. You’ll get to board with or sometimes even before the first class people. Even if there isn’t a long line at the gate, this is still helpful because it lets you get to your seat, put your stuff away get your pillows/cushions set up if you need them (I take at least three with me when I fly!), maybe use the bathroom, and get settled comfortably before everyone else crowds the aisles.

I took my first cruise this summer and found out they have similar accommodations for special needs guests when boarding the ship, too. I probably would’ve waited over an hour if I’d gone through the normal lines, but going through the first class/special needs lines, I was on board within fifteen minutes! You may want to bring some kind of ‘proof’ of your disability (a letter from your doctor or whatever) just in case anyone gives you a hard time, but I’ve never had my disability claims challenged by a, airport/airline/cruise worker, and I don’t look at all unhealthy or disabled (unless the pain’s gotten so bad that I’m crying, but even then I probably just look like an angsty emo girl or something).

So always ask, even if you don’t think there’s anything they can do to help you! If there aren’t any first class/special needs lines, maybe they’ll let you go to the front of the regular line. You never know unless you ask. Especially with an ‘invisible’ illness like fibro, we have to be assertive and ask for (or even tell them) what we need. That’s been one of the hardest but most important lessons for me to learn!


Felicia Fibro Reply:

I agree Alison, priority boarding can be very helpful! I have taken advantage of this with Southwest Airlines. Since they do not pre-assign seats, the only way to make sure I get an aisle seat is to use their priority-boarding program. I have not used this method while waiting in lines before, but after my Amsterdam experience I will if I’m not felling well! It is nice to know the same accommodations can be found on cruise lines. It is true, with an invisible illness, help won’t be offered to us as often as it is would be to someone with a visible illness. We do need to take things into our own hands and ask, or as you said, “even tell them” what we need.


Comment from Alison
Time September 3, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Oh, and as long as I’m here — I love your blog! I’m 26 and have been living with fibro since I was a teenager, and I can identify with SO much of the stuff I’ve read here. I’m really glad I found this site tonight, it’s been a tough week/month/year and it helps knowing that someone out there in the world, even a total stranger on the internet, understands the stuff I’m going through.


Felicia Fibro Reply:

Thanks so much Alison! It is amazing how many people have fibromyalgia, yet most of us don’t know many others with it! It really does help to have someone who you feel can relate to what you’re saying. Do you use Twitter? There is a huge, supportive community of people with fibromyalgia and other invisible illnesses on there. You can find me at


Comment from Ann
Time December 23, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Thank you so much for posting this. I haven’t flown for several years and since then my fibro has gotten much worse. I often think about what it will be like if and when I do fly again. To be honest, it scares me. These are some great tips and makes me feel a little better about maybe flying again!

My brother has a rare blood disease (or so the dr’s think, they actually have no idea what is wrong w him). On one of his many trips to yet another clinic (Mayo Clinic this trip) he had to fly. At times the disease is so debilitating he cannot walk more than a few steps. The airlines he flew were wonderful. They not only provided a wheelchair for him but had a nurse fly w him the entire trip. They also had someone assisting my mom who has fibromyalgia as well. They would take her from point A to point B on one of their carts while another airport employee would push my brother in the wheelchair.


Felicia Fibro Reply:

Ann, I understand how the unknown can be frightening. I usually fly at lest a couple times a year (8 flights this year), so feel free to ask me any questions! I think the approach has a lot to do with how successful the traveling goes. Before you fly again, check out my posts on Tips & Tools for Traveling via Airplane – Part I & II: It sounds like your brother and mom had amazing airline customer service!


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