– especially when they are dropped to the tarmac from the belly of a plane.
What was supposed to be just an ordinary business trip to attend the annual T-Mobile Sr. Manager summit — turned out to be anything but ordinary.
As all the passengers were unboarding, I waited for my electric wheelchair to be brought up to the gateway; however, a large baggage guy shows up to let me know that I would need to transfer to an airport wheelchair, since my wheelchair was badly damaged. Unfortunately, when we got to baggage claims, and I saw my smashed wheelchair – All I could think of was – remember how the Terminator was smashed up in the machine press in the Terminator movie – that was exactly how my wheelchair looked ….
I was flying with my sister, Sherri and brother-in-law, Jeff. The claim agent would only talk to Jeff, until he went on the other side of my chair – down on his knees to force her to look across at me. The shock of her not willing to treat me as THE Customer and needing — to pee – REALLY badly – enabled me to compartmentalize my emotions and clearly articulate my needs. Within 30 minutes, we were on our way with me in a dilapidated wheelchair — almost unusable, a claim ticket, and a promise from Delta that they would follow up the next day.
READY OR NOT, HERE WE GO to Day 1 of the Summit – Jeff is driving me down a hill and I started sliding underneath the seatbelt, falling on my knees to the floor of the van, because of the crappy wheelchair – REALLY NOW — I thought. After pulling over, Jeff helped me back into the chair. I was shaken up, in shock, and dizzy. Jeff wheeled me into the meeting, and I put on a good game face; however, around 2 hours in – the pain from the fall was causing me to be dizzy – and I called Jeff to pick me up and take me back to the hotel.
DETERMINED headed to Day 2 of the Summit – When I entered the room, I realized for the first time — that I had lost some of my independence – Jeff had to push me everywhere versus me navigating in my electric chair solo. It was humbling, feeling, more disabled, than normal.
Still Determined, I made it through until lunch break, went back to the hotel to pull myself together, and headed back later in the afternoon. Several leaders from T-Mobile including our CIO Cody, came over together to offer their support at the end of the day. Cody simply asked – Why can’t I buy you a new wheelchair? While humbled and grateful – there’s no store you can walk into and buy or rent a wheelchair that I could use (at least, in Seattle). Also, knowing Delta broke it – I felt they needed to make it right. My mental state that day was one of frustration, embarrassment, and disappointment. I did not want attention that made me appear weak or that I was unable to highly perform in my role. The only thing I could do was to show my appreciation and Be. My. Best. Susan, which was simply being there.
The hope from my presence at the summit was my peers and leaders saw me as Resilient. Although my wheelchair was destroyed, I had fallen gotten up, gave my best, and even though my mental health was not 100%, I had come as I was – even with my challenges – BRINGING MY BEST SUSAN in that moment.
REMEMBER my story Wheelchairs Don’t Fly when faced with your own challenges…..
And Be Resilient – even when your challenges are Great!