October 25th, 2016

Seeking DC Vaccine –Long Travel to Clinic Is Hard Work

One reason why I chose the vaccine trial – crossing the US land from west to east for five hours – was I had heard that the NCI would pay for my flight and some of the accommodations so I don’t have to worry about the financial burden. Yet I started realizing how hard flying to the clinic is.

Again, I waited patiently for the government travel agency to contact me for booking the flight, but I was getting nervous looking at a clock on Tuesday, which was just 6 days from the next visit. If I have to book George’s flight and a hotel by myself, I should do ASAP before the ticket or a room will be sold out. I didn’t want to bug the persons who are in charge, but as the time passed 1 pm, which was 4pm in East time, not being able to wait any longer, I emailed and then made a phone call to ask what’s going on. Soon after, finally the phone call came from the human service.

” Is it OK flying Sunday but arrive next morning?” The agent asked.

No! I haven’t received the appointments yet, but if the first appointment is early in the morning like the last week, and if the flight is delayed, or the luggage doesn’t arrive, I would be in a big panic.

“How about arriving at 9pm on Sunday?”
“Is there anything available arriving earlier?”
” No,” said she.
OK then.

“You will leave on Wednesday, right?” she continued.
“Well, I haven’t had my appointments yet, so I don’t know.”
“I was told so.” said she and gave me a flight, which arrives at LAX on Wednesday night. Last week we arrived here before noon. I wish I could have the same flight, but I should accept what I am given.

“Can you book for my husband, too?” I asked the next request.
Tap, tap, tap… After the sound of tapping a keyboard, she said, ” It will be $900 including the service fee.”

$900? It’s like going to Japan! Last week I paid almost the same price for two tickets. If the price is so high, it won’t help us. The lady said I could search for the cheaper ticket on line with the same flight. So I did, and then found a few flights which arrive at an earlier time with much lower price. I called back and asked if I could change the flight.

“Spirit? No, we don’t have a contract with that airline,” she said. Desappointing. I asked for the second choice, and that was accepted. Being able to fly on the same airplane with George was a big relief, but as the agency can’t offer the flight until the last minute, this hassle seems inevitable even in the future.

Next was a hotel. In Bethesda there are several hotels, which offer discounts and shuttles for NCI visitors, but if an appointment is early, like 6 am, the shuttle is useless, and as the date we will stay next week is getting close, the price is going up and the rooms are being sold out. Running out of patience to wait for the contact for this booking, I reserved the hotel by myself.

Usually when I use a flight, I buy insurance for the sudden cancelation or a change of the flight. Actually last week after Apheresis, I kept bleeding from the groin where the catheter was removed. I was allowed to go back to the hotel, but told to call 911 if the bleeding happens again. I was not sure if I could catch the flight next morning, but with the insurance, there was no need to worry. This time the side effect of the vaccine seems just a skin reaction without a fever, fatigue, nausea, etc. I hope that’s true, but without the insurance, I am a bit nervous.

Traveling to the clinic crossing 8 states requires hard work. There is so much stress even with financial help. Yet If this vaccine saves my life, I have to accept all the troubles I face. This is my choice. I have to be patient.