No, I'll Take the Room I Reserved, Thank You

By Chris Kain, kellisaspath.com

My 15-year-old daughter Kellisa spends the night at 20-25 hotels every year. Kellisa has hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, significant developmental delays, and low vision and is dependent on a wheelchair. I always make an online reservation for a first floor Evermind Logoroom and follow-up with a phone call to the hotel to hopefully guarantee our first floor room. This is my most important requirement when staying at a hotel with Kellisa followed by two beds and then an ADA room with a roll-in shower. We only stay at non-smoking hotels. I will accept any room as long as it's on the first floor.

We often arrive late in the evening to the hotel after an adventure-filled day. Several times a year, we find that the hotel has given our room away to earlier arriving guest. I will demand that they "find" a first floor room in their system or find another hotel for us. I explain our need as a safety issue. "How do I get Kellisa out in an emergency? Who from the hotel will help evacuate Kellisa?" Sometimes I have fun when the desk clerk offers to volunteer. The look on their face is priceless when I ask them if they are really willing and able to run up the stairs in a fire to our room and help carry 80 pound Kellisa down the stairs to safety because the elevators stopped working. You would be surprised at how often a room suddenly becomes available at this point.

Evermind LogoHow many flights of stairs could I run down with Kellisa over my shoulder? I know I could carry her down a few flights in an emergency, but I would have to leave her wheelchair behind. What if I had to carry her a few blocks to safety? What if I suffered an injury, even minor? I'm not willing to find out the answers to these questions.

I didn't always make this demand when traveling with Kellisa, I would take whatever floor was offered without questions. I had my eyes opened when I saw a documentary on the 22-floor World Trade Center Marriott Hotel that was located between the twin towers. One of the segments followed a mother and her adult daughter with disabilities who was dependent on a motorized wheelchair. They were in the hotel on 9/11 and staying in a 5th floor room. The elevators stopped working after the first plane hit trapping them on their floor as everyone else evacuated the hotel.

Evermind LogoFortunately for them, two hotel workers who were making sure the hotel was empty eventually found them alone in the hallway. The workers were able to lead the mother-daughter to a freight elevator that was still working and they made it out just before the first tower collapsed on the hotel.

Since watching the program, I've had two events that further cemented my resolve. First, I was staying in a 3rd floor hotel room while on a business trip when the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night. With the elevators stopped, I had to use the stairs. It was a false alarm, but this was not known until long after I had assembled with the other guests in the parking lot. The second was a time when I was in a first floor room in South Carolina with Kellisa. A powerful thunderstorm rolled through during the night knocking out power to the hotel. I had a flashlight and we spent the night safely in our room. In the morning, the power was still out and I heard guests complaining in the lobby that they had to use the stairs as we wheeled right out the front door to start a new adventure.

Chris Kain is Kellisa's adventurous and devoted father. With a blog (www.kellisaspath.com), Chris shares Kellisa's medical journey (not expected to survive more than a few hours after birth, 22 surgeries and countless brushes with death) and how she lives a life without limits (hiking, camping, kayaking, dancing, bike riding, playing little league baseball, bowling, bungee jumping and many other activities) as she continues to break the stereotypes of a girl dependent on a wheelchair.
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