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My Overnight School Trip With Hypotonia

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It’s 6:00 in the morning. My alarm goes off. I wake up as usual, but something is different this morning. I try to figure out what’s different, then I remember: We leave for the school trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania today! I get up and get ready as usual, but I make sure to take two ibuprofin pills instead of one to prepare.

I double-check the school website to check what classes I have today. Thank goodness I don’t have gym today! I look for my overnight bag and the garment bag my performance clothes are in, then after a couple minutes of frantic searching, I remember I dropped them off at the school the previous day, as it was required. I put a few more things in the bag I’m taking on the way to the competition that’ll be part of the trip, then I get on the bus to school.

I impatiently sit through my first few classes, then go to chorus, where the teacher reminds us of today’s schedule — leaving after fifth period, stopping at the hotel to change into our performance clothes before going to the competition we’re participating in if there’s time. We rehearse the songs we’ll be singing for the competition. When the bell rings, I go to my locker and grab my jacket before heading to lunch. I eat my food, then read my book until we are released.

I walk to the auditorium where we’re meeting. People start grabbing their overnight bags and garment bags from the room they’re kept in, so I run down there with some of the other students, until we’re told to go back up, so I run back up the stairs. Goodness gracious, my legs hurt so much from standing on the risers and running up and down the stairs and hallways. We go back onto the risers to practice another song, then go to grab our stuff. We stand for a bit in the auditorium lobby, then get on our buses.

After we cross the border into Pennsylvania, we stop at a rest stop and go to the bathroom. As soon as we get back on the bus, the chaperones announce that because of traffic, we’ll be changing into our performance clothes in the bus bathroom. The moving bus. The moving bus with boys and girls. Oh. Boy.

Eventually, it’s my turn to change. It takes twice the amount of time it usually would, because I can’t hold myself upright while the bus is moving due to my disability. We get to the competition site, get into our lines, then warm up. We then go on stage, but upon seeing the risers set up for us, I freeze for a moment. I always stand on the top riser, and the risers at school have a railing along the back, which I usually hold onto while getting on them. But the risers they have set up don’t have railings. And the second I step on, I can feel how shaky the risers are. During the entire performance, I’m focused on not falling.

Afterwards I am in a lot of pain, but things are so rushed trying to get everyone their dinner and getting the orchestra kids to their competition site, so I don’t ask for ibuprofin. We go watch the orchestra perform (after waiting and standing for a very, very long time), then we go back to the hotel. We all shower and change into our pajamas, quickly put away our performance clothes, and go to sleep (finally!) I get only a few hours of sleep from painsomnia.

At 7:00 the next morning, the alarm alerting us to get up goes off. We all get up and get ready, then meet with the rest of the students on the trip. At breakfast, my chaperone stops by my table to give me my allergy and pain meds. I set alarms for every four hours so I know exactly when I can take it next. The teachers in charge give us instructions, telling us to go back to our hotel rooms and prepare for Hershey Park.

We all go upstairs and go through our bags, then we meet with the rest of our group. I’m surprised, because the teacher in charge of the trip told us that we would choose our groups, and that groups would only have people that either like rides or don’t like rides. Apparently she was wrong, because most of the people in my group like rides. I’m absolutely furious, but I calm down during the bus ride.

We get to the park, take attendance, and take a picture with everyone else on the trip, then we go to check in at the first aid station. We find a ride, and everyone goes on but me. I let the chaperone know that I can’t go on any rides because I have hypotonia, and if my body is being moved around too much, I can’t hold my body up and I could get hurt.

I go to wait with the chaperone at the exit. Before we can stop to talk about what we’ll do next, the rest of the group runs to another ride. Sigh. My group decides to go to another ride a bit farther away, so we have to walk a bit to get there. If you have been to Hershey Park, you know how hilly it is there. Walking up slopes is a lot harder for me, so it takes me a bit longer. My chaperone tells me multiple times to hurry up, calling me a “slowpoke.” Double sigh. It’s gonna be a long day. We spend another few hours going on rides. Well, the rest of my group goes on rides.

I wait at the exits, getting more bored and frustrated by the minute, and counting the minutes until I can next take my ibuprofin. Eventually, we go to eat lunch, which is literally the first time we’re sitting since we got to the park since it was raining and the benches are wet. I talk to my friend about how frustrated I am, and she tells me I should suggest we do non-ride activities. Just then, a girl butts in and says, “The whole point of going to Hershey is to go on rides.  Everyone else will be ticked off if you stop them from going on rides. You should just suck it up so everyone else can enjoy the trip.” Talk about ableist.

It starts raining harder, so while a lot of the other kids in my group go on another ride, a few other girls and I go into the arcade. I even help another girl, E, win a teddy bear in a giant claw machine! We go to pick up the kids who were on the ride, then we all go back into the arcade. I go over to a group of kids watching a girl from our group trying to win a Minion in a claw machine. A boy, M, comes over and takes over, and after a few tries, he actually wins a Minion! We go over to another game, and one of my friends, B, wins a stuffed animal as well! Before going back out, B puts her stuffed animal under her shirt, E puts her bear under her jacket, and M wraps his minion, who he has named Stanley, in a poncho. They all go on another ride, so I protect their stuffed animals with my umbrella.

We do this for a few more hours, then we realize we have to go to the award ceremony for the competition. We run to where we think it is, then we realize that we’re in the wrong place, so we run over to where we’re supposed to be. We get there late, and I can barely breathe. We find out that we got second place and our orchestra got first place.

We go back out and do a few more rides, then we go eat dinner. We go to Chocolate World, but we can’t do the factory tour, so we buy souvenirs. We get on the bus, and I’m so exhausted that I can’t hold myself upright anymore. My eyes close partially, my head falls over to the side, and I slouch over. Other people would have thought this looked weird, but because I planned ahead, I sat in a window seat with my friend in the aisle seat blocking everyone else’s view of me. We get back to the hotel, and I’m in so much pain, I can barely walk. I change, but it takes a while. I collapse into bed, but I get almost no sleep because I’m in so much pain.

At 6:00, I give up on sleep and get out of bed. My friend and I change and go downstairs for breakfast. I take my meds, we listen to the teachers’ instructions, then we go back up to our room to pack all of our stuff. We leave a tip and write a thank you note, then move all of our bags outside so the teachers can check our room. One teacher even says our room is the neatest! We get on the bus to go home. After what feels like an eternity of bad jokes and worse movies, we return home, finally ending our trip.

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Originally published: June 1, 2017
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