How to make 400 mile road trip lying down?

Our big family vacation is in a few weeks, and it’s a 400 mile drive (usually over 2 days). And I really want to go this year as one of my children has a new spouse and the other a new baby, and we missed last year - so it’s a big year for us all. The destination is an island served by ferry, which has a sort of a little infirmory but no hospital or emergency room or clinic.

The problem is I’m having back surgery 10 days before we’re supposed to go. It’s a microdiskectomy and nerve root decompression at L5/S1 to relieve leg pain and paralysis.

The surgeon’s staff agreed to do my 2 week followup at 1 week instead, so they can pass judgement and maybe let me go on this trip. They’re also considering giving me all the meds for a “postsurgery flare up” so I have them if need be.

But I don’t know what the drive will feel like. These days I can’t tolerate sitting for more than about 1/2 hour - who knows whether 10 days postop will feel better or worse. I spend a lot of time lying down, mostly on my back.

So I’m looking for options and ideas on how to make this trip lying down. here are some:

  1. Seatbelt myseslf into the back seat. How safe and legal would this be?

  2. Lay down in the back of one of the SUVs or station wagons that are going. How much less safe and legal would this be?

  3. Hire some medical transport service to haul my sorry ass the whole way. I bet this would be awfully damn expensive, but I don’t know - if I don’t need any medical services, maybe it isn’t.

  4. Hire a private pilot to fly me. It might be a total of 3 hours instead of 8; maybe that’d make it bearable. Probably also expensive, and unreliable given thunderstorms in this region in summer.

What other options? or, anybody know anything else about the choices above???


Is there any sort of train service? If so you could book a sleeper car.

Rent an RV?

I would guess that you’ll want or need to lie down for a significant portion of the trip. Given that assumption, I would rule out a back seat, as you wouldn’t be able to extend your legs and lie flat. That would get torturously uncomfortable in short order.

If a station wagon or SUV has enough available length to fully stretch out, it could be doable. The remaining concern would be the jarring experienced in a moving vehicle as opposed to being in a stationary bed. I’d be sure to have some sort of comfortable mattress that could realistically insulate you from most of the road shock and vibration. I’d lean towards a station wagon as it would likely have a softer (car) suspension than an SUV (truck).

I doubt a medical transport vehicle would be more comfortable than a properly prepared station wagon.

A plane flight would probably be smoother than a drive, provided you didn’t hit turbulence. My concerns would be that there would be no way to move to a lying-down position if necessary, and the impact of landing might be nasty.

After my back surgeries, I was instructed not to ride in a car for six weeks (first, much more involved surgery) to 2 weeks (last, microdiskectomy). While I argued that sitting in a car was no different than sitting in a padded chair, the surgeon was unrelenting. He said that the constant exertion from trying to stay balanced upright (which you don’t even notice if your back is healthy) would put too much strain on the fresh surgery. Also, the risk of any type of collision was a small but serious consideration.

However, the husband of a lady I worked with recently had a microdiskectomy and he was back to work in a gas plant (light duty) 2 weeks after his surgery. So I’d say riding in a car wouldn’t be any worse than that, and he had about a 1 hour each way commute.

Getting out and walking every so often (50 miles or so) is a good idea, I made a couple of stops like that getting home from the hospital and going back for check ups.

Never asked about riding prone.

He said that the constant exertion from trying to stay balanced upright (which you don’t even notice if your back is healthy) would put too much strain on the fresh surgery.

This makes sense, maybe muscle relaxers to defeat it?

My mom works for a medium-sized company with offices in Edmonton and Calgary - for whatever reason she once made the flight in a small Cessna or similar chartered aircraft. I thought that was a cool way to make a short trip, but she says it made her back hurt afterwards.
Just FYI.

Being in the front passenger seat fully reclined (w/ no one sitting behind you).

Take frequent stops.

Then just flop back and forth? Somehow I don’t think that would be better for a recovering back.

Just maybe a 400 mile trip just after back sugery isn’t a terribly good idea.

Can’t they come to you this year? Can’t you go see them in six months wherever they live?

If you screw up your back to see them, they will feel bad, you will feel bad, it won’t be pleasant for anyone.

Lots of interesting posts, thanks.

>Just maybe a 400 mile trip just after back sugery isn’t a terribly good idea.
>If you screw up your back to see them, they will feel bad, you will feel bad, it won’t be pleasant for anyone.

Oh, yes, definitely - if it would damage my back to make this trip, then I absolutely wouldn’t make it. I’m not sure how easy it is to predict whether the trip would be a problem, but if the Dr says it would, or even just says he’s uneasy about the idea, then I’m certainly not going. Or if I heard people say they had done something similar and regretted it, ditto. I’m asking in case what he tells me is I can go, but might have some discomfort, or something like that. Some of these options require more lead time than I will have if I wait till that discussion happens.

But if the drive is harmless (perhaps with some precautions), and I spend the week lying around with family and friends in a rented house instead of by myself in my own, it’s so much the better. We’ve been making this trip for 18 years now, and some year soon we’re going to hear the kids’ families are too busy or something, and it’d be pretty sad to miss my last chance for this tradition.

I’d love to watch my grandson’s face the first time he sees an ocean. It wouldn’t be worth making the paralysis worse, but it’s worth a lot of other trouble, if that’s the bargain. Who wouldn’t put up with some extra work to see that?

Why not reschedule the surgery?

Reschedule surgery? The next available date for surgery is 5 weeks later, and all the doctors now tell me I probably have some permanant nerve damage and it is getting worse. As it is, I probably won’t walk quite smoothly and symmetrically again, and I keep tripping on things, because my right toe hangs lower than my left. It’s called “drop foot”. The guy who’s doing the surgery says it should have been done months ago, and what limited research I can do on the subject at least partly bears him out.

Get it fixed and do whatever you need to to recover fully. Sure, grandkids are one of life’s great joys, heck, family in general are. But I can’t really explain the joy of walking. Just walking without pain. I never thought I’d take walking for granted, but the first time I set off across a field and looked back at the few hundred yards I’d travelled and marveled at how just a few weeks earlier I wouldn’t have made it 20 agonizing steps, it was enough to bring me to tears.

I guess what I’m trying to say is… Hopefully you will have many more years to enjoy your family. Hopefully the tradition will endure for years to come. I know you’ve had some reservations about this surgery, don’t go through the surgery only to botch the recouperation.

If the surgeon says he has no reservations, then go, by all means. Just be careful, man.


If you’re this badly off, maybe you should just chill out. As wonderful as new babies are, they will not really ever remember you at this age – if the baby is less than a year old it’s still a barely sentient pink meatloaf. Trade this year’s vacation with the new baby for being able to play in the yard with the child next year and the year after. You can call every day around lunchtime or dinnertime to say hello, but seriously, it’s not worth killing your back.

As a young whippersnapper who just made a 400-mile road trip two weeks ago, it is not a small undertaking. It takes a toll on you! Save yourself for later.

So true. I hate being cramped up in a car, and my back is fine. Also, judging from watching my nephews grow up, playing with toddlers involves a lot of running around…save yourself for that a few years from now.

Even this might not be a good option. American trains sway a lot; you can get slammed against the corridor wall just walking along. That couldn’t be good for the OP.

Sounds like you might owe it to yourself to rent an RV. You can get one that has a queen size bed in the back, and have yourself a nice lay down, if not a full snooze, while someone else does the driving. My husband and I have done that on several RV trips.

Here is the layout for the inside of a Class A rental from El Monte RV rentals. See that bed in the back in the floorplan diagram? That’s for you. Enjoy your new grandchild.