I am currently in the process of changing employers and will be relocating to a new area, and a new exciting position. This new job requires me to travel long distances by plane 3-4 times a year.
My new employer has a policy of allowing employees to fly first class, provided they have a medical reason behind it. I have two herniated discs in my spine. Sitting for long periods of time (driving especially) tends to cause really nasty pain and numbness in my legs. At my desk, I periodically stand and stretch to alleviate the pain, but for the most part I find my day-to-day activities unaffected by the pain. I'm still able to enjoy a fairly active lifestyle and by looking at me you would have no clue about my condition. For some odd reason, weight lifting (with the exception of deadlifts and squats) does not cause pain, but sitting in a weird position does. In the past, this has led to some interesting discussions between management and myself regarding my office chairs and requiring chairs with significant lumbar support.
As a result, I can foresee a bit of awkwardness with traveling with my team. While the rest of the team is in economy class (including members far more senior than I am), I would be in first class. I have found that (in the past) economy seats can vary wildly in the way they affect my back. Sometimes I feel fine, but for the most part, I am reaching for a bottle of pain medication after an hour or so. Also, standing and stretching is sometimes frowned upon by the stewardesses given that there is either turbulence or they are serving beverages.
What adds to this is my pride. I played a lot of sports growing up and unless my leg was severed totally from my body, I would "suck it up." In retrospect this attitude actually caused a nasty flare up that had me off of work for several weeks receiving treatment. I refused help from my wife with a heavy box and that caused a really nasty episode.
So here are my questions:
- How should I approach this?
- Do I have to divulge my medical condition to my teammates?
- Will they not believe me since I am still fairly active? Will they feel like I am abusing the system for my own personal gain?
Thanks for the help.