Part 2–I cannot and did not make this up!
July 24, 2018
We hoisted our heavy luggage into the overhead compartment. I hid my handbag behind my back. There was no chance I was shoving my NEW red, leather quilted treasure into a filthy space.
Speaking of cleanliness, I promptly distributed Lysol wipes (love the portable packets!), and our routine wiping began. Then Zoe sat next to a 40ish year old, bearded, disheveled man. She raised her eyebrows at me with a “Do I really have to sit next to him?” expression. Minutes later I heard Zoe asking him questions, and their chatter continued.
Once the seatbelt, armrests, and any others touchable objects were cleaned, I settled into the sticky, gray vinyl seat. Zoe was to my left, and I saw her head bobbing like a buoy in the ocean. My hubby passed out minutes later.
I listened to U2, Joni Mitchell, Hamilton, and other favorite tunes. I breathed deeply, smiled at “Big Mama” (that’s what the energetic flight attendant affectionally called herself. I said, “Guuuurl! No way. More like hot momma!”). I then asked for her real name, which she shared is Latoka. (Side note: Latoka is a hoot! She moved and grooved during the safety speech. It was hysterical.) I exhaled while wondering why I even doubted flying on Spirit.
And then a muscular young man, probably in his early 30s, strode slowly to the front of the plane. Let’s name him Brian. I thought he was waiting for the restroom, but Brian asked for water. As I stretched, I saw he was standing next to me. Droplets of sweat dotted and dripped down his face. I asked if was ok. Brian replied, “I’m just a bit light headed.” My intuition told me otherwise.
I parted my lips to tell Latoka about my concern. Just as I said “I am worried…” the man literally started to sway in front of me. She wisely and swiftly hollered, “Get up!! Move! Let’s get him seated!”
Adrenaline shot me upward like a rocket. I suddenly remembered that someone I knew was onboard. She’s a brilliant audiologist I’d worked with years ago, and we’ve stayed in touch. I bolted toward her.
She seemed to be asleep. I gently called her name. No answer. I turned up the volume. Her eyelids fluttered open. Her round, brown eyes looked at me hazily. “Lucy!! There’s a young guy that I think may be having a heart attack. I need help!”
I barely had a moment to grab my purse before they stuck him in my chair. And I just now realized that I forgot to wipe down my seat again when the ordeal was over.
By the time she stood up, this incredible flight crew had asked if there were any physicians on board. FIVE people lined up immediately. The man was on the floor at this point. I could only see his brown, suede boots. I leaned forward slightly, and I saw that the stewardess had Brian’s head in her lap.
She gave Brian oxygen with the yellow mask used during the take off Schpiel.). They elevated his feet, and two of the doctors took his pulse. I replayed the scene from “Airplane” in which the pilot had sweat pouring from his face. I hoped the rest of our flight wouldn’t mimic the movie!
We were in the first row. The seating position—near the lavatory and extra room—was how my darling husband charmed me into saying yes. He’s repeatedly raved about the “wide, comfortable seats.” I initially thought he was referencing the space required for my derrière!
My husband’s eyes grew huge with disbelief, and Zoe thankfully slept. She nestled her blond, wavy hair into her red fleece. The man next to her looked at me and said, “I can’t believe she’s missing this!” I was grateful. He tousled his oily hair incredulously.
It was like watching a film in slow motion. I felt helpless. I remembered the peppermint and lavender essential oils that were in my purse. I offered it to the man because one is calming, and he appeared understandably rattled. The other is alerting, which I hoped could help Brian clear his mind and rouse him further.
As his formerly pale face regained its color, I said to Latoka and Brian, “Are y’all single? This is kind of romantic! Can you imagine sharing about how you met?” His head was still in her lap.
They both cracked up. After drinking several bottles of water, the man sat up slowly and then eventually stood. I exhaled with relief. I also grabbed Latoka’s hand and thanked her for acting quickly. I told her that I would write and send a letter to the CEO about the extraordinary service. She, Tiany (the flight attendant with the “gorgeous red lipstick” according to Zoe) and the other crew members truly exemplified teamwork.
The drama didn’t end there; well at least not for me. I eased back into my seat. My husband again cracked me up and said, “Good thing this wasn’t United! Glad they didn’t drag this guy off the plane!” I relayed this to the sassy flight attendants. They smirked knowingly, and I think they appreciated the comic relief.
I later learned that Tiany had worked in a psych hospital for a decade. What a perfect person to be on this particular flight! No wonder she was unfazed. A person fainting or perhaps expiring in front of her probably pales in comparison to her previous experiences.
Then the captain instructed us to fasten our seatbelts due to storms. Noooooooo. Really? Turbulence and I are not friends. I’ve worked in recent years to consciously release the tension I feel when the flight gets bumpy. The universe has presented opportunities to learn how to let go. On an overseas flight, we had a ton of turbulence, and I’m calmer each time.
But Sunday night my back ached, my legs felt like lead, and I was losing steam. Oh and a man could’ve died on an airplane. The irony, as if there could be any more, is that my husband had a woman faint ON him only a few months ago!!!! He thought she was just being rude and shoving him in the aisle. He turned around and propped her upright so she didn’t drop on the floor. This was a different airline and a different trip!
Bump! Whoa! I now understood why buckling the belt wasn’t just a warning. It was a necessity. So much for maintaining my zen.
My daughter said, “Mom! That was so loud—omg!” I looked at her quizzically. I assumed she was referring to some of the luggage that banged in the overhead compartments. She explained that I apparently sputtered an expletive. I apologized and now really looked forward to landing.
We arrived late because the plane was rerouted. Then we had to wait quite awhile for our bags because of lightening. The silver lining is I saw Lucy and apologized for waking her. (My husband made me laugh hysterically while we were still in the air. He said, “What did you think she could do? Test his hearing?? See if he needs a hearing aid? Hello? Can you hear me talking?”)
“Fair point and very funny. I wanted to do something! I figured between a speech therapist (me) and audiologist we could help this guy! There’s no way I could just stand there. I know how to take a pulse, and I hoped Lucy knew CPR (she did).”
And then I saw him. The man who fainted. The man I’ve named Brian to respect his privacy. He approached me near the baggage claim area. After introducing himself, he thanked me for my concern.
Brian asked about the essential oils. I saw Zoe and my husband simultaneously roll their eyes. I asked about his family history. As I suspected, he and some of his relatives have cardiac issues. I wished him well and gently suggested he go to the doctor. Brian smiled and promised he would.
I often say the best stories write themselves. I’m not implying that today’s blog is outstanding. There is no intention of self praise.
What I am saying is this story did write itself. None of this is embellished nor untrue! It’s an account of humanity at its best. I witnessed souls of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures unite to offer spontaneous support. It was stunning. It was inspiring. It was communal.
As I share this, my skin is sprinkled with chill bumps. I am still processing all that occurred. The caring, kindness, and altruism I witnessed gives me hope. Our country seems to be in an uncertain, critical, inflamed emotional funk.
I hear and read intense ranting. I feel “all about me” energy. I see division rather than collaboration. I hope you emulate Sunday’s passengers and flight crew. The sense of community nearly moved me to tears.
Reach out to others and be here now. We all need support at some point in our journey. We all will navigate turbulent flights and may have to reroute our destination. If your heart is open and you pay attention, you can offer your wings, an oxygen mask, or a life preserver, too. We need each other now more than ever. I won’t ever forget this flight, this crew, and their selflessness.
If you’re still with me and haven’t checked out, Hallelujah! By the way, that’s precisely what the pilot exclaimed when we landed!