Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Plane Ride Home

We are home. The smell of pine needles baking in the sun, the crickets chirping at night. The endless stars greeted us last night and this morning. And what a trip it was.
Yesterday was a very long day of flying that ended so sadly that it is haunting me today. On the last leg of our trip we took off and I noticed that about 15 minutes into the flight the couple sitting in front of us (yes, just one seat ahead of M and I) called the flight attendant. I could hear something about the elderly man not feeling well. The flight attendant asked what he had eaten and if he was possibly feeling ill with food poisoning. She went and got him a cold compress and put it on his neck. I heard his wife say he was dizzy and had heartburn. I looked at the lady in the window seat next to me and told her he was sick. All I wanted to do was get up and tell someone to give him an aspirin right away because it sounded like a heart attack. Then the flight attendants got on the PA and asked if there were any doctors or nurses on board. A nurse came forward and checked his blood pressure, heart rate and asked questions about what medicines he was taking. I could see from my limited view between the seats he looked very pale. They brought oxygen over and told him that it would help the dizziness. M was watching a movie on my computer and I  thought to just leave her in the state of oblivion as long as possible. Then, I believe the man went into cardiac arrest. The nurse was trying to get him to wake up, talking very urgently to him. He lost consciousness, slumped over,  and everything moved really quickly. Passengers helped get him on the floor and I moved M to the middle seat so I could shield her view from what was happening. We were basically pinned into our aisle because the gentleman was laid out right beside us. CPR was started right away and it was very frantic. The flight attendants tried to use the paddles to shock his heart but they were not working. We were all crying and praying for him and his wife. People were reaching over to hold his wife who was staring in disbelief. M was scared seeing everyone around her (including me) crying. People behind me asked if we wanted to move back, but that would have required pulling M over rows of seats and she did not want me to let go of her. I told her that they were pressing on his chest to try to get his heart to start working again, and that everyone was trying to help the man who was sick. She kept saying she just wanted to go home and see her cat Charlie. I was really pissed at myself for not having any rescue remedy in my purse! The plane diverted to Salt Lake City and I have never landed so fast before. I had to move the oxygen tank to buckle my seat belt and while doing so was so sad to see this man laying on the floor who had been  talking to his wife just minutes before, now lifeless. His eyes and mouth were open, his skin a greenish yellow. I wondered where he was at that moment, and felt immense gratitude for the flight attendants that continually worked on him until we landed.   It took 20 minutes for the plane to land after they first started doing CPR with no luck apparently. After we landed, we were at the gate in what seemed less than 60 seconds. My ears were popping after they opened the door and the paramedics came aboard. I heard the flight attendant say they had no pulse for 20 minutes.
People were offering their cell phones to his wife, asking if they could do anything. She left the plane as a weird silence sat in the air and the reality of what had just happened sunk in with the fellow passengers who could not see what was happening until that moment. The worst of it was the aisle on the plane was too narrow to carry him off the plane, so they used a special plane wheelchair. No one was doing CPR while he was being carried off the plane and I kept wondering if he was too far gone or it was precious minutes being lost.
It was a moment in time that has left a startling memory. M saw a person die for the first time. So did I. Today we are going over to grandma's house to have a chat with her about our experience. She is a home health hospice nurse who understands death. I have asked M about how she is feeling about what she saw and luckily she is talking to me about it. Even me writing this blog entry is helping me process what we witnessed. We finally made it home after traveling 12 hours. My husband was waiting for us. I got a nice, big hug. I was really, really happy to be home.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry to read this. What a sad story. May we all know no more sorrow.

Linny said...

So very sad and unsettling. My thoughts are with both you and M and the gentleman's wife.

eula said...

How horrible! I'm so sorry you and your daughter had to go through that. What bad luck that poor man had to experience a heart attack in the air.

Christa said...

Wow, I'm in tears just reading that. What a very sad experience for the both of you and the entire plane of people.

Becky said...

Man, Jess, that sounds much worse than I had gathered from your facebook message. I'm so sorry.

Jessica said...

Linny, Eula, Christa, Becky..thanks all of you for the support..so sweet!

Kate said...

Wow, what a moving account of something so sad....it seems that despite the environment in which the poor man passed away, there was a lot of love, support and strength for him and his wife......I hope the visit with your relative was positive for you and your daughter..

Cindy Rowland said...

It's interesting how the continued CPR made it slightly easier for everyone on board. At some point they continued to go through the motions for all the living around them more than for that poor man.

Tell us what Grandma says about it all. I have no idea what that would be like other than I'm sure I'd be hugging my kids tightly.

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