When Bad Movies Become Reality

We're about 45 minutes into flight, the fasten seat belt sign is still lit but the very desperate have already begun to move about the cabin. I'm among those desperate people and I've already displaced the very nice man to my left. I've settled back into my seat and I'm reading on my eReader.
Nothing around me appears out of the norm. We've got a completely full flight, not a single empty seat. The person in front of me has already reclined their seat so far back that I can smell their Head and Shoulders shampoo, the obnoxious loud man behind me has already placed his foot, sans shoes and socks, between my seat at the seat next to me. All typical flying annoyances.

Out of the hum of chatter and the clicking of the keyboards comes a sentence I'll never forget.
"Are there any medical professionals, doctors, nurses on board. Please, we need anyone with medical training to step forward immediately."
The previously very calm flight attendants are reaching a state of panic.
Again, louder this time "we need anyone with medical training to step forward please." I look around and don't see anyone moving.
Before I know it I'm out of my seat and I'm climbing over the man next to me again.

In the aisle I run into two doctors (a husband and wife I later learn). We all reach the front row of cabin class at the same time.
Everything is running in a blur. I look down and see a man slumped in his seat covered in vomit.
In an instant I know this man is no longer with us. I've seen the blank look on his face more times than I care to recall.
The doctors and I exchange a look. It's the look of knowing. Knowing that no matter what we do there is no hope. We're defeated already and we haven't even begun.

In an instant the rest of scene comes into view. There is a lady standing next to the man. She's crying, hysterical, screaming. The flight attendants are trying to settle her but just don't know how.
Suddenly, I know what I'm doing up there.
I step past the doctors, push past the flight attendants and grab the lady by her arms. I push her backwards into first class. I stand between her and her husband. Blocking her view has gotten her attention.
I ask her every medical question I can think of "Has he been ill? Any known illnesses? What medications is he taking?"

Turning around to relay the answers to the doctors I see that help is needed to lay the man down.
Without thinking I reach down grab around his knees, the same way I do to help Scott transfer, and I lift the man to the aisle floor. I take the defibrillator kit from the flight attendant and pass it on to the doctors.

I'm helping the doctors get things set up so we can shock the man's heart, when I again hear the lady.
I abandon the doctors, we all know that what their doing is futile.

Turning back around I pull the lady into my arms.
I ask her her name. "Mayvel" she answers. I'm still not sure I heard her name correctly.

I ask if he is her husband. "Yes, yes he is. Can you fix him?"

I ignore the question and inquire about the trip they were taking. "We were visiting family and getting ready to go home. He said he felt like he had the flu this morning. Why won't he wake up?"

Again ignoring her question I ask how long they've been married. "42 years, were high school sweethearts. He's all I have. He can't leave me. He can't leave me like this."

Sensing her panic rising again I shift gears. I have her tell me about their first date. Strangely, she doesn't remember it. She tells me "He was just always there. He can't leave now".

I assure her that he is right there with her. I tell her that as sure as I am breathing I know that her precious Leotis reached into my soul and pulled me forward so that she would have a safe place to cry. I tell her over and over again that she is not alone, that he will not leave her.

I tell her that the sunshine on her face will be his smile and the wind in her hair will be his whisper. I tell her as many times and in as many ways as I can that even though he's gone, he'll never leave her.

Time is rushing by.
The doctors have attempted to shock him twice, both unsuccessful which we already knew.
The Captain has announced that we're making an emergency landing. I can feel that the plane is beginning to descend as I shift the weight in my legs so that I can hold both Mayvel and myself upright.
Flight attendants are rushing to relocate passengers so that Mayvel doesn't have to sit next to her now deceased husband for the landing.
The world is spinning and I'm standing, holding tightly to a woman I have never met and will probably never see again.

I keep her talking. I encourage her to tell me about the trips they've taken. "4 cruises, we've been on 4 cruises. They are my favorites. He's been so healthy, I don't understand."
I ask her if they have children. "No, no kids. It's just us. Only us. He can't leave me. I don't have anyone else."
We're now getting very close to landing. The flight attendants have moved around people in first class to accommodate Mayvel and the two other people she and her husband were flying with.

I hug Mayvel one final time and as I turn her over to the welcoming, warm arms of her family she stops me and asks me to say a prayer.
Without hesitation I offer her the best prayer I can. I hold her hands and pray that her beloved Leotis is welcomed into heaven. I pray that she finds ways to feel him in everything she does for the rest of her life. I pray that she find the courage, strength and grace that she will need in the days to come. And with one final "amen" I fasten her seat belt and walk away.

The plane has picked up speed. We're getting close to landing. I turn to the flight attendant "my seat is taken. Where shall I sit?" She motions to the seat next to the man. She asks if I mind. I assure her that I do not.

I take my new seat. Realizing that the man will surely fall out of the seat during landing I reach around him and fasten his seat belt.
I take the blankets from the ground and cover him as best as I can.
I can feel the ground getting closer. We're landing fast.
I reach up and throw my arm across the man's chest, holding him in place.
The move reminds me of the bad move that high school boys all across the world have attempted over and over again just to get a cheap feel of the girl in the seat next to them. I actually shake my head at this thought.

Finally on the ground, I realize that there is a man to my right as well. He's been talking to me but I haven't heard a word he's said.
As the world starts to slow again, I find myself chatting with the man to my right. It's that awkward, strained, stranger conversation. The kind of conversation you would have if you were stuck in an elevator with someone.

Bureaucracy, politics and stupidity take over and it takes over an hour to get the body off the plane.
I'm sequestered for questioning by the police, the airline and the airport.
I give my statement.
Over and over again I'm asked "where did you go to school?" My answer is the same every time "the school of hard knocks".

As we wait for the "powers that be" to figure things out, the other passengers start to talk.
Some give me praise.
It's praise that I don't want nor do I deserve.
I did not save that man. I did not bring him back to life. I did not keep that woman from losing her husband.
I don't say that though I just smile and quietly say "thank you".

Again comes the question "where did you learn to do that?". I answer again "the school of hard knocks."

I sit and picture all the faces that I've met in the last few years as Scott's disease has progressed.
All the people in the SICU waiting room, the patients so near death, the nurses that fight to save them, the doctors that work tirelessly to find the answers. I can see them all. But the face I see the clearest is Scott's, it just reaches out to me.

This woman that I've just met had 42 years with her husband. That same woman just tragically lost her husband at 30,000ft somewhere between their favorite vacation spot and their home outside of Detroit.
And yet I find that I envy that woman. 42 years, I would take that in a heartbeat.

Anonymous –   – (May 19, 2010 at 11:57 PM)  

Thats a sad story but you did a wonderful thing and made a difference in someones life.Too many people are afraid to reach out.Looking foreward to seeing all of you.I'm planning to bring a large pasta salad but let me know if you want anything else.queenoftheuniversenw@msn.com Nancy

Scott  – (May 20, 2010 at 7:59 AM)  

Wow. What a tragic story. Mayvel will remember you for the rest of her life and I'm sure is already grateful for what you provided. Leotis I'm sure is the most thankful. That took amazing courage and strength and not many people could have done that. I'm glad to know there are people like you in the world.

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