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Prepare for an emergency landing

scenic photo of clouds during daytime

The reason this story has a happy ending is due to Bluey. It’s important to credit that up front.

I flew to visit my sister, and I took my littlest Munchkin with me. This was a special trip as she has no memories of flying and was excited about every bump, jolt, and lurch. We went late at night and our second flight took off at 9 pm. We ate a quick dinner in the airport, hers consisted of Bugles and yogurt. My stomach had been feeling weird all day, and naturally I tried to eat the pain away. Where did this theory originate that certain foods will improve a sketchy stomach? Your stomach hurts a little? Drink some water. Still hurts? Maybe you need carbs? Still? Perhaps you haven’t had enough protein today? I settled for a nice turkey sandwich on two slices of thick, white bread. Because surely carbs were the missing element for my stomach and that bread would soak up whatever issue was in there.

We get on our flight, seated 2/3 of the way back, she’s in the window seat, me the middle, and a woman in the aisle. I had planned to hold her, help her sleep, maybe she would stretch out on our two seats. But the thought of a hot human toddler all over me made my stomach hurt worse. Blissfully, there were TVs in the seatbacks and the flight attendant handed out little earbuds. Munchkin was absorbed in Bluey. We don’t do much screen time at home, so this was a Big Deal and very consuming. I was thankful to close my eyes and doze a little. You know how it is sleeping on an airplane. You jerk awake and realize your neck’s been at a 90 degree angle to your shoulders, you lift your head, immediately fall asleep and jerk awake 30 seconds later. An hour into the flight I wake up from just such an experience and realize I am soaked in sweat and super incredibly hot. Like so hot.

This is not good. I feel very yuck. I am so wet with sweat. I lean over to Munchkin, still engrossed and holding those giant earbuds against her little oyster cracker ears, and say, “mama needs to use the bathroom. I need you to stay here.”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO”

Why did I expect anything else, she’s three. I could have said, “let’s go to the bathroom and eat bushels of candy” and she would have screamed at me. I start fumbling with her buckle as I feel beads of sweat pour down my body.

“I. can’t. do. this. Just stay here!”

I turn to get into the aisle, the woman next to me is asleep. I can’t stop to ask her to move so I lunge over her in one stride.

I’m in the aisle. This is good. I’m moving towards the back of the plane when a man steps out in front of me heading in the same direction.

Oh no. But a quick glance shows there’s two bathrooms, so I’m still okay.

My heart is beating so hard, and my vision is tunneling, why can’t I see anything? I start bending over, thinking if I can get my head low enough then the blood will go back. I want to stop, to put my head between my knees. But I don’t want to stop because I’m definitely going to throw up. I’m grabbing onto the armrests, dragging myself, scrabbling at people’s arms one step at a time.

Then. Everything is perfection. My neck no longer hurts. My stomach has subsided. In fact, I’m laying down. I’m sleeping. I’m comfortable. I think to myself: I’m a genius, I figured out how to lay down in an airplane seat. How has no one else figured this out?

I do wish people would stop shouting though. I’m trying to sleep, can’t they tell I’m sleeping and the shouting is so loud.

I feel very wet. Why is my face so wet?

Loudspeaker: Is there any medical personnel on board? We have an emergency on the aircraft and need medical personnel.

Oh dear, someone is having an emergency. That is so awful for them. I wonder why I’m so wet?

Several things happened at once, primarily a dawning realization that I was in fact the medical emergency. I lifted my head to see I was face down in the aisle, with flight attendants all around me shouting, “what are you on? What are you on? What did you take?”

Loudspeaker: Prepare for an emergency landing.

I’m on an airplane. I am the emergency. They’re going to land this plane in the middle of Kansas and I’m never going to make it to my sister’s house. She’ll probably have to drive to Kansas to get me. (I truly thought that and remember feeling so guilty that I was going to drag my sister on an 8-hour drive to rescue me. That’s how out of it I was.)

See what happened, was that I had passed out while simultaneously vomiting. Do you know what those two symptoms are most often associated with? Drug overdose. The flight attendants thought I was overdosing.

I didn’t quite put together that part I just knew I needed to throw up. A lot. Right away.

I started army crawling towards the bathroom while explaining that I was going to puke. The frenzy of activity and noise around me hit a new level.

STAY DOWN DO NOT TRY TO GET UP. YOU MAY NOT MOVE. CAN YOU TELL US WHAT YOU TOOK?

It turns out me “crawling” (flailing) on what had become a very slippery floor while “explaining” (babbling) was NOT helping my cause and they thought I was having a seizure.

I did make it to the bathroom and I did throw up a substantial amount. A very sweet young woman came into the bathroom, announced herself as Maria an ER nurse and could I tell her what drugs exactly I had taken?

“For crying out loud”…..gasp….”I’m not on drugs”….retch….”I have a stomach bug.”

“Ohhh I see,” says Maria. “Do you know why you passed out then? Maybe you have low blood pressure?”

I have very low blood pressure. Always. It’s a thing.

She determined I need some water and I was NOT on drugs. She left the bathroom.

I was alone for a little while and at this point the vomiting had subsided. I sat down on the toilet lid and did a quick physical assessment. Yep, my pants, shirt, and hair were covered. A quick wipe with a paper towel immediately showed that was a futile strategy. I tried to open the bathroom door. It was slammed back shut and a voice said, “just stay in there, we’re dealing with some stuff out here.”

I’ll say. If it’s anything like what I got going on in here it’s real bad.

A minute later the accordion door popped open and a male flight attendant handed me a Clorox wipe, then another wipe, he then gave me a quick once over and shoved the whole container at me before slamming the door closed.

Fair enough.

Through muffled door communication I described my suitcase to him. He brought it and I put on clean clothes (they were my jammies because, fun fact, you can’t open a suitcase all the way in an airplane bathroom so I had to settle with whatever I could grab with one hand through the zipped slot. A few minutes later I was allowed to exit. They had pulled the curtain closed, I had some privacy.

I turned towards the galley to see two female flight attendants staring at me with matching expressions. It was a mixture of pity, doubt, and self-preservation, I think. Pity at what I had just gone through. Doubt that I wasn’t actually a drug addict. And self-preservation that whatever I had they were about to get.

They were incredibly kind, giving me garbage bags, puke bags, a whole bottle of water. (You know the giant ones they use to fill the little cups? Yeah, that bad boy was all mine) I must have apologized 47 times.

I went back to my seat loaded down with my treasures. I started apologizing to aisle lady for lunging over her when Munchkin ripped the earbuds out, stood on her seat and declared, “Mommy! I need to poop. NOW!”

I didn’t doubt her. After all whatever was rolling through me, I could only assume was rolling through her too. I stopped mid apology, lunged over aisle lady (again), grabbed one toddler hand, swung her back over aisle lady (again) and hauled off to the back of the plane.

I burst back into the galley area to find my two flight attendant friends. They looked shocked to see me, then saw Munchkin and gasped, “you have a BABY?”

I don’t think I answered. I just shoved into the other bathroom and got her on the toilet as fast as I could. She was true to her word and did indeed have to poop. We spent time in there together, united in our stenches.

When we emerged one of the women had the courage to ask, “are you both okay? Do you have any help? Do you think you’ll make it?”

I would never assume I’m going to make anything after this experience but I just nodded. Explained we had someone picking us up. Apologized some more.

I offered to clean the bathroom I had destroyed previously but she said, “oh no, we shut that down. There’s a crew that does the plane in between flights, we don’t clean.”

I looked down at the floor and saw they really don’t clean and had just laid a blanket over top of the mess and taped the edges down. She offered to arrange a wheelchair to meet me at the gate but I begged her not to.

“Please no. I’ve caused enough of a scene.”

We made it back to our seats, I resumed my apology to aisle lady. She nodded and then said the most curious thing.

“I’m a midwife. When they paged for emergency personnel I felt like I should have gone. But I don’t think I could have helped you?”

I don’t know if she needed some sort of absolution from me or just wanted acknowledgement that she almost saved the day.

“Okay,” I said.

Munchkin picked up the earbuds and resumed Bluey. I nudged her, “did you know Mommy was in the bathroom for a while?”

“Shhhh, Mommy. I can’t hear.”

white airplane under black clouds
Photo by Daniel Kist on Pexels.com

Having some time to reflect on this whole ordeal I’ve come away with three learning points. The first being how good God is to put kind people near me (the next time a flight attendant is snippy to you, remember someone might have thrown up on her earlier that day) and that He prompted me to bring my entire suitcase as carry on. I don’t know what I would have done if I couldn’t have changed my clothes.

Secondly, that moment as I was coming to, on the floor of the plane, was like a glimpse of Heaven. I don’t mean that in an insincere way. The instantaneous exchange of pain, confusion, and lack of vision to complete peace, freedom from pain, and total comfort, is what I imagine Heaven will be like. Plus Jesus.

Lastly, I have never experienced such surrender. I’m a control person and I think as a mom I can depend on myself too much. I’ve been through a lot of pain but still had to keep “mom-ing” to the point I’ve grown a little calloused to my frailty as a human. I’ve had migraines but I can still microwave mac ‘n cheese for the kids. Or I have the flu but I can limp down the driveway to get them off the bus. This was the first time I 100% came up short and could not muscle through. I wasn’t on the floor terribly long but I did have a few panic moments when I thought they were going to land the plane and bus me to a hospital. Nobody knew I was traveling with a child. What would have happened to her? Would they have taken her to the police station? Would CPS get involved? Is there a special room in airports for kids whose parents are indisposed? I had a flash of a prayer, where I thought, “I can’t take care of my child right now, God. You’re going to have to do it (like He needed my permission?) But You already know that, because she’s been your child all along.”

3 thoughts on “Prepare for an emergency landing”

  1. I had tears reading this. Every mom’s nightmare in so many ways. Everything that Sarah said… and wow. 😳💕. Can you imagine that happening to someone without faith. I love that you looked for the lessons.🪽

  2. Holy Moly Cousin! That is so much to have gone through!! I feel like we could write a book on all of your strengths this story illustrates of you. Strengths you probably don’t even realize you have because thankfully we don’t usually need these kind. But I admire your strength of perspective. The way you took this experience that was definitely not a pleasant on to say the least, and you viewed it as a learning experience. And those 3 things you learned from that experience show your strength of hope and faith in the face of complete vulnerability. Especially since some of your most explicit strengths are your actual, physical strength, and your strenth of independence, it’s probably rare for you to have to rely on the help of others, and so your ability to accept that help when needed in the face of vulnerability is another strength you have that you may not often get to notice! Way to take a stinky (literally and metaphorically 😉 situation and find the multiple silver linings! Love that about you!!

    1. Thanks for reading! I probably should have put a disclaimer at the top that the following post contains some stinky stories 🙂 As you know as a mom, we push through a lot of tough things. It’s good to have a reminder now and then that we can’t do it all no matter how strong we are or feel. Love you!

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