Su Lum: Travel nightmare
November 6, 2002
A few weeks ago on a solo frolic trip to Florida, I had the worst flight of my life, and it wasn’t due to any of the usual suspects: delays, rough weather, horrible food or endless lines, it was because I FAINTED on the plane!
I had passed out four times in my life before that day, the last being in the Mother Lode in the early ?70s, when I hit my head on a bench going down and woke up to a circle of faces looking down at me like the Code Blue scenes you see in the movies.
Once you’ve had that “I’m going to faint” feeling, you never forget it, and when I started getting that feeling after 45 minutes in the air I thought, “Oh lord, no, not HERE!”
Strapped in the seat, you can’t put your head between your knees, much less lie down, and I was just reaching for my water bottle in the pocket in front of me when a flight attendant was shaking my shoulder asking me if I was all right.
Next thing I knew a man had his hand on my wrist checking my pulse, assuring me that he was a doctor and asking about my condition (I was on oxygen, so clearly Not Normal) and what medications I was taking, but my brain was too fuzzed to remember the names of any of my meds. All I knew was what I said ? “I’m going to be sick” ? and threw up in and around the wet cloth the flight attendant had given me to wipe my brow.
Whatever happened to those barf bags that used to be in the plane pockets? The flight attendant had to rush and get one, which I used twice, and brought me a bag of ice and a can of ginger ale, which I sipped, very gradually coming back to life and learned what happened while I was “out.”
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My seatmates were a woman in her 30s named Sue Jean, who was like Laverne in the Laverne and Shirley show, originally from Long Island and now married to a prison guard at Canon City and, on the aisle, an old man named Tex who had 50 grandchildren (“There’s a lot of lovin’ in MY family!”).
When Sue realized that I had passed out in my window seat, she jumped up crying, “We need a DOCtah here, is there a DOCtah on the plane?” and went down the aisle until someone looked up and she demanded, “Are YOU a doctah?” The man admitted he was a surgeon and was commandeered to check me out.
He concluded that I was coming down with the flu, which I knew wasn’t right because I had just taken my last antibiotic coming out of the flu, but it is just as well because I was lucky they didn’t divert the plane and land in Nebraska or someplace my insurance wouldn’t cover.
Sue regaled me with hilarious stories, including a long one about a past abusive boyfriend from whom she finally extricated herself, the punch line being that a friend of hers who was an ER nurse called her to say, “Sue Jean, you’ll never believe who’s lying here right in front of me DRIPPING blood all over the place” ? it was her ex, having been bashed with a baseball bat by his current girlfriend.
Passengers in front turned to say, “It’s good to see you laughing,” and passengers behind praised Sue for coming to my rescue. The doctor came back to see how I was doing, and the flight attendants were kind and attentive and, of course, relieved that I didn’t die on their watch!
[Su Lum is a longtime local whose blood sugar levels were off the chart when she got back to Aspen, and whose diagnosis was diabetes. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.]
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