My husband was sweet and bought me a plane ticket for Christmas, to visit my family and specifically my grandparents this January. The visit was lovely and just what I needed.
We couldn’t afford plane tickets for the whole family, so it was a nice mental and physical break from being 24/7 on demand mom. I got to sleep in for a few days, have uninterrupted adult conversations, feed just myself, and read my book in the airport because I wasn’t constantly scanning for little escaping feet.
So it was a surprise on my last leg home of my trip, when I was sitting in my airplane seat, with my book in hand, when my chest tightened up. All of a sudden my stomach was doing cartwheels and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I was so caught off guard that I actually asked myself a few quick questions to figure out why the heck I was feeling the way I did.
Was it because I missed my kids and husband? Well I did miss them, but I hadn’t been gone that long and I would be seeing them in about an hour… That didn’t warrant these feelings I was experiencing. I knew it wasn’t fear of flying, of course using an airplane- especially during this pandemic is cause for a slight concern. But again, not to cause these tears I was wiping from my eyes.
As I looked out my little round window down into the darkness below I recognized the scene my body was responding to. Just a few short years ago I was on another small airplane leaving city lights and heading over a black sea of nothingness. My current ride was experiencing some slight turbulence and on that night years ago the little ten seater plane was battling through a terrible thunderstorm that had made roller coasters feel like a sleepy, relaxing time in a park.
My daughter Little Miss A had been barely 7 weeks old and was fighting for her life. A few days earlier she had been misdiagnosed and sent home from a terrible hospital to have me turn around the next night running her through the ER doors begging the staff to keep my baby breathing because I couldn’t keep doing it anymore myself. We were exhausted and her poor little body wasn’t going to keep coming back, eventually she was going to give out and never look at me with her big beautiful eyes again if this stupid little hospital wouldn’t take us seriously.
With the grace of God a doctor took one look at us after a nurse had tried to steer us to a room to “calm down” and yelled at his staff to run us to triage… Where they almost killed her trying to intubate her little tiny body multiple times before they finally got it right. This same doctor knew his staff couldn’t save my baby’s life, and he knew she wouldn’t survive an ambulance transfer to a children’s hospital hours away. But there was a thunderstorm and a helicopter couldn’t get off the ground.
So the local, small airport was called and it was up to the pilot if he thought he could get his 10 seater plane through the storm. My sweet little ray of sunshine’s life was in the hands of a pilot and prayers were answered when they said they would give it a try. My daughter was then taped to rolls of towels and to a gurney with medical tape, and her adult tubes were tied and taped to her little body because this pompous hospital wasn’t pediatric ready and didn’t even have child sized ER equipment.
I then sat with a teenage boy who hadn’t grown any facial hair and was obviously trying to contain his excitement in the front of an ambulance while he drove us through the dark at one in the morning to the little airport on the other side of town.
So where is my PTSD stemming from? From watching two amazing paramedics check my daughter’s tape and IV’s as they loaded her hospital bed into a little airplane. It stems from the time in my life when one of these medical saints told me as I buckled in that things were going to get crazy, but that it was normal. This paramedic told me that she had done this plenty of times and that I was to watch her face and to not worry unless she looked worried. This emergency team kept casually grabbing my daughter’s IV bags as they swung almost completely upside down, they watched her vitals and made sure to look casual as they checked their sheets over and over again as Thunder and lightning flashed like hell outside out little round windows.
I prayed that whole plane ride and I worried for my daughter whose life was hanging by a very thin line, for my husband who had to be left behind, and for my sons who were little and would be waking up to their beloved baby sister and momma gone in the morning.
Obviously the plane landed, we were transferred to the amazing children’s hospital, and my daughter’s life was placed in pediatric, confident hands. The moment my daughter was taken to the pediatric intensive care floor I felt the ease of her care and for the first time in hours I had hope that I might not have to share heart shattering news with my husband after the sun came up in a few hours.
Her tubes, wires, and bed were immediately changed out for pediatric ones and the staff calmly explained that she was going to be fine. They had 3 other little ones on their floor that night with RSV also and they said they knew what to do.
She was also later diagnosed with delayed reflux which is a whole other terrifying experience. She came home addicted to morphine. And she still has breathing issues. But she is here and happy. You wouldn’t even know she had breathing issues if you saw her. But that flight will forever be imbedded into my very nerves. Not just my heart and soul, but my very lungs will probably forever remember that flight.