There are circumstances that happen in life which are only humorous after-the-fact. Our return flight from Ukraine was one of those times.
On our last night in Ukraine, I felt a weird scratchiness in my throat. Oh, great, I thought. A cold is coming on. I began Airborne and Cold Eeze and didn’t sleep very good that night.
We woke up to breakfast, packing and a lengthy drive to the airport. I thought the bus felt especially warm, but then again we had endured sweat, heat, humidity and body odor often in that bus so I shrugged it off.
Arriving at the airport, there was a whirlwind of activity to get 30 something people’s baggage checked, then go through security and customs. At long last, we were in the terminal waiting to board. That’s when it hit me like a brick. I was sick! And hot! Being a mother, I probably bring more than necessary to travel with for all of the just-in-cases that can pop up. It really pays off! We’ve been very stuck before in the mountains, at the beach, in Africa, and everywhere in between with strep throat, stomach bugs and even a serious head injury. So as I sat slumped in a hard, plastic seat, I put down the awful sandwiches we bought (at exorbitant prices!!) – which I thought one more bite would come right back up – and quietly slipped out my handy dandy thermometer. I thought no one I knew was looking.
As I sat motionless, dying to lie down across the row of merciless plastic chairs, thermometer sticking out of my mouth like a cigar, I glanced up to see two of our team’s college guys sitting across from me staring wide-eyed at me. They looked at me like I had the plague. I couldn’t blame them. Who sits in the smack middle of the terminal, a full-grown adult, with a thermometer sticking out of their mouth! I felt too bad to explain. And, explain what? I had no idea why my body was breaking down by the minute.
Yep. Fever. It was 100 and was rising by the hour. After the rhythmic chirping of the thermometer alarm sounded, it was time to board. I nearly had a panic attack as I visualized all sorts of scenarios of the 10hour flight that awaited me as if I were a piece of bait in shark territory. Ten hours of getting sicker and sicker. Trapped over open ocean on a plane where English is not the first language spoken and with no option to stay behind. I imagined passing out in the aisles. The attendants strapping me in the jump seats with them as my fever spiked to seizure proportion. Being wheeled off on a stretcher not knowing my name from delusion. After a week of long hours, little sleep, physical excursion and being emotionally drained, on top of a climbing fever and a head that felt as though it would explode, there was not a rational thought in my head about my state of affairs.
I said not a word to my team but only told my husband what was going on. In a daze, I passed through our final security check and was in line to board the plane. I was burning up inside. All I knew is that I needed to remove as many layers as possible as I thought about the stale recirculated air I was about to inhale for the next 10 hours. I had a cami under my t-shirt…yes! I could take that off discreetly. Then I realized I was wearing compression hose (very attractive – NOT!) that I must wear for medical reasons on long flights. It was like wearing leg warmers under my yoga pants. I could slip those off, too.
Lo and behold, of all of the people on the planet, take a guess who stood directly in front of me in line to board. A monk! A real, honest-to-goodness monk in full garb complete with a long, hooded robe and large wooden cross hanging from his rope belt.
You’ve got to be kidding, I thought. I don’t want to do this in front of him! I’m not polished on monk protocol, but watching a woman take off under layers is, I’m just guessing here, probably not in their manual. However, I had no choice. I knew all too well that it would be impossible to maneuver those horribly uncooperative hose off in the little airplane seat. They make pantyhose feel like comfy, rainy-day pajamas. And so there I was, hoping he wouldn’t turn around.
I slipped my arms out of the cami and fished it up through the neck hold of my shirt. One down, two to go. I pulled up my yoga pant legs, one at a time, and unrolled the compression hose ending with the wide, lacy band that I desperately tried to shield from the monk standing one foot from me. I quickly stuffed them into my purse, hopefully with him none the wiser, but I must confess I didn’t look at him to find out (nor to all of those standing behind me).
Taking a deep breath, I stepped onto the plane. The day thus far had exhausted my weakened strength. I shoved my carry-on above my head and my purse under my feet, fell back into my seat, closed my eyes and breathed. It was a 2-3-2 seater plane. Our kids were in the middle 3 seats and Bruce and I were on opposite sides of the plane. I was seated next to a woman who sat speechless and still. I didn’t want to chit chat. Oh my no! And, in all likelihood, we probably didn’t speak the same language.
Still panicked over how I was feeling, I made the mistake of asking our resident medical person on the team, who sat near me, what the normal range for fever was for an adult. Everyone around us heard me, and I’m telling you it was though they all took a proverbial step backward from me – though we were all trapped on the same plane.
If I were a betting woman, I’d bet the lady I sat next to heard us as well, because when I sat back down in my seat, she was hugging the wall like wallpaper!
Oh, it gets better.
I needed Motrin and calm and peace and quiet and some sort of hope that I could make this flight despite being sick. I dug through my bag of tricks (my purse) and found all of the elements I possibly had to seclude myself from the reality of what I was about to endure. My sinuses were stuffed, my throat hurt, my right ear felt full and I felt like 1,000 degrees inside. However, when traveling in a group, what is one to do? We had a second flight in NYC to make and you do what you have to do.
With eyes closed as the rumble of the engines flared up, I reassured myself, Just 10 hours. That’s all it is. Ten little hours. Then, I’ll be back in the States where I can go to urgent care, or at least have the ability to use my insurance card. This pep talk sort of worked as long as I didn’t open my eyes. Boy, I was praying hard! Please Jesus, get me through this! Please don’t let me get worse on the plane. Please get me home! No one else on the team was ill, nor anyone we had been with all week. Just me.
Ever since I took a flight, many years ago, when upon descent my sinuses freaked out and they became so pressurized I thought they would burst, I guess I had a back-of-the-brain fear that will happen again. The pain and pressure was so bad I couldn’t even call for an attendant. I sat paralyzed feeling like a hamster being squeezed really tight – eyes bulging out and scared stiff.
Here I was. In the exact predicament I had always dreaded. Stuffy head. Ringing ears. Plugged nose. And a 10 hour flight for the first leg, then an overnight layover and a second flight home beginning at 4am.
As the plane began to roll down the runway, I broke out all the stops. If I were going to get through this, it would be with every possible aid. Mind you, this poor woman sitting next to me is stuck against the window for a long time with me.
It began to dawn on me that my ailment was a sinus infection. Not contagious, but tell that to someone who feels like the most unlucky person in the world to sit next to the likes of me, and the diva I was about to become.
First order of business…Afrin. Shot that sucker up my nose. Next, I took my temperature again as it had been a while. Oh how embarrassed I was to do this in public! I watched out the corner of my eye to try to catch the poor woman with her eyes closed. Not so. So how would you feel sitting next to someone who just broke out a thermometer? I know I would want to be anywhere in the world except near me. Ug. Okay, next…Motrin. Swigged it down. Then I pulled out the economy-sized bottle of Airborne and package of Cold-Eeze. Got a round of each in me. Check. Next, find the Mucinex to help with the fluid build-up in my head. Done. Next, sift through my cami and compression hose filled purse for my blow-up neck pillow. Blew it up and hung it around my neck. Done. I can feel my airplane buddy staring at me out the corner of her eye. However, I must continue to survive, or so I felt.
Pressure point wrist bands – just in case – because the airport sandwich was that gross (not even my teenage son, the human disposal, could finish his and described it as 95% salt). Slipped those babies on. Next, my beloved eye mask. I put it around my head, but wasn’t quite ready for total blackout so I propped it on my forehead. Gorgeous, I know. Next, noise reduction ear phones. I needed to find my happy place, and the loud static of the engines wasn’t getting me there. I positioned those suckers on tight. With a loud sigh, I pulled my eye mask down and crossed my hands in my lap under a blanket of total darkness.
What in the world must I have looked like?!?! Yes, I do carry these things with me, but never to use all at the same time. I’m not that high-maintenance! They are also for my entire family to share. But, I believe I would have growled at any hand that came near my airplane survival stash.
There I was. Thermometer, Motrin, Airborne, Cold-Eeze, Mucinex, neck pillow, wrist bands, headphones, and a black, satin eye mask with my undergarments peeking out of my purse. Sheesh. The poor soul beside me looked horrified. She all but sat sideways in her seat to get as far away as she could from me on this full flight. I was, in fact, a flying diva.
This, from a girl who doesn’t even like to wear shoes much less a jacket if it’s chilly. I don’t like fussing with myself and find accessories other than my wedding ring, a watch and lightweight earrings, maybe a simple necklace on a rare day, to be all I can stand weighing me down. I looked like a hybrid of an aviophobic and a hypochondriac .
I soon passed out, well, okay I probably fell asleep, but I don’t remember the first several hours of the trip. Then, without the compression hose that I should have been wearing, once I regained consciousness, I needed to walk – a lot. Delirious with the day’s events, I began to stroll the aisles with the eye mask propped up on my forehead and headphones bulging over my ears like Princess Leia. I didn’t even realize (or care) what I looked like until I found my husband’s seat and squatted down to say hello. He took one glance at me and said, Nice look. Yeah, whatever.
On descent, my right ear filled up so much I thought it would burst. I couldn’t hear anything out of it for 2 solid days. After day 8 it is almost better but still crackles and pops. I survived the rough overnight in NYC as well as the second flight home. A round of antibiotics knocked out the sinus infection, praise God. Being home made me feel better and my own bed was simply heaven. However, I haven’t found a remedy to regain my dignity for partially undressing in front of a monk nor horrifying the passenger next to me with the many apparatuses I had clinging to my body and the semi-conscious state I stayed in for those long 10 hours.
That, my friends, is the metamorphosis of how an average girl, who despises a scene, transformed into a diva for a day. The only comforting thought that carried me through the flight was that I will never see the monk or the lady next to me again. And, I’m quite sure they were thinking the same thing about me.