Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How to Become a Pariah at 38,000 Feet

I would rather report in chronological order. However, that order was upset the day I broke my leg. So much has happened since then! Therefore, rather than try to report things in the order they happened, I'll highlight tidbits in no particular order.

I am now back in China, hoping to access my online medical records from my surgery in the States to give to the doctor over here so that he can remove the staples from my leg and otherwise see to my post-break care. I'm not having much luck.

I've had a few visitors – wonderful! Except that I have to hobble down the stairs to let them into the stairwell because our intercom/security system is not working. That's a bit inconvenient, but then: I don't live on the 5th floor. There are only 4 steps to ground level. I can manage 4 steps.

One should always look for the bright side.  

Like the peace of being in my  little home again. When I sent Sam a message about  breaking my leg while still stateside, he thought I would have stayed in the States longer. I'm  sure I would have been welcome at anyone's house but there is such a thing as overstaying one's welcome. Even those who love me most might get tired of having me around. Besides, I just really wanted to be home.

So now I tell of my homecoming.

Going without food is not good for me. Some can fast for a day or 2 but I need to eat, at least a little, every few hours, every day. I missed my flight to China (more on that later), and with nothing between breakfast and evening but a few pretzels and pain medication, my stomach was feeling queasy. Once everything was taken care of and I had another plane ticket for the next day, I thought about food but my stomach did a flip and I quickly abandoned the idea.

I was not ready to get moving the next morning but after all the drama of the day before, I certainly did not want to take a chance on missing another plane. A quick shot at breakfast – a bagel with cream cheese and a horrible coffee, provided by the hotel I spent the night at and brought to me by a lovely woman name Madison did nothing to settle my cranky stomach down.

Now at the airport,  with everything taken care of, the airline called for wheelchair services to take me to the gate. By now realizing I am supposed to tip the people who push me around and being unwilling to hand over gratuity for people doing their job, I didn't feel right in asking to be pushed to a food vendor for breakfast. Besides, I still had that bagel.

Besides, I still had that queasy stomach.

And, most likely we would be fed within an hour of takeoff. Surely that little bagel can tide me over till the flight attendants serve food.

Beef and rice: good. I ate slowly, allowing each small bite to settle before I ate any more. I sipped a cola to help my stomach accept each bite. And bread. It came with the meal and I ate it as well. I was still feeling sick but no longer hungry. Now to lay back and take a nap.

You know, it was the darndest thing! Every flight I've ever been on – and I've been on quite a few, there have always been air sickness bags in the seat pocket. Now, when I really needed one, there wasn't one to be found!

I jerked awake with that urgent sensation indicating my lunch would soon revisit. With one hand clamped over my mouth – as though that would hold anything back, desperately I pawed through the seatback pocket for a bag to void my stomach into. There was none. Quickly I jabbed the flight attendant call button, and then I grabbed the newspaper discarded by my seatmate, fashioned it into a cone... not a moment too soon. I was erupting! Spewing! Now the paper cone was leaking all over me and I had no room to bend over. Still I disgorge! Would there be no end to this regurgitation???

Vaguely I was aware that 3 flight attendants appeared in order to minister to me. One had brought an entire packet of tissues, and she let me keep it. Another reached across me to throw a blanket over the puddle on the floor. A third brought wet napkins. After cleaning myself and the seat off as best as I could I asked for some sort of air freshener. I was painfully aware of how uncomfortable the air had become for those in my immediate vicinity. Later, I found I was the focus of some very uncharitable stares. The man whose newspaper I ruined moved to another seat – the flight was not crowded.

Let's find the bright side in all of this, now.

Sorry: I could find no bright side in throwing up all over the place in an airplane at cruising altitude at the start of the journey.

But there was kindness.

After the immediate drama of the event, a flight attendant came back and offered me a 'fu' – a good luck charm. He intimated it was for New Year but I know what he really meant: poor, broken legged passenger, now throwing up all over the place. Surely she needs some luck!

What I needed was ginger. Ginger is good for settling upset stomachs and it just so happened that my friend George had given me an entire bag of ginger candy. Moreover, I had that bag of candy in my carry-on! Now, if I could just get into the overhead bin...

Now, if I could just get out of my seat! Broken legs do not make getting out of airplane seats easy. And the flight attendant had put my crutches away for safekeeping. While they were still milling around me I asked them to help me get some of that ginger candy. While eating one I sipped a glass of Sprite, also very good for settling upset tummies. Within 15 minutes, another violent eruption – I had a bag for it this time, and miraculously, my stomach was fine again! The rest of the flight I was able to keep food down but I didn't push my luck. I only ate small bites, chewing each one thoroughly before assaying another.

The fu I was gifted now rests where I can see it every day. When I think of how bummy it is to have a broken leg, to not be able to go about as normal, to have to struggle just to cook a meal and get it to the table, to be woken up every few hours because of pain... instead of thinking of how hard all of this is and how stupid I am to take chances that result in broken legs, I think of that flight attendant giving me a token of good luck.

My friends, lucky I am. Things could have been so much worse. That is what there is to hold on to. That, and the hand railing to get off the plane in Wuhan.   


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