Our most recent Grace on Wings mission had us flying north to the Windy City to pick up a most unfortunate patient, Linda F.
Linda is a 65 year old artist who used to live in Chicago with her family, but has resided in the Raleigh, North Carolina area for the past 35 years. She and her 94 year old father, who still lives in Chicago, are all that’s left of their family. Approximately eighteen months ago she received a disturbing phone call stating that her youngest brother had unexpectedly passed away. She knew she had to go back to Chicago to break the news to her father in person since this would be the second child he would have to bury. She felt the burden of the news would have been too much for him to endure alone or to hear by telephone.
During her stay in Chicago, she developed a near-lethal cardiac arrhythmia which required medical intervention. She received an electrophysiological study of her heart and was placed on a heart drug called Amiodarone which, while being a good drug of choice in her situation, is not without some possible know side effects. In Linda’s case, albeit rare, the side effect to afflict her was complete respiratory failure. That required her to be placed on a ventilator to assist her breathing efforts. After a given period of time, sadly, she wasn’t able to be weaned from the ventilator and it was necessary for her to have a tracheotomy. After the operation she was moved to a special rehabilitation hospital in Chicago that could accommodate ventilated patients like her. Regrettably, there she lay, more than 600 miles from home with only her frail father to be at her side.
In God’s infinite wisdom, GOW was initially contacted in February to arrange transport back to North Carolina to a like facility, but it seemed that obstacle after obstacle was constantly impeding her transfer home. We all must understand that God works on his time schedule, not that of man. During her extended stay, Linda became stronger and only required ventilation at night. In addition, with her tracheostomy tube plugged she was able to talk. After several attempts and subsequent months, Linda’s prayers were finally answered.
Upon our arrival to the hospital, Tammy and I received a standing ovation from the staff on Linda’s floor. They knew how much Linda was yearning to go home, and we were her only means to get there. I quickly reminded them that God was the means; we were only the instruments doing His work.
With an ear to ear smile and donned with a pink “Sox’s” ball cap, we loaded Linda and her accumulated belongings into the waiting Superior Ambulance, which by the way provided excellent ground service for us while in Chicago. After about a 30 minute trip, we arrived back at Midway Airport where our pilots Hal and Jim readied Nellie for our two hour flight to Raleigh.
During our flight we learned a great deal about Linda and her family. As a history nut, the thing that impressed me most was her father was a WWII test pilot and had actually once flown with the legendary Charles Lindbergh. Wow! Her father finally had to hand in his wings only three years ago due to a medical condition that grounded him. Linda too is an aviation enthusiast. She commented that some of her best memories were in the cockpit with her father at the controls of the various planes he had owned. She requested that Hal leave Nellie’s communication radio on in the back so she could listen to the air traffic controllers, but she knew enough to stop talking when she heard “Lifeguard Nine-Ten November Foxtrot” come over the radio. How cute is that? Afterwards, Tammy and I joked that we almost forgot she actually WAS our patient onboard because she was so enthralled with the flight and required very little care. As Hal announced that we were starting our decent in to Raleigh, she sadly said that she didn’t want the flight to end even though she couldn’t convince him to have Nellie do a barrel roll!
After a wonderfully smooth flight and beautiful day of weather, we landed at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport and were promptly met by the ambulance personnel. We transferred Linda from Nellie to their ambulance and off we went to the rehab center. Overtly exhausted from a long day but exceptionally happy, Linda was bedded down in her new “temporary” home. She quickly called her father back in Chicago to give him a detailed description of the day’s events Nellie and all!
As I write this I sit here thinking about mission 82 and I just want to thank our awesome God for my ability and Hal and Tammy for the opportunity to serve in such a personally rewarding way.
In HIS name,
Alan Taber, RN
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