DH, a 28 year old gentleman in Atlanta, GA, who needed to return home to Pittsburg, PA. Since Dec. 1st, DH had been in Atlanta at a spinal rehab facility receiving treatmenth for a crushing cervical spinal cord injury from which he has suffered quadriplegia as a result of an MVA in Oct. 2014. At the time of the accident, DH was only 2 weeks away from completing nearly 2 years of an extensive training program that was preparing him both technically and physically to fulfill his new job duty as a Pittsburgh Fire Dept. Fire Fighter. Also at the time of the accident, he was probably in the best physical shape of his life, in-fact, on that very day he had already completed his regular 10 mile run!
Even though DH’s life was drastically changed in that moment, he and his mother, who has been at his bedside since the accident, both know his outcome could be even worse, as a spinal cord injury of his severity most often results in the loss of one of the most vital functions of the body, breathing. Miraculously, DH is still able to breathe on his own and maintain a bodily function that many of us can easily take for granted.
He bears the burden of a broken body which he now has to rely on his mother to take care of, but he is now thankful to God every day for his ability to breathe without a ventilator. Even though their faith is strong now, they have a long and hard road ahead of them that will surely test their faith. Upon initially meeting DH I felt I could see in his eyes that he was already beginning to grow weary. I’m sure if he hasn’t already, he will begin to question God’s plan. I believe as humans, if in his situation, most of us would!
We know there are so many sick individuals out there in places far away from where they need to be, but it seems to me that God chooses to deliver special patients to us for His reasons, and I feel each reason becomes clearly evident at some point during the mission. In DH’s situation, maybe he was already struggling with his faith, and I think he needed reassurance from God!
“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in
spirit.” (Psalm 34:17-18)
During the mission, his mother revealed to us that when the plans were starting to be arranged for DH’s transport home, they were told he could travel on a commercial flight since medically she was able to take care of his needs, and he would only need assistance for physically transferring movements and some special accommodations for his seating during flight. She was assured the airline had experience with accommodating his needs, but they were required to do a pre-flight testing day which consisted of placing and positioning him on the actual aircraft prior to the day of flight.
As she was tearfully explaining the day of testing, she mentioned how heartbreaking it was to witness her once so independent and strong son break down emotionally, and compared it to watching her son being tortured. She feared that day would have irreversibly broken down his faith and hope to continue through his rehabilitation. Needless to say, after this story, there wasn’t a dry eye in Abe’s passenger compartment.
She went on to say how after she was so distraught of the thought of her son suffering through the constraints of the commercial flight she contacted her sister and pleaded for help to find another solution to get him home. Her sister was fortunate to have known someone who heard of GOW, and referred her to us!
As a medic and a nurse, taking care of our patient’s medical needs and monitoring them for physiological changes related to the unstable flight environment is a high priority, but the care we provide during the flight doesn’t end once the mission is completed. Whether we give medical treatment and/or emotional support, the patient will continue to have effects from our interventions. Chris and I were heartbroken after hearing her story. While we continued to monitor DH’s medical condition, he continued to remain stable so we instinctively became even more attentive to his emotional and spiritual health.
We shared encouraging stories and words with him about staying strong, faithful, and recognizing God’s presence always. By the end of the mission, as we were preparing to say goodbye, DH began to cry as Chris spoke our prayers over him, and I made sure to touch him on his face where I knew he could feel it. Through his tears he smiled at us as we were leaving, and I swear his smile lit up the sky!!
Thank you Hal, Mike, and Chris for sharing in this mission with me!
RN! Chief Flight Nurse