The early morning sun permeated throughout the cabin of the flight to San Francisco, draping the windows like warm yellow-orange curtains.
I lay reclined on my luxuriously soft leather seat, admiring the magnificent view of the crystal clear, azure sky and cirrus clouds. My brother laid next to me in his seat, legs outstretched with his hands behind his head, smiling jubilantly, relishing every minute of our journey.
My six year-old son Aiden and four year-old daughter Audrey were joyfully busying themselves with the tv remote control, deciding whether to watch a movie or play a game, as they were served milk and cookies on a platter.
Meanwhile, the flight attendants cleaned our tables of the remnants of a surprisingly decadent feast comprised of the warm scrambled eggs, granola, fruit yogurt, toast with butter, and orange marmalade. Water and juice were served in a glass goblet with real silverware, quite the opulent fare for economy plane tickets. How this all took place is quite the tale to tell indeed.
The silence and warmth in our bedroom was interrupted by the sudden raucous stir of the telephone ring.
“Hello,” I said, sounding almost like a hushed whisper trying not to wake anyone else in the house. The voice on the other end sounded unusually formal and serious for my jovial brother to muster.
“Chiqui, this is Jojo… Dad just had a stroke.”
It was the result of the spine surgery he underwent due to decreased sensation in his limbs and inability to walk. My father was in the ICU, intubated, connected to a breathing machine, with intravenous medications sustaining his vital signs. The clot was too big and blocked half of his brain. I imagined him in a hospital bed, helpless, weak, and possibly scared. Quite the opposite of the formidable man I’ve known him to be.
The foreboding feeling prompted me to immediately book a flight to the Philippines, taking my two kids with me. My other brother, Julius, who lived a mile away, came as well. This might very well have been the last time we saw dad.
In my family, it is a customary belief to whisper your most ardent wish to the dying, so that they may carry it to God. I was twelve years old when my grandmother’s health was failing. On her death bed, my father, a colonel then, whispered his desire to be general. A few years later, he was made Wing Commander in Mactan Air Base stationed in Cebu, and appointed Brigadier General Dominico “Domingo” Casas. My mom concluded that it was “Lola” who made this all possible.
My father was my hero. Despite the corruption in the government, he never accepted any bribes or took advantage of his position as general. Honor, duty, respect, loyalty, fealty to country, were the words he lived and breathed. He was a pillar of fortitude. In his lifetime, he had been through coup d etat’s, skirmishes and a revolution. I revered him as a true stalwart.
Upon arriving at the hospital in Manila, there were long strips of ekg paper strewn all over the floor of dad’s room. The medical team ran 4 codes before we got there trying to keep my alive long enough for us to see him. The doctor asked my mom to sign the DNR form. The ventilator was turned off and the medications discontinued. Slowly, but with utmost certainty, the traces of his heart pulsed from a rhythmic beat to a terminating pitch. I could hear it, but I felt it more profoundly.
In Nursing school, I learned that the last sense to fade in a dying patient was hearing. Following the our custom, I whispered my wish to dad that I would live my life as honorably as he did. I wanted to do extraordinary things. I wanted to make an impact on people. Simply said, I want to make a difference. Within minutes, my hero of 39 years was now gone to carry my aspirations up somewhere.
We stayed for the funeral and then I had to return home. Everything felt surreal as we arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. As we pulled up to the boarding terminal, I happen to notice a very pregnant young lady. She was walking very slowly, taking long, deep, almost timed breaths each time she took a step. While she was breathing through her mouth and holding her round belly, she suddenly glanced at me and smiled.
“Good Lord, she looks like she’s about to pop!” I told myself as I returned a smile. I immediately glanced at the gate she was standing near, GUAM. Whew! Thank God it’s not my flight. Finally, it was time for us to board the plane.
Slowly my kids nodded off to sleep, thereby permitting me to surrender to my exhaustion.
My eyes were closed for a moment when I felt the strong nudge of my brother’s fingers poke the side of my head. Perturbed that I was awakened from my brief slumber, I opened my eyes and saw my brother grinning ear to ear.
“Why the hell did you do that?!” I glared.
“Guess what,” he replied, ignoring my query. “They made an over head announcement that they needed medical personnel and since no one responded, I volunteered you! I said my sister is an experienced operating room nurse–WITH PEDIATRIC ICU EXPERIENCE.”
I was flabbergasted. “You told them what?!” I wanted to kill him! The flight attendant then happily motioned me to follow her.
“There is a pregnant lady upstairs who is having stomach pains,” she said, “but don’t worry, it’s probably nothing.”
I followed her, acting calm, confident, with my posture straight as I walked with a determined stride. This was a mere facade. Deep down my hands were shaking so hard that I had to hold on to the aisle seats to steady my wobbly gait. The attendant led me to a flight of stairs . I was led to a cabin where the snacks and beverages were prepared for the first class passengers.
As I glanced down on the floor, I saw the same pregnant woman lying on top of a few blankets and pillows, heaving and writhing in agony. She was with us after all. At the foot of the bed was a lady, who I came to know as Magda, another nurse. Boy, was I glad to see her! She immediately asked what my nursing background was. No sooner did I mention my operating room experience, that she stood up and motioned me to go between the lady’s legs.
“You’re taking the lead. I’m a med surge nurse.”
I then introduced myself to the lady and held her hand as I told her what I was going to do. I told her that I was going to do a pelvic exam. Whenever I get nervous or excited I have the proclivity towards loquaciousness. Talking to myself and thinking out loud, I’m sure the people thought I was a lunatic. I am the complete antithesis of my dad. Where he is confident and calm. I, on the other hand, am clumsy and fidgety.
“I need some water,” I said, taking my cue from the quintessential line I’ve heard in so many movie scenes whenever there was a doctor about to deliver a baby in some remote place–like a plane. I was given large plastic gloves similar to the ones from a hair dye kit and provided with a flashlight with batteries as drained as I was. While assessing her, I timed her contractions as every 4 minutes apart. I kept telling her to take nice big deep breaths in an attempt to slow the contractions. The pilot then came to see us and told us, “Whatever you do, try not to deliver the baby until we land, which is only about three hours. The good news is that the paramedics are aware and will be there when we land.”
I didn’t find that to be reassuring. I looked at the pregnant lady, whose name was Aida.
“First baby?” I asked hoping her answer was yes to buy us some time.
“Oh no,” she managed to laugh, “this will be my 4th baby!”
“All right we’re screwed,” I thought to myself. This meant an imminent delivery due the pliancy of her body from previous births.
I then asked the attendant if we can use the internet. Secretly, I was hoping to google how to deliver a baby at 30,000 feet, but no such luck since we were too high in elevation to get a connection. We were joined by another nurse who I’ll refer to as Bee, who had labor and delivery experience. She came in the nick of time. She was able to properly assess the woman’s progress, using the proper terminology, such as “crowning,effacement,latent stage” – words I had suppressed from my memory. Maternity was not my strong rotation in school.
“Please try to slow down your breathing,” I told Aida, the ferocity of her contractions now much stronger and in shorter intervals.
“I see the baby’s head,” said Bee. “We are going to have to deliver this baby now.”
Within seconds, out came a healthy, wide eyed baby boy, drawing it’s first breath with a strong forceful cry.
I held the baby in my arms and presented him to mom. Applauses resonated all over the plane, as the pilot announced the arrival of the newborn. We jumped in jubilation. Suddenly, my brother came up to the cabin with a very angry little girl demanding her mommy. Audrey vehemently marched up to me with fierce determination, huffing and puffing, stepping over the bloodied blankets and bypassing the staff to reach me. Her powerful tug at my shirt signaled my exit to leave mom and baby in the capable hands of my two nurse companions.
“I held her down there as long as I could when she woke up,” my brother said, “but she was crying inconsolably.”
After an hour, the flight attendant asked me if I, and the rest of my party wanted to eat breakfast as well as spend the remainder of the trip in Business Class.
“Sure!” I replied, sounding calm as I smiled, while surreptitiously giving my brother a high five. I could never afford such luxury!
The next day I was surprised to see the newsflash. Aida was all over the news, both domestic and worldwide. When I opened my Facebook page, there were more than 50 congratulatory comments from my friends. My jaws were sore from smiling and laughing excessively. What astonished me the most was the baby’s name, Kevin Raymar Francis Domingo. It felt more than a coincidence for me at this point. None of the nurses were mentioned in the reports, but I preferred it that way. I knew what I did made dad proud. It felt like a clear message that I was meant to experience this momentous event.
A wish granted. The cycle of life perpetuated itself within a week’s time of my dad’s demise. One soul passing, another arriving. Despite my immense apprehension and trepidation, necessity compelled me to rise up to the challenge of saving someone. Whenever doubtful, as I often am of good things happening, I always look to this day. This is the quintessential example that miracles do happen and that I can make a difference.
1) www.ktvu.com/news/A little extra baggage on SFO international flight | www.ktvu.comnews/a-little-extra-baggage…flight/nD4q8/?Sep 20, 2011 – In a press release issued early Tuesday, Philippines Airlines said Aida Alamillo gave birth while enroute on a 747 flight with the help of three .
2) Sep 20, 2011 – In a press release issued early Tuesday, Philippines Airlines said Aida Alamillo gave birth while enroute on a 747 flight with the help of three …
1 Baby Born On Plane, Nationality Up In The Air?www.huffingtonpost.com/…/baby-born-on-plane-natio…?
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