Off for a 3-day. Typical....or so I thought.
My cell phone rings. It was my Mother-In-Law. Hmmm My Father-in-Law had an emergency triple bypass the Wednesday prior, so I was on alert to his well being.
Hi. Where is Stephen?
He is at the airport. He just left for a 3-day. Why? My heart starts to pound HARD in my chest.
Well, Lynn had heart arrhythmia this morning while getting dialysis, and he had to be ventilated. At this point, this is basically all she knew.
The conversation continued on for a couple of minutes. The question was whether or not to call Steve. He was heading to the west coast and his push was 8:33am.
Margie, if I call him now, he will walk off that plane.
What to do? What to do?
If I call him and he walks off that plane, with 15 minutes to push, what implications happen with work?
If he doesn't walk off that plane, he has a good 4 1/2 hours to think and think...and think about his father who is critical in the hospital.
What to do? What to do?
After talking a bit more, the decision was made that I would not call Steve. I looked at flight possibilities, and noted that there was a return flight back to our base that left 1 hour after his arrival. I told my Mother-in-Law that if we need him to come home, we can get him home by 6pm.
I got off the phone with my Mother-in-Law, and instantly called my sister.
Did I do the right thing?
After discussing things with my sister, I felt a little more calm about the decision. The truth was that we didn't know what was happening, aside from the fact that he had arrhythmia and he was intubated. I did have that sick to my stomach feeling though...should I have listened to my gut?
Since my phone calls were happening in the morning as the kids and I were getting ready to school, I ran out of time to pack lunch and get Ben on the bus. So, when Ben's third complaint of the morning saying "my stomach hurts," I made the quick decision that we were taking the day off of school and work. Again, I had that sick to my stomach feeling, so I really wanted to be on standby in case anything happened.
My Mother-in-Law calls me with more information, and here is the short of it:
My Father-in-Law actually coded that morning while getting dialysis. The first code wasn't as bad as the second. But the second code was intense. Paddles, CPR, epinephrine, blood transfusions...the works! He was now listed as critical in the ICU.
At this point, the nurses suggested that the children come to the hospital.
Ok Margie, let me call the Chief Pilot. I will get Steve home. There is a first time for everything.
Hello, XXX Chief Pilots office, this is Jim. (name has been protected)
Hi Jim. I am a pilot wife. Please excuse me if I get a little emotional. I started to choke up. Poor Jim, probably the last thing he expected on the other end of a phone was a crying wife. My husband is on the flight to xxx, and his father is in critical condition in the hospital. We need to get him home.
After a couple of minutes after an exchange of details like his employee number and his flight detail, Jim was going to work things out and get Steve home.
Jim called me back and gave me the flight information for Steve's return flight.
I told my Mother-in-Law to make me the point on contact to get to Steve. I was home, so I could track his flight. Not to mention, a lot can transpire in 4 hours, so I wanted to compose all details into just one message to Steve. I made a point to text him about 10 minutes before his flight landed with the latest detail:
You are coming home on the xx:xx flight back to XXX. Flight XXXX. Your dad had heart arrhythmia while getting dialysis. They had to intubate him and preform other life saving procedures. His is in a "serious/critical" state. I contacted the chief pilots office (talked to Jim) and you have an emergency drop. Check yourself in at the gate. Call me. I love you.
Apparently Steve figured something was going on while in-flight. Some report printed out, something about his CA going somewhere but he wasn't. He thought maybe his CA was reassigned...or that he was heading home.
As he walked off the plane, the gate agent met him and gave him the details. Heart arrhythmia...critical condition...
That night Steve landed around 7p. He got home around 8p, and was almost immediately off to the hospital. He was able to see his Dad around 11pm that night.
As of today, my Father-in-Law is doing okay and with each day is gaining strength. He is out of the ICU, and is on his way out of the hospital to a rehabilitation center. But, he sure did scare everyone good!
As I was talking to Steve, before he headed on the flight back home that day, I told him that I needed to get something off my chest.
Steve, I made the decisions not to call you this morning. This is weighing heavy on me right now.
The weight I was bearing was heavy...I mean heavy! I had very bad thoughts in my head that something would happen to my Father-in-Law, and it was my stupid decision not to call Steve. It would have been my stupid decision that would have caused Steve to not see his Father one last time.
Thank God the day didn't end with my greatest fear. And to give me comfort, Steve did tell me he turned his phone off 13 minutes before push (funny that he remembered that exact time). Even if I did call him at 8:20a, he phone would most likely have been off.
This job can sometimes complicate life. Like, being on a different coast when crisis happens in your family. Like, being unreachable for x hours at a time. Like, having a pilot wife make a decision about whether or not to call her husband when a parent is in critical condition. But, with each experience I learn. And with each new experience, Steve and I discuss how to handle things. Just when you think you have this pilot lifestyle thing down, you get thrown another first.