He fell like a tree would fall – first slow, then with a dull thud, but straight as a reed all the way. In the dark, 14 hours into a 13 hour flight, it didn’t seem as strange as you might think. Waiting by the tiny 777 bathroom, the dark silhouette of one of my fellow 300+ passengers on board our cursed vessel seemed oddly peaceful as he fell.
It really wasn’t a surprise, or it shouldn’t have been – after waiting 2 hours in this tiny flying tube, then being ejected due to a mechanical problem, then re-inserted an hour later, then another hour waiting for a “fresh” crew, then another hour for weather to break, the first 5 hours of our journey merely moved us like chess pieces around Dulles International. Finally in the air, it was another 13 hours of flying before we would arrive in Tokyo, so the fact that a diabetic passenger like him, low on food, water, rest, and energy would pass out getting up in the middle of the night/day/morning/evening/whatever it is – it really wasn’t a surprise.
I wondered if he was dead, at first, or having a heart attack, next, or maybe a seizure. The selfish concern that we might have to land immediately to attend to him, further delaying our trip, evaporated when I remembered we were over the North Pole. Unless Santa Claus knows CPR we were bound for Tokyo either way. But when we got him off the ground, he was conscious and alive, although his face bore streaks of blood indicative of his impact.
He did better than my father, really, who had taken such a fall only to wake up in the ICU one day, jaw wired-shut and injured far worse than our patient tonight. But I guess having grown up in the 1970’s/early 1980’s, I imagined every flight has a Doctor or nurse who will suddenly appear in times of need and tend to the newly wounded/sick. One who, preferably, had the lasagna.
But as I cast about in the dark and began to give orders, I realized there was no such person. When a flight attendant arrived, she had a tiny, personally-assembled med kit that even my own exceeded. As she and I worked on our friend, she asked if I was a Doctor. This question did not instill confidence, as the skills I was demonstrating were mostly drawn from watching police in-car camera recordings and episodes of “Cops.” Still, together we patched up our new friend and got him back on his feet.
Presumably, an entire medical team was waiting at Narita to scoop him up and give him the royal treatment upon arrival – I didn’t wait to find out. We were late as it was, and if I missed the last train out of Narita that night, I would get a chance to try out Narita’s new capsule hotel, something I dearly wanted to avoid. My nice, warm AirBnB in Setagaya awaited.
And frankly, the remaining 4 hours of my journey, which would have taken 1 hour if not for the earthquake delays, was entirely delightful. Being stuck on a stalled train during an earthquake-related track-inspection is just a nice chance to chat up some strangers and admire the infinite patience of Japanese travelers. And finally, 32 hours after I left home, I was home.