It was my boyfriend and I’s first holiday together abroad. It was the first time I visited Japan. It was the trip we would get it engaged. It was also the trip I became an airplane medical emergency.
We were going to Tokyo, Japan, I place I had dreamed of going for a long time. My better half had been before and speaks conversational Japanese and recognises basic sentences, so I wasn’t worried about how we were going to get around. The total flight time was round 13 hours and it required us to switch planes in Paris. We paid extra for seats with legroom for the Paris to Tokyo flight (which was around 11 hours). The seats I’m referring to were the ones next to the planes’ wing, emergency exit and the toilets/snack area. Basically, there was nothing but space in-front of us, and it brought us great joy.
We scrolled through the in-flight TV programs and movies, we both chose Ant-man *well actually, he started watching Ant-man and I thought it looked interesting so I switched*. Not long into the movie, food was served!
There were two options, boring British style chicken with peas and potato or amazing Japanese style fish with rice, Japanese sauces and some other veggies. Normally, I go with the safe option and eat chicken. But I went with the fish as I was deeply craving Japanese food! A decision I would quickly regret.
Now, I have a very small appetite and I’m better known among my friends as a grazer, I’m basically a cow or a sheep. Equipped with this knowledge, I noticed that even for me, I ate very little. I had just completely lost my appetite quite quickly into the meal. I wasn’t too alarmed as I’m all too aware of my small appetite. This was warning number 1.
I don’t recall the exact moment (it was maybe 1-2 hours into the flight), but I found myself with my eyes closed and feel awfully nauseated—warning number 2. I felt a pulsating like heat rising in my body and thought ‘oh no’. Ant-man was still playing and the movie music was booming in my head, making me feel worse. I somehow found the strength to turn to my better half, get his attention and say ‘I feel sick’. The second I said this, my body jerked forward and did the classic vomiting cough. Luckily, nothing came out at first, but I started hyperventilating and could hear my heart in my ears. I could see that my other half was scrambling to get a paper bag, which was placed in a pocket on the side of the cabin. He couldn’t reach it easily and his seat neighbour was napping. By some miracle, his seat neighbour noticed, grabbed a bag and it was flung in front of me, almost immediately I started vomiting. At this time I started experiencing pretty serious vertigo.
My other half is a doctor, so lucky for me, he knew exactly what to do. He got the attention of the flight attendance and was trying to get antiemetic’s (or as we like to say, anti-vom*it*) and a blood sugar monitor. Unfortunately, the flight attendant that responded was a massive d**k. Even in my state I could tell how patronising he was and just reluctant to cooperate or even just listen. He said ‘if she’s really not feeling well we can call for a doctor on board’. When he said that I felt a mixture of offence on behalf of my better half and disbelief regarding his lack of common sense, I thought, I’m vomiting, do you think I feel well? ‘I am a Doctor’, my better half responded, to which THAT flight attendant said, ‘oh ok, do you have proof?’
Once he could prove he was a real doctor, only then did that flight attendant start listening *kinda*, but even then he wasn’t very responsive or even acted quickly. All the while, I was getting worse. The vomiting got to the point where it wouldn’t stop and was continually was ejected from my stomach. I could barely get a breath of air and my stomach acid was burning my throat. I was exhausted. I said several time ‘just hit me over the head’. We tried to get the blood sugar monitor but that flight attendant said that there wasn’t a blood sugar monitor on board—a lie we would later uncover. Instead of arguing, my other half urgently wanted to stop the vomiting.
I watched as my other half was with the staff just off to the side of our seats. At this point, there was a queue of passengers for the toilets who became curious on-lookers. One woman tried to help and was speaking to my better half and staff to get me water.
For me, I appreciated her effort and intention. But my other half felt slightly irritated as he was trying to ‘get the job done’ and did not appreciate the distracted at the time—to the medics out there, I’m sure you understand this mentality.
My better half came back with the antiemetic tablets. He said, ‘this is going to taste horrible, but you need to try’. Luckily, the cabin was so dry that my taste buds were not performing at full capacity as they would have on Earth. To some miracle, I kept down the tablets which thankfully, stopped vomiting.
During this time, a senior staff member was alerted and came over to help, I can’t remember what his role was but he seemed much more experienced. He came with a very large paper bag, somewhere between 1-2 feet in height. My smaller, filled up vomit bags (too many to count) were tossed in and this large bag which remained on the floor in-front of us for the remaining duration of the flight.
This senior staff member and my better half spoke and filled out the required ‘doctor’ paper work. It was during their discussions that we found out that the plane does indeed have a blood sugar monitor on board. My better half was extremely displeased and explained that we were told there wasn’t one on the plane.
Over the next few hours I felt myself falling asleep and immediately spasming awake. My other half would occasionally poke me to make sure I was still alive. I remember feeling extremely guilty and kept telling him I was sorry. We were somewhere over Russia where the turbulence really hit. The turbulence amplified how ill I felt and there was a period where dread washed over me when I realised there were still hours left until we landed. I repeated in my head ‘I’ve done more with less, I’ve done more with less’.
In my memory, I was only vomiting for approximately 40 minutes. However, I later found out that in reality, I was in this state for 3-4 hours before it stopped. I guess it must have been the dehydration and the slipping in and out of consciousness that skewed my memory.
Finally the moment I was waiting for came, the landing.
It took us approximately an hour to get out of the airport and our Airbnb apartment was at least an hour away. The thought of it made be even more physically and mentally exhausted. I wasn’t yet fully recovered, I had vomited up the contents of my stomach and had almost nothing to eat for hours. I told myself to get over it and suck it up because I knew how tired my better half was, I could see it, and I was fully aware that he had even less sleep than I did because he had forced himself to stay awake to make sure I was okay. I kept saying to myself ‘I’ve done more with less, I’ve done more with less’.
By the time we got to our Airbnb apartment, it was probably around 1:00 am UK time and at this point, we had been travelling probably about 18 hours in total (give or take). We decided we needed to get food. My better half said he can go out to buy us food, but I said no for some reason. I somehow found energy to walk with him to McDonalds and we ordered the sakura limited edition meal. We took our food back to our apartment and settled down. My appetite had returned, not to full capacity but, it was there. I had some chips and about half a burger.
We were both so exhausted, but we managed to shower while practically asleep. We then collapsed into our holiday bed and passed out.
The worst part of the whole ordeal is that I didn’t get to finish watching Ant-man.