Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Journey Home

Our trip home deserves a post of it's own...

So, health wise, we'd had a fairly uneventful trip. Both Michael and Allison were really tired, which caused some problems with headaches and minor stomach issues. Otherwise, medically, we did pretty well. I was relieved when we got on the airplane that we'd made it unscathed.

However, thirty minutes into the first leg of the flight from Addis to Rome, Allison laid her head down on the tray table to go to sleep. I got up to go to the bathroom and when I came back Michael told me that Allison had gotten hurt, and sure enough she was sobbing.

The woman in front of her had reclined her seat very quickly and in the process, Allison's head got pinched between the tray table and the seat. Allison hurt her neck when she tried to get unstuck. Allison was in a lot of pain. Every time she moved her head, she was in agony. I gave her 400mg of ibuprofen and ice. Jen, the nurse that was with us, took a look at her. The main flight attendant came back to look at her. Eventually, they moved her up to first class so she could lay down flat. While it helped, every time the plane hit turbulence, she started crying again. With Jen's approval, I gave her another 400mg of ibuprofen. Nothing was working.

3:00am - An ambulance was waiting when we landed in Rome (for refueling and a crew change). The paramedics looked at her, felt that it was whiplash, and suggested a medicine they could give her that would take 10 minutes to work. However, Allison is allergic to a lot of stuff, and the last thing I wanted was for her to have an allergic reaction 30000 feet in the air over the Atlantic Ocean. Given this, and the extreme pain she was in, we decided to get off the plane and have the ambulance take us to an emergency room for x-rays and medicine.

Michael, meanwhile, had no interest in getting off of the plane. His words, when I told him we were going to get off the plane in Rome, were "I can't believe I'm saying this (since he always wanted to see Rome), but I don't want to get off." I felt I didn't have any choice, but Glen Bogdanovich offered to take him the rest of the way to the U.S. I made sure Michael had his passport, the boarding pass for the next flight, and a letter for Glen giving him permission to bring Michael into the U.S. I told Rob what was going on, asked Glen to let Lori know what was going on and got off the plane with Allison. Glen gave me some cash in case we needed it. We walked right onto the ambulance and drove off.

4:00am - After a long drive, and an intermediary stop at the airport medical clinic, we arrived at an emergency room in a run down hospital. I didn't have the slightest idea where I was, how we got there, and how we were going to get anywhere afterwards. The paramedics, who spoke English, left. Allison had received some shots at the airport clinic and while they were helping, she was still in pain. As we sat there, people arrived and were seen, all speaking Italian. The admitting nurse knew enough English to get us registered and we waited and waited.

5:00am - We are called to see the doctor. His first question to us was, "Do you speak Italian?" After I said no, he gave us major attitude. He spoke to us in English, but was not friendly at all. Allison got x-rays, the doctor said nothing was broken, wrote us a prescription for pain killer and a neck brace (now I had to figure out how to find a pharmacy) and told us we were released.

So I didn't know where to go, so I asked the doctor to help us get a taxi to take us to a hotel. Big mistake. He got indignant again, found us a security guard to call a cab, and disappeared without even a good-bye. The security guard called us a cab.

When the taxi arrived, I explained to the driver that I didn't have any currency, I needed to get to a hotel, but didn't know where one was, and asked if he could take a credit card. He looked at me and said, "I don't speak English."

Finally I was able to ask him to take us to the airport, since I figured (hoped) there would be a hotel there. I showed him my credit card, which he was able to take. When we got to the airport, I saw a Hilton, which I pointed to, and he dropped us off.

5:30am - We check into the hotel. The guy at the front desk was very friendly, but was really confused about why anyone would want a room at 5:30 in the morning. He told me that checkout was at 11am, to which I replied to give us the room for two nights. He also told us that the airport had a pharmacy that would stock pain killers and neck braces (never heard of pharmacies in airports!).

We got to our room. I called Lori to let her know what was going on. It was 12:30am in Massachusetts, but I needed to let her know. She was already awake, waiting for us to call. Glen had already been in touch (via Myndi). And then we slept.

The day was a combination of sleeping, eating, making phone calls to get flights changed and other logistical issues, going to the airport to get Allison her medicine, and sleeping some more. We wandered around the airport grounds a bit. The medicine helped Allison a lot, while it lasted. She could only take it every 12 hours, so by the end of the time, she was in a lot of pain.

Statue of Leonardo da Vinci at
the Rome airport.
La Plute: A sculpture by famous artist Jean-Michael Folon.
Our hotel is in the background.

After 10 days of not being able to eat fruit,
Allison enjoys a fruit salad (yummy, yummy).

My new favorite dessert, tiramisu, an Italian specialty.
The plan was to get on the same flight that we had left that night. We wandered over to the airport at 7:00pm to figure out the logistics. A very friendly woman at the Ethiopian Airlines counter knew all about us, and told us to be in the hotel lobby at 1:30am to take a shuttle to the airport. We went back to our room, slept until 12:30, and got on the shuttle with the flight crew that would also be boarding the plane. A man met us at the airport and accompanied us through the airport.

Things were going very well until we got to security. Because we had gotten right off of the plane onto the ambulance, we had not gone through customs. So, our passports weren't stamped correctly, so the woman at security was not going to let us through. Our guide and her argued (loudly) for 15-20 minutes. She called someone, yelled at that person, and slammed down the phone. The two yelled some more. Meanwhile, the flight crew had left. I had fears that a) we were going to miss the plane and b) we were going to be stuck in Italy until someone figured out how to get us back to America.

Finally, she relented. We went through security, got on the plane (much to the confusion of lots of passengers), took two seats, and were on our way.
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Postscript:

1. Allison's neck was sprained. By the next day, it was feeling much better and after a few days she was back to normal.

2. Our doctor had never heard of the medicine Allison had been prescribed. Lori's sister looked it up and found that it was a pain killer most commonly given to livestock.

3. I'll never be able to thank Glen enough for his help with Michael and all of our luggage that also continued on as well as for making sure Lori was informed. It's a good feeling when you know someone has your back. He's a great friend.


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