The lovely Helen Ross (poet, author, blogger) has contributed a very personal tale of a close shave.

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A Very Close Shave by Helen Ross

In May 2005 my husband and I embarked on a round-the-world trip with another couple. There were a few legs to the journey (Brisbane-Singapore; Singapore-Paris; Paris-England; England-Canada; Canada-Alaskan passageway cruise; return Vancouver, Canada; then home to Brisbane via LAX airport). We never made it past England but we eventually got back to Brisbane.

On the morning that we were due to leave for Canada I spent the last of my UK pennies and pounds at Heathrow airport. ‘Yay! I need room for US money.’ Michael, my husband, scoffed a bread roll for breakfast and, a little while after, complained of heart burn. His cheeks were rather ruddy. As we had arrived early, he was happy to sit for a while.

Though the food hall was a distance from our departure gate, the other couple wanted to walk there. As my husband is more of a stroller than an Olympic walker our friends went on ahead. We had seen many golf buggies buzzing around the airport so figured we could hop on one if Michael got a wee tired. He reached for his cabin baggage (which wasn’t very heavy) and struggled picking it up, complaining that it felt like a ten ton weight. Michael looked a little peaky. I endeavoured to get a wheelchair to wheel him to the departure lounge but was curtly informed that it had to be booked and none were available. Thankfully a cart was whirring by.

Settled at the departure lounge Michael looked grey and clammy. “You’re not having a heart attack?” was my reply to his ‘you look like death warmed up’ complexion.

“No. It’s just indigestion” was his feeble reply. Hmmm, I thought.

On board Air Canada, Michael strapped himself in, took a few breaths, and then suddenly declared that he had to go out for fresh air. Whilst passengers were still boarding, I informed a flight attendant that we had to go outside the cabin doors as Michael was suffering from indigestion. After feeling better, we again boarded. I even arranged for the Flight crew manager to see if we could upgrade to a business seat to improve Michael’s flight comfort.

After sitting for a few minutes, Michael again felt unwell, extremely weak and struggled breathing. Again we parked ourselves outside the cabin doors with flight crew intermittently checking on Michael’s welfare. Finally, Michael requested medical assistance. We hadn’t realised that mica ambulances (mobile intensive care) are based throughout Heathrow, so paramedics arrived within two minutes.

After a routine check-up the friendly (yet professional) paramedics thought it best to take Michael to a hospital for further tests. I went back into the aircraft to collect our cabin baggage, and informed our friends that we would catch a later flight and would meet them later in Canada. They sat, shocked. Though I had previously asked Michael if he was having a heart attack, I had resigned to thinking he was suffering from indigestion.

So off we went for an unexpected ride through the streets of London. We arrived at a nearby hospital, but after a few tests Michael was wheeled back into the ambulance bound for Royal Brompton Hospital (later we found out that Royal Brompton is the largest specialist heart and lung centre in the UK). A cardiac sister from the hospital hopped aboard. The sister didn’t divulge too much, but thought there was likely to be an artery blockage. I was still expecting to arrive in Canada that night.

Michael sucked happily on a green ‘morphine’ stick, declaring “green sticks are on me” as the streets of London flashed by. But I wasn’t in a sightseeing mood. On arrival, Michael was transported to theatre whilst a paramedic assisted me with our cabin bags. Deposited in the deserted waiting room, I sat dumb struck, tears falling down my face.

After approximately 2½ hours doctors came to tell me that Michael was okay, and that they had put in a number of stents. The head doctor informed me that if Michael had got on the flight he would have been carried out at the other end in a wooden box. The next day I found out that Michael had died twice on the surgery table, being brought back to life with the paddles (defibrillator).

Back home in Australia, one woman told me that if it was her husband complaining of heart burn, she would have told him not to be a baby and get on the plane.

Yes, a close shave indeed.

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Thanks Helen 😀

I am so glad your tale has a ‘happy’ ending #phew

Note: My internet connection is shocking at the moment and won’t be back to normal until the 19th of July – so my apologies for any delays in responding to emails and blog comments.