I was traveling to Dublin last Sunday night for meetings on Monday and Tuesday. I had left after the Morning Masses and the RCIA session with our Elect in St. Mungo’s, with the intention of having a bite of lunch at the airport and then finding somewhere to watch the San Marino v Scotland match. Lunch was just okay, but, fortunately as it turned out, there didn’t seem to be anywhere showing the football, so I was spared an abject Scotland performance.
The gate number went up for the flight and I made my way to the departure area. I watched the incoming flight from Dublin land and, almost immediately, as soon as it had come to a stop, we were called forward for boarding. Great, I thought to myself, the plane is going to leave on time. We queued up on the stairwell, waiting for the doors to open on to the tarmac where the plane was sitting, which is the part I dislike most, cattle being herded. We waited, and we waited, and we waited. Nothing happened. A low murmur of complaint from passengers began to spread. Eventually, a message was relayed from above that there was a bit of an emergency, and that paramedics had been summoned to attend someone still on the plane. The murmurs of complaint came to a halt, someone was sick. We remained on the stairwell, not knowing how long it would take. We watched the paramedics arrive and board the plane. After a while we were told that they were going to recall us to the departure area, and that we would have to repeat the boarding process when the all clear was given. To be honest, it wasn’t too long after, and in the apologies that emanated from the crew as we boarded the flight, there was conveyed a sense that the person who had taken ill was okay.
My thoughts drifted back to about 15 years previously. I was with a group of parishioners from Mount Argus in Dublin on our annual pilgrimage to Lourdes. It was the year Lourdes had installed the water walk on the opposite side of the River Gave from the Baths and the Grotto, as part of the build up to the 150th anniversary of the Apparitions which took place in 1858. We had enjoyed a wonderful trip and were waiting at Tarbes Airport for the plane home to Dublin. The flight was called, but as we passed through security an alarm suddenly went off and the gates were closed. Through a partition I could see one of my pilgrim group, a lovely lady, lying on the ground and surrounded by anxious looking staff. I was allowed through to where she was but I could only stand helplessly by as some kind of medic tried to resuscitate her. After a couple of minutes, the medic looked up and said “she’s gone”. So many thoughts flashed through my mind in a split second, including how I was going to tell her husband and family. As I moved in to anoint her, an angel of mercy appeared in the form of an Irish nurse who was with another pilgrimage group, who had seen what was happening. She cleared a space for herself in a no-nonsense way, like Hattie Jacques in Carry on Matron, and, with some kind of blessed touch, brought my pilgrim back from the dead.
We were brought to a medical room at the airport. A doctor appeared and took over the situation. By now the good lady was conscious and apologising to everyone for all the fuss. Reluctantly, the doctor allowed her to board the flight with us, but only because we had discovered another doctor who would be on the flight, who promised to keep an eye on her. The flight felt like the longest I was ever on, and when we touched down in Dublin an ambulance was waiting to bring her to the nearest hospital. It was only then that she would let me phone her husband and tell him what had happened, and where she was. She stayed in hospital for a while, but they never did get to a full explanation of the cause. Thankfully, she recovered well. Paramedics, nurses and doctors; where would we be without them?
Heavenly Father, we thank You for those men and women who have dedicated themselves to nursing the sick and dying, and we pray for You to give them strength and grace as they tend to the ailments, injuries and sicknesses of so many people in their care. Amen.