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Planning Not Required

March 10, 2018
by Mark David Siegel

Hi everyone,

By now, I thought we’d be in Budapest. But Heide prefers certain airlines—Norwegian Air to be exact—so on Friday night we boarded a red eye, heading for a prolonged layover in Oslo, our detour before the main event in Hungary.

At around 1A, high above the Atlantic, a call came over the intercom, seeking a “doctor or nurse” to aid an engineering student who’d passed out in her seat. I pulled out my ear buds and placed my movie (“Three Billboards”) on hold and strode through the dark towards the back of the cabin, where I joined an ICU nurse from Naples, FL named Alex, who’d arrived a second before. The student was panting, her face was pale, and her hands were damp and cool. Her pulse was in the 50s. We got her up carefully, escorting her to the back galley where we laid her down on some blankets, which the flight attendants had arranged neatly on the floor.

Turbulence hit the air craft and the food carts convulsed around us. The treatment options were limited, so we spread moist paper towels on the student’s forehead, administered small doses of Sprite, and fed her bites of Trader Joe’s dehydrated ginger, which Heide takes on flights to prevent air sickness. We discussed our plans- Alex was going skiing in Sweden with a large group of friends, and the student was traveling with her brother to the Arctic Circle, hoping to catch the northern lights. Alex and I wrapped the student’s calves in gauze—our version of support hose meant to combat venous pooling—and we sent word to the captain that the passenger was recovering. It turned out she’d had a similar attack once before while crowded onto a New York subway car. I told her the same thing happens to medical students when they see blood for the first time, and to Interns sometimes, especially in July, which Alex confirmed.

After about an hour and a half, our patient climbed back onto her feet and returned to her seat. The flight attendant rewarded me with a cup of red wine, and I made it back to my family, found my headphones in the dark, and resumed the movie. Hours later, after some restless sleep, we landed is Oslo. When we reached baggage claim, I nodded briefly to Alex and wished the student safe travels as she ambled off with her brother, white gauze still wrapped around her ankles.

Heide, Gabrielle, Francesca, and I spent Saturday in Oslo, downing burgers and creamy pastries in the same neighborhood we stayed in last summer. At the end of the day, we hiked up the snowy steps of the Oslo Opera House and then headed to the Scandic Hotel and a brief sleep before waking at 5:30A for our flight to Budapest.

Who knows how the rest of this trip will go? Later today, we’ll meet up with Isabella in Budapest, where she’s spending the semester studying street art. The next two weeks will undoubtedly include food adventures and excursions to the Croatian coast, Vienna, and Slovenia. Somewhere along the way I’ll find WiFi to check our match list, but beyond that, I have few specific plans. And does it matter, really? Are true adventures really planned? What’s most important is that the five of us will be together again, and that’s the only planning that’s really required.

Take care, everyone,

Submitted by Mark David Siegel on March 11, 2018