A Broad Abroad: Death in Business Class

‘There’s no problem; it’s alright — I’m with British Airways,’ a short dark-haired woman is screaming in my ear. I slowly return to consciousness, as though forcing my way through mist.  I am lying on a trolley, being pushed at high speed through a concrete tunnel with no windows.  Stark neon tubes burn above my head, illuminating central heating ducts and an occasional doorway. Even in my disoriented state, I know everything is definitely not alright!  

The last thing I remember was the captain announcing we were two hours outside Sao Paulo.  Has the plane crashed?  Am I one of a long line of trolleys or is this treatment just for me?

The ambulance dashes through the early morning streets, siren blaring.  At the hospital, none of the staff speak English.  I spend several hours lying on a trolley, waiting to be assessed.  If I try to sit up, pain shoots through my badly-bruised chest, leaving me breathless. My confusion turns to panic.  I know who I am, and am fairly sure I’m in Brazil but have no idea why I’m in hospital.  Nor can I remember whether I have flown with anyone else.  I’m beginning to think I’m alone, in a strange country, unable to communicate.  

Eventually, a nurse brings me a telephone.  My boss in England tells me I collapsed on the plane, found curled in a ball in the thankfully-unlocked toilet. I am not alone. Later I am visited by Ian, my travelling companion.  He talks of a stewardess shouting that there’s a body in the toilet; of breakfast disrupted while the crew laid me on the floor and tried to revive me.  

‘Is there a doctor on board?’ The classic call had resulted in seventy-six positive responses; a party of heart surgeons, returning from a conference in Europe.  Ian describes them surrounding me, waving filled syringes and arguing about the best treatment.  Deciding I’d had a heart attack, they’d given me CPR; hence the bruising. I am thankful the conference hadn’t been for gynaecologists.

The next day, I receive a visit from the flight crew.  The stewardess who’d found me says she thought I was dead.  ‘You were a really strange colour and didn’t seem to be breathing,’ she related.  They bring me a First Class goodie bag as a present — much better than grapes.  It’s the first time I’ve ever had one — although I might have hoped for different circumstances — and I still have it in a drawer somewhere. 

The anxiety only really fades completely when my husband walks into the room two days later.  He takes a long look at the woman he’d seen off at Heathrow with a wave and a smile earlier in the week.  Now, I’ve got a broken nose and bruises from chin to boobs; I am catheterised and hooked up to a heart monitor.  My hair is in need of a wash and I haven’t had a proper shower since I left England.  I can see him searching for the right words.  Finally, he opens his mouth and utters the phrase that for me will evermore be associated with hospital rooms: ‘I guess sex is out of the question then?’

[First published in Parcels in the Rain and Other Writing, 2013]

Get my blog posts by email:

By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

Comments (0)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close