Fashion Life

Life Lessons at 37,000 Feet

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IMG_0422IMG_0389IMG_0388IMG_0397IMG_0387IMG_0375IMG_0409Jacket [Loft, similar here] Tank [Lou & Grey] Jeans [Loft] Booties [Rag & Bone] Bag [Rebecca Minkoff] Sunnies [Ray Ban] Necklace [Nordstrom] Watch [Michele] Bangle [Ella Rue]

“Resilience- an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”

My alarm clock went off at 4 a.m. although the the loud, siren-esque sound wasn’t necessary. I was in such a light sleep knowing my health journey could all change within the next two weeks that I’m not sure I actually fell asleep after all. I got dressed, warmed up a bouillon cube in a shot of water and grabbed a Pedialyte to go (ya know, the normal things everyone with blood pressure in the double-digits does as a part of their morning routine.) My parents and I arrived at JFK two hours early, ensuring that there was sufficient time to let the panic sink in make it through the insane lines of airport security and get to our gate with plenty of time to spare. I hadn’t flown in years and it would be my first time since getting sick, however, we were off to Mayo Clinic and with the only other option being a 27 hour Amtrak ride, nothing was going to stop me from getting there. I had waited years for this.

I had never had an issue with flying, with the exception of the one time I got a sinus infection in the middle of summer vacation in Florida (who does that?) and my ears painfully wouldn’t pop the entire 2.5 hour trip home, but this time, I held some reservations. In the weeks leading up to my flight, I had spoken to my doctors and obsessively extensively researched how flying affected people with my condition (thank god Google doesn’t judge me for my queries.) I knew that the odds were about 50/50 that I’d get symptomatic during take-off and landing when the cabin was still adjusting to the pressurization. Albeit my health history, I was generally a positive person so I filed that knowledge in the back of my mind, in a safe little cabinet that could easily be accessed should I need to remind myself mid-flight that others like me, too, experience these horrific sensations.

They called our flight number to board and I slowly walked to the bathroom one last time, doing anything to keep my feet on land as long as possible. While drying my hands, I took one last glance at myself in the mirror, talking sense into myself and repeating “You can do this. You’ve gone through so much to get here.” I quickly chatted with the flight crew upon entering the plane, as if they had a direct line to Fate and the ability to change mine because I was nice and polite– “We won’t let anything happen to that girl because she said ‘hello’.” I took the aisle seat next to my mom, my dad seated in front of me, and mindlessly scrolled through my iPod, doing anything to distract myself from the sealing sound of the air-tight door coming to a close (distraction techniques were never my forte.) We began to roll forward onto the tarmac and I knew there was no turning back now.

The engines roared to life, a deafening noise that I didn’t recall being so jarring in the past, and I clasped my mother’s hand so hard I think we both lost blood flow to our fingers. Sunk back into my seat with eyes wide open, we lifted off of the ground, climbing higher into the sky each second, the cars on the parkway quickly turning into little moving ants. I looked around at the other passengers- adults reading the in-flight magazines, children attempting to wiggle out of their seats- and I realized that I, too, could enjoy the flight as normal as they were. Once we stopped our rapid ascent, the seat belt light turned off and the stewardess made the announcement that they’d be coming around with snacks. I did it, I survived take-off in one piece, and assuredly, those nightmare-inducing stories on all of the forums did not pertain to me– or so I thought.

I felt a huge sense of relief wash over me. I looked at my mom with the biggest smile and said “I did it.” We high-fived and not a moment later, it was like someone stuck a needle into my sense-of-accomplishment balloon. As any array of death-like symptoms arriving in a swift, harsh manner would, I felt them suddenly. If you were to imagine the feeling your body would experience if being squished between two cement walls closing in on you while being strapped to a NASA spaceship breaking through the atmospheric barrier and multiply that by 10, you’d have a faint idea of what I felt going on in my body. The pressure was so intense that my vision started going black. My heart was slamming in my chest, what I now know as adrenal surges flooded my body like fire in my veins and I began to pass out. It all happened so intensely and abruptly that I didn’t even have time to panic. I remember thinking to myself in a rather calm and matter-of-fact way, “This is it. This is how it’s going to end.” Never in my life had I experienced any sensation like it and that’s saying a lot as I had gone through some pretty rough events with my health, to put it mildly. Before going completely unconscious, I had a moment of clarity and remembered to put my head between my knees.

Blood flow restored to my brain and after what felt like eternity, I was able to signal to my mother that something was terribly wrong. With legs that felt like they were filled with lead, I staggered down the aisle and collapsed on the floor in first class, tears streaming down my face. When you picture how your life could end, you don’t fathom the possibility of that occurring in a metal tube surrounded by a bunch of strangers at 37,000 feet, ya know? Not exactly my choice of endings, although grandiose. The stewardess called for anyone with medical experience to immediately come to the front of the plane and to my luck, there were three firefighter/EMTs on board heading to a forest fire in Arizona. They pulled me into the galley of the plane and knelt down beside me, quickly strapping an oxygen mask over my face. Although my body was retaliating for the extreme physical stress the g-force and pressure of the plane was putting on me, I mentally opened the file cabinet, pulled out the information that I had read explaining why I was feeling the way that I was, and forced myself to remain calm. Will power to the fullest.

Half-way into the three-hour flight, the steward asked me if I’d consent to an emergency landing in Chicago. As much as I wanted to get off of that torturous plane and have the comfort of knowing that medical attention would be waiting for me, I declined. I was going to make it through that flight to Minnesota one way or the other and I wasn’t going to put all of those people on board through that. I mean, who did they think I was? I was so delirious that the only crisp memory I recall about landing is being sandwiched between the first row of first-class and the wall in front of that because after all I’d endured, it wasn’t “safe” for me to go though descent and landing in the middle of the floor. HA. Protocols.

I can still recall the unbelievable sense of relief that washed over me when we touched down. This time, I had really done it. I flew. I was back on Earth in Minneapolis, an ambulance waiting for me, and Mayo Clinic and the fate of my health just a two-hour car ride away. I fucking did it.

Unless you’ve actually prayed to God or whatever higher power you believe in to spare your life, you can not fathom the terror that I experienced that day. Sorry to sound dramatic, but it’s true. This is actually the first time that I’ve  shared my experience; something about it still so terrifying but empowering to re-live it on solid ground. When you’re chronically ill, a term that I refused to acknowledge for a long period of time because I, Michele Shapiro, was not going to be chronically ill, you tend to see all of the negative changes that you’ve been forced to accept. You feel weak, betrayed by your own body, and beaten down day after day of the same issues. It is only when you truly take a hard look back at all of the shit that you’ve endured that you realize how strong you really are. After my two-week stint at Mayo, my parents looked up train tickets, renting a car to drive home, and any other possible means of travel short of walking (for the record, I totally would’ve been game), but do you know how I decided to go home? I flew.

I am resilient.

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    classyandeclectic
    September 29, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    This post gave me a glimpse into the real person behind all the cute clothes; someone who is actually very strong and determined! I love that you refuse to be the victim. Thanks for being brave enough to share your story, not everyone has the confidence to get personal for the world!

    • Reply
      classicandgray
      September 29, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      Thank you so much, Kristen! It really means a lot to me that you took the time to read it! I think on IG we frequently get wrapped up in the pretty pictures and forget that behind those images are real people who work hard on creating content! Thank you for our support and I’m so glad we connected! xo

  • Reply
    Vanessa @ Living in Steil
    September 29, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    You are amazing! Just reading this story brought back memories of my own health issues and certain feelings of helpless that I endured…and my issues with flying that are completely related to suffering from debilitating anxiety. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story and offering others hope and strength to continue their own battles.

    http://www.livinginsteil.com

    • Reply
      classicandgray
      September 29, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      Thank you Vanessa! I’m so happy you are able to relate and I look forward to catching up in person one day! You are such an inspiration!

  • Reply
    Bradley
    September 29, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    I love this! I’m so glad you kept it up. I definitely think you have found your voice as a writer. Keep pushing….I could so see you turning your blog into a book.

    • Reply
      classicandgray
      September 29, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      Thanks BC, you’re always so encouraging! Maybe there will be a book one day, there’s so much more that life has in store, you never know! Miss you and thank you for everything xo

  • Reply
    KaDeana
    September 29, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    I’m proud of you Michelle!! Your amazing

  • Reply
    mollyeclifton
    September 29, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! I love how real you are. Such a strong and beautiful person!

    🙂 Molly
    http://www.stylemissmolly.com

    • Reply
      classicandgray
      September 29, 2015 at 11:53 pm

      Thank you so much for your support, Molly! I’m so glad you enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to getting to know you better! ☺️

  • Reply
    onthedllifestyle
    October 1, 2015 at 12:50 am

    You are a true inspiration doll! Stay strong and positive – wishing you nothing but the best! XXX

    • Reply
      classicandgray
      October 2, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      Thank you so much, Donna! You are so sweet. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! xo

  • Reply
    elleselauner
    October 8, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Thank you for sharing such a deep and encouraging story with us all! We need to hear the truth and obstacles each of us face daily. I am so incredibly proud of you! You are so strong, and can get through anything girl. XO, Ellese

    http://rockpaperglam.com/

    • Reply
      classicandgray
      October 8, 2015 at 11:27 am

      Thank you so much for your encouragement and support, Ellese! You’re so sweet! I debated posting something so personal but am so glad that I did. It’s true, we all face obstacles and no one has the picture-perfect live that social media portrays. Just doing my best to keep it real☺️ So happy we connected! xo

      • Reply
        elleselauner
        October 8, 2015 at 11:31 am

        I am so happy we connected as well! Keep sharing and inspiring girl! It helps the world. Xoxo

  • Reply
    Caitlin
    October 12, 2015 at 10:22 am

    I thought my plane moment yesterday was beautiful… But this… Wow. You are such an inspiration. So brave. Thank you for sharing! Xx

    • Reply
      classicandgray
      October 12, 2015 at 11:03 am

      Thank you so much, Caitlin! Where is your plane moment? I didn’t see t on your blog but I’d love to check it out! Xo

    • Reply
      classicandgray
      October 12, 2015 at 11:05 am

      Duh…you were talking about the story of the man with the wedding flowers at the airport on Insta! Please excuse me☺️

  • Reply
    maketodayahollyday
    October 14, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    Great post ???

  • Reply
    Joyce Davies
    November 7, 2015 at 5:17 am

    I really agree, we don’t remember to support one another and reach out. I think it’s mainly the way technology is being thrown at us we forget. I love your post. Honestly this past week i’ve really been reading blogs and it’s amazing how many ladies have stories. It’s just outfits it’s really their life story in a span.

    God was looking out for you that day. He’s always looking out for you and your testimony is what is going to help and inspire others. It’s a beautiful story that will strengthen many women. When life tries to knock you down, get back up and keep following God. Having him in the driver seat will make things less difficult. but its our choice whether or not we do.

    Hugs & Love
    Joy
    http://www.jseivad.com

    • Reply
      classicandgray
      November 9, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      Thank you so much for your inspirational words and well wishes, Joy! I completely agree with everything you said and in so glad you enjoyed this post! Have. Wonderful week Xo

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