Coming back from Vegas

So here is a fun story that just happened on Monday. When I booked my flight returning from Las Vegas through American Airlines, I booked it in main cabin and used my miles and $75 fee to upgrade to 1st class. If I fly, I need to do it in first class for three reasons. 1.) Always guaranteed immediate access to my carry-on containing medicine. 2.) Ample room to move my body, arms, and legs to ensure my circulation is okay. 3.) The seats in 1st class have 2 overhead fans per person, allowing more airflow to keep me cool and circulate more air that has less concentrated oxygen when the cabin is pressurized. Every time I fly, I inform the airline and the flight attendants of my condition and they are always accommodating. 

This time, however, a few hours before my flight I get an email from AA telling me that my upgrade has been reverted because the plane is full, but I can either purchase the seat directly for an additional $3000 or they will put me on a standby list for upgrades. I immediately called the airline, only to have them say reservations is busy and they can call me back in 92-116 minutes. I obviously opted to have them call me back. Once they did, the agent said since it's an upgrade system error I would need to be transferred to the frequent flyer program line, AAdvantage. After being transferred, I get the automated system saying they are busy and I can either hold or opt for a call back in 47-51 minutes. I choose for them to call me back. Again. At this point it is around 1AM and I need to be at the airport by 7AM. Once I get the phone call, the woman apologizes and says there was a system error with the upgrade and to not worry as they have refunded my $75 fee and my 5,000 AAdvantage miles. I explained to her that I had booked the seat in February and for medical reasons I need to keep my reservations as they were. She informed me that since it is relating to passenger accommodations, I would need to call the number to request accommodations for this flight at least 48 hours in advance. Despite having done so 6 months in advance, my accommodations were still noted on my ticket and she told me that I should explain the situation to the agent at the gate. Reluctantly I say thank you and wish her a good night . 

Fast forward a few hours and I arrive at the airport, where the check-in counter agent told me that I would need to ask the gate agent for help with this problem, but she said there is still 1 first class seat available for upgrades and that I am #15 on the list. She asked if I would like to purchase the seat directly for my flight and told me the price after taxes and fees would be around $3,000. I left the counter and went to the wheelchair porter who helped me cross the airport and get to the gate. Once I got there, with about 90 minutes until boarding, I spoke to a woman who wore way too much makeup and had the most sincere "I hate you" smile on her face. When she asked if I needed anything, I started explaining my situation to her. She rudely cut me off and said that having a disability isn't an excuse to get an upgrade and that there are people more qualified than me because they have higher tier on their AAdvantage program. At this point it was very clear I was being discriminated against by the gate agent for my disability. She said I can wait in the standby line, but since I'm 15 that's a waste of time because there is only one seat. She asked if I wanted to purchase it, and when she started looking up the price and fees I interrupted her and said that my upgrade was already confirmed and that I got an email saying it was cancelled because the flight was full. When I asked how my upgrade was cancelled because of a full flight but they are still able to sell my seat for another $3000, she said it's because there are better customers who fly more often. She said that my seat in main cabin is still on my ticket and asked if there was anything else she could help me with. 

90 minutes later, I board early and make sure my carry-on with all of my medicine is directly above me and that it will not be moved. I take my seat and take a deep breath, knowing this 4 and a half hour long flight will be horrible. After about 30 minutes, I am sweating profusely and ask the one flight attendant for a glass of water. He hands me one and I ask for ice. He then asks where I am sitting and if it is too hot. When I told him in front of the emergency exit above the right wing, he said he will call up front and ask them to turn the temperature down some. I return to my seat, and sure enough it was actually a little cooler. But that didn't matter because what was happening wasn't temperature related. As I see the same agent pass again, I ask him if they have a first aid kit on board and he asks if something is wrong because I don't look well. I explain to him my situation and he tells the flight attendants in the front of the plane. Suddenly, the plane lights turn on and the front flight attendant is next to me with several items and a first aid kit. He tells me his name and explained that he is also a fire fighter when he is not working, and asked for my symptoms and any relevent medical history or conditions. When I tell him about my heart, he takes a pulse oximeter and blood pressure cuff that only fits on my wrist. He tells me to elevate my left wrist and hold it crossing my chest, while the oximeter on my right finger shows an oxygen of 80%. He tells the flight attendant who gave me water to go get oxygen, and he quickly ran to the front of the plane to get it. 

Next he brings a small oxygen tank, probably the size of two water bottles, equipped with a mask that has the signature yellow plastic that you see on every airline safety video. They put it on and have me breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. I know the purpose of this is to exhale most of the CO2 from my lungs so that O2 will replace it, thanks to having heart failure for so long. The front end flight attendant tells me he will be right back and the one who gave me water stays by my side. Overhead a PA announcement is made saying there is a medical emergency on-board and if there are any doctors or medical personnel to please identify themselves to a crew member. Two people step up, one man is a registered nurse and the other is a woman who is a medical assistant. The nurse comes over and asks for my permission to talk to the flight attendant about my situation and my medical information I told him. I agree, and he thinks it may be a panic attack because of my pulse. When I told him that my pacemaker has a ventilatory adaptive program, he didn't know what to make of it but said that my oxygen levels are normal. He asked if I would be okay taking the mask off, and I agreed. Within a minute the pulse oximeter was beeping with an alarm, but the blood pressure monitor was showing my blood pressure to still be normal. He concluded that it might be a heart issue and they should contact a doctor. The front end flight attendant then came back and said that they have been speaking to a physician on the ground who asked if I would be comfortable landing and coming to the hospital. He asked if I would be comfortable because I told the flight attendants that I have a DNR & DNI and will not go to a hospital. When I refused, he then suggested they keep me on supplemental O2 for the duration of the flight. For the remainder of the flight, every 20 minutes somebody would come by to change the oxygen tank (except the time I went to the bathroom, I took the mask off but the fire fighter/flight attendant waited at my seat with a new oxygen tank, I returned to my seat at 87%). When they realized the flight was longer than the on-board supplementary oxygen, they checked to see what my saturation was at when they reduced the oxygen release valve on one of the remaining tanks, making it last 45 minutes. I was still saturating at 100% with the lower oxygen levels, so the last 2 remaining tanks ran out at a perfect time because we were descending to a point where the cabin pressure was returning to a normal oxygen concentration. The pilot introduced herself over the intercom system and said that we have been given priority landing and that all passengers must remain seated, even after we arrive at the gate, so that medical personnel can treat a passenger. A woman a few rows behind me complained that "they better not treat him on the plane, I don't want to sit here", but thats just the world we live in. After the EMTs got me off the plane and into another wheelchair, the one explained that with a DNR there isn't much they can do other than make sure I'm comfortable. I told him I was feeling better now that I could breathe and that I just wanted to leave so I can go home and forget rest. The airport security, paramedics, and police all exchanged forms for each other to sign before the airline's wheelchair porter brought me and my suitcase towards my dad's car. I was never so excited to be back in Philadelphia before. 

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