The woman ahead of us in line for luggage inspection at Ben Gurion Airport was taking a long time. A man from a second line that fed into ours, who had arrived long after us, made his way to the front and tried to get his items through. I told him that we were next. He replied that he had paid triple for business class and was entitled to go first. I responded that El Al should be the one to decide, but let it go. The woman behind me, who had an earlier flight, confronted him in an Italian accent. Finally a supervisor noticed his aggressive behavior and came over. The only words I caught from their conversation were, “I am the ganenet and I say . . .” So much for business class privileges.
Afterward I went to check in. I saw an express check-in line with two bored ticket agents, and asked whether we could check in there. “No, this is only for passengers who printed out their boarding passes.” Well, I had the boarding passes–I was so proud of myself. They complimented me on taking only one suitcase, weighing 21 kilograms, for four people.
The plane left only half an hour late, early by El Al standards. What a difference a year makes, when it comes to travelling with small children. My 4-year-old sat quietly when she wasn’t sleeping. Last year I walked around with her much of the time.
About an hour in, there was an ominous announcement from the public address system: “If there is a doctor on the plane, please identify yourself to a crew member.” Later I saw a doctor in the aisle treating the patient. Instead of being anxious to get to New York, I found myself hoping that they would stop and take her to the hospital. A stewardess told me that they had sent her vital statistics to Israel, and had been advised to keep flying. But then we got the announcement about an unscheduled stop in Shannon, Ireland, to take the passenger to the hospital. They said she had had a heart attack.
A doctor and paramedics boarded the plane in Shannon. After interviewing the Israeli doctor and examining the patient, the doctors stood in the aisle next to me while the paramedics removed her from the plane. “This is going to be the hardest part,” the Irish doctor informed us. “These aisles are narrow. We used to remove passengers when the Concord stopped through here, where the aisles are even narrower.” He told the Israeli doctor that El Al ought to give him a first-class seat for the rest of the flight. We all chuckled. I asked the Israeli doctor his specialty; he is a heart surgeon.
Shannon is a small town, but the quiet airport with wide runways, near the Atlantic coast, is a frequent stopping point for flights with ill passengers. Patients are then brought to the hospital in nearby Limerick. Crowded Heathrow had refused to let our flight land. A crew member disembarked with the patient, who seemed alert and in good spirits. The doctor confirmed that she should be fine.
Then we waited. The doctor had said that her luggage would have to be removed from the hold for security reasons. I don’t know if it was, but by the time we took off our arrival had been delayed by over three hours. My sister had planned to meet us, but I wasn’t sure that extended to a 3am arrival time. When we landed I called her cell phone to no reply. I figured that if she didn’t come we would hang around until a normal hour. But she was there waiting for us. My experience raising a large without my extended family makes me truly appreciate my siblings. Who else would pick me up from the airport in the middle of the night?