Lessons Learned From An Airline
On December 14, our family drove us to Atlanta to spend the night before flying out from their airport the next day. We had several flights which were very long and tiring and arrived in China the morning of December 17 (their time.) When Faith came to the Lifeline Kids’ Camp back in March 2016, she was examined by a doctor who discovered her heart defect and subsequent lung inefficiencies. He became concerned about her flight home and purchased an oxygen concentrator and extra set of batteries for her. I knew all of this and thought everything was settled for us to bring her home safely. I had inquired with her orphanage, and they said that she still had the concentrator and that they would charge up all of the batteries for us.
On the flight over, I was looking around at how limited space was and decided to mention to our flight attendant that we would be bringing our daughter home with an oxygen concentrator just to make sure there wasn’t anything else we needed to do. She said that it was fine and it would fit right under her seat. When we arrived in China, it kept nagging at me that maybe I should see if they needed to flag her ticket or something so that we didn’t have any issues when we got to the airport. I contacted our travel agent. She said there was a form to fill out to get permission to bring the oxygen onboard. I filled it out and sent it in (this was much more difficult than it sounds because I was working only with wifi on my cell phone, so there was a lot of forwarding to our guide who could print it out, going to the business center at the hotel who could fax, sending it to the MD who filled out his portion, etc.) Long story short, after working on this every day for almost 2 weeks, we still didn’t have permission for her to use her oxygen for the flight.
The airline said that it was a regulation that we had to have 150% of the batteries she would need for the entire flight. That meant we would need 38 batteries. They wouldn’t let us use their oxygen because it is not approved for pediatric use. They would not tell us how to rent batteries from them. We didn’t know any way to purchase any more batteries at that point and were told by other moms who had “been there done that” that we would never get through Chinese Customs with a suitcase full of batteries even with all of the MD documentation we had. We were told that it would be impossible and that we would just need to do our best to get her home and then get her the medical attention that she needed.
I had previously sent her medical records to a pulmonary hypertension specialist in Pennsylvania who is THE guru in our country for managing this condition. He said, “…planes are only pressurized to 8,000 feet so she MUST have additional oxygen.” Several friends started using their knowledge and networks and trying to help us. One sweet neighbor called the airline for me a couple of times. She was told that there didn’t seem to be a possible solution, and then the supervisor never returned her other calls. Finally the morning before we were scheduled to come home, I woke up to 2 messages. One was from a friend at Blue Cross stating that they had scheduled us a medical escort who could fly to China with the oxygen Faith needed and bring us back home. The other was an email from the airline saying that they had approved us to bring the concentrator onboard as carry-on only but that if she was seen using it, she would not be permitted on the flight.
We had all been fervently praying. I didn’t want to go to extremes and use unnecessary resources. Still, I knew she needed the oxygen. Within 5 minutes, I received another email from the airline saying that actually they did not approve us to even bring the concentrator onboard as a carry-on. They were concerned about her ability to survive the flight and wanted to speak directly to a doctor first.
That was my answer. I got in touch with the medical escort team. It was a breath of fresh air. They were so helpful and professional and concerned. They handled every detail. Faith and I had to wait for the nurse to arrive in China, so we would miss the flights we had originally booked. Daniel and Jian went home as scheduled. As they left that morning, a huge piece of my heart went with them. Jian is still very emotionally dependent on me and was very sad about being separated. This would be the first time that I was unable to be with her because Faith’s needs were more urgent.
I don’t know what all spiritual warfare was going on behind the scenes. Nothing about this made any sense at the time. But I kept thinking about Genesis 50:20 “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.”
Faith and I had 2 extra days of bonding one-on-one in her home country. The nurse was fabulous and caring. They booked us Business Class tickets, which was incredible! We got plenty of rest on the plane and were able to use the nice VIP lounges at the airports. None of this was paid out of our pocket or even billed to Blue Cross. It is a service that Blue Cross pays for most of its members on a regular basis regardless if anyone uses it.
We got our answer the day before we were scheduled to leave. During the long flight, none of the power outlets on the plane worked to allow the medical escort’s oxygen concentrator to recharge. But because we also had our own concentrator and extra set of batteries, we arrived in LA with one bar left on one of the batteries! I was originally disappointed that we had a 5 hour layover there, but that ended up allowing us enough time to charge the batteries again for the flight to Atlanta. Faith did indeed require the oxygen. She got up to use the restroom without it for about 5 minutes, and her saturation level dropped to 60% (normal is 100%.)
We made a new friend with our medical escort, who has always been interested in adoption himself, and we were able to talk extensively about this during our time at the airports. I became educated about this process and can now help other families who are bringing home children with similar conditions. And most importantly, God has continued to show me that He is there, He knows Faith’s needs, and He will provide in time. I am told that at some point, in order for her to continue living, her only hope will be to receive a new heart and lungs. This is very scary and usually takes years on a waiting list to receive the organs. I hope I remember these truths in those times.
I tried to refrain from publically saying anything negative about the airline, and when we got home, I received an email from them stating that they will be refunding our money for the two tickets that we were not able to use.
Romans 8:28 “ And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God.”