The non-stop flight to Seattle

A Sacred Story by Denise Mcnitt


And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. (Jesus) said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.

- Luke 5: 17b-19, 24b-25

My husband and I were so excited to fly to Seattle. My seat was in the third row, next to a delightful elderly lady who was extremely hard of hearing. About two hours into the flight, a flight attendant asked that anyone with a medical background to report to the front galley. I nervously looked around, hoping that someone with more up-to-date skills than mine would respond. I was relieved to see a couple get up immediately and go to the galley.

I knew by the frenzy of activity that whatever was happening was truly a medical emergency. The emergency bag was opened, an oxygen tank was removed from an overhead bin, and the flight attendant looked very worried.

I left my seat to ask the other flight attendant what I could do to help. She told me a passenger with a peanut allergy had gone into immediate respiratory shutdown when another passenger opened a bag of peanuts. The two medical volunteers were a doctor and a nurse anesthetist. After we landed, I would find out that we all work for CHI. I could see them doing compressions, using a respirator bag and trying to keep the patient’s airway open.

Something happens to health care professionals in a medical emergency; you can’t not help. It’s not work, it’s a calling. Watching that nurse and doctor, I better understood that I don’t work for an industry or a company, but a ministry. Everyone on that plane was willing their fellow passenger to heal, but that would happen only through the dedication of those two medical professionals.

The plane began to descend rapidly. The pilot announced that we would make an emergency landing in Billings, Montana. As the patient was loaded onto a waiting ambulance, she raised a hand and gave a “thumbs up” to the couple that had kept her alive for more than 45 minutes. The flight attendants were overcome with emotion, the couple hugged, and the entire plane broke out in applause. Everyone shared a collective, sacred moment of gratitude.

Well, almost everyone. As I sat back down, my hard-of hearing elderly seatmate said to me, “Are we in Seattle? It was so fast. I love this non-stop flight.”

Questions for Reflection

  • What is most significant to you in the story of the Seattle flight or the suggested sacred text?
  • Can you think of and share a time when you participated in a healing moment?
  • How often do you think of the awesome responsibility we have for one another? 
  • Do you experience your work as a vocation or a ministry?
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