Nosebleed Leads to Emergency Landing

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JACKSONVILLE, FLA. — The palm trees outside the emergency room were well-lit by the parking lot lights at 1:30 a.m., while an orange harvest half-moon hung over the downtown skyline. I was waiting for a cab in the sultry Florida night.

The airliner on which I had been a passenger had long left the tarmac, after it touched down to discharge me more than three hours earlier. Some of its passengers likely missed their connections thanks to me. Everyone went without refreshments. I feel badly about that, but it could not be helped. A massive nosebleed erupted about an hour into the flight. I stayed near the restroom with a concerned flight attendant for at least another hour, trying to stanch the flow, quickened no doubt by blood thinners to protect my heart — and the fact that we were at 32,000 feet.

Long story short, to avoid being overly graphic, this was not going to end well. After a number of calls between the pilot, medical crews on the ground and asking me lots of questions, the decision was made to touch down in Jacksonville, Florida, about three hours short of where I was headed on a trip to check on my daughter Kasey, who was in the hospital.

I was the cause of an emergency medical landing. I can now scratch that off my bucket list. The pilot announced that we were landing in Jacksonville because “a gentleman has a nosebleed.” I wanted to sink into the seat cushion on the last row where I had been planted. I was being kicked off the island. At least nobody hissed as I left the aircraft, flanked by two medics. I am sure at least some were thinking, “I am going to miss my flight because some old goober has a nosebleed?”

Two medics came aboard to escort me off. I assured them I could walk on my own and strolled the gauntlet of passengers, avoiding eye contact. In the sky bridge, what seemed like a dozen first responders and airline personnel awaited. A jovial EMT took my blood pressure, which was stroke-territory high. I was headed to the emergency room, loaded in an ambulance on the tarmac. Vehicles pulled over as we made the five-minute trip, me continuing to hold a massive wad of napkins to my nose. It was as if I were in a movie in which I did not want to participate.

I was in the ER for two hours before the bleeding stopped, after the doctor cauterized my nostril three times. That hurts. Avoid this procedure if possible, unless you enjoy having sparklers go off in your nose. I did not care. I just wanted the nosebleed to go away.

The charge nurse was from Wisconsin but owns land in Apple Springs, where she used to raise bees. That’s in Trinity County, in what is known as Deep Dark East Texas to us old-timers. The bees stayed north in the summer and then came to Apple Springs in the winter. I told her I had been to Apple Springs many times, buying wine across the river before Angelina County went wet. She and I bonded. She kept shooting medicine into my IV to lower my blood pressure.

As I waited — you do a lot of waiting in an ER even after being repaired — by phone — the hospital had free WIFI — I canceled my hotel room in Orlando, where I planned to spend the night before driving an hour to Melbourne, where Kasey lives. I booked a room in Jacksonville, canceled the rental car in Orlando and booked one in Jacksonville for the next four days. I would be driving back to Texas. No way I was getting on another plane and ruin the travel plans of another hundred passengers. I am glad I bought a one-way plane ticket.

I arrived in early afternoon, a bit frazzled after less than three hours of sleep. Kasey was discharged two hours later. She is fine now, thank goodness. Two days later, I hit the road in a cute little Kia Soul, with 1,350 miles ahead of me. My nose looked like I had come up on the short end of a boxing match with Sugar Ray Leonard. It is better now, thanks to prodigious application of Vitamin E. I made it to Houston on the second day, visited with another daughter, Meredith, for a few hours, and then drove back to Longview.

The flight attendant who watched over me texted the next day, as I drove to Melbourne, checking to see how I was doing. That was incredibly kind, and I later sang her praises on the airline’s Facebook page.

I have an appointment with a nose doctor in a few weeks. Until this gets fixed, I am earthbound when it comes to travel.

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1 Comment

  • Carol Fox


    What a saga, Gary! The really concerning thing is the high blood pressure. I didn't know about the blood thinners. Why are you on them? A friend of mine from undergraduate days has been on blood thinners for a long time but just got the okay to get off them. It's possible that the much healthier diet she got on has made the difference.

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