Okay, so everyone has wanted to know what really happened to me when we landed in Chicago coming back from Munich, Germany. Sorry it took me a long time to post this. I needed a lot of time to work on this because it is super long and I haven’t blogged in a long time. So you might as well get some snacks before you begin reading this. Anyway, it’s a real funny story because everything that happened that Friday night and Saturday morning, I experienced a lot of new things and moments where I question if it was coincidental. Okay, here it goes…..
So I did not feel sick whatsoever while I was in Poland. Every chance I got I would call or email my mom to let her know that I was okay, because me becoming very ill while in Poland was the biggest fear she had while I was gone. That being said, if there is one thing that I would never want, it would be for my mom to be scared, worried, depressed, or hurting (This includes my dad, brother, and the rest of my family. It’s just that my mom does what every mom does best and that’s worry about their children.) I’ll also admit that I am a big “Mama’s Boy”J.
Anyway, so once the day came to leave Poland, I was anxious to see the beautiful faces of my family once I get home. We flew from Krakow, Poland to Munich, Germany. I can’t remember much of the flight because I fell asleep before the plane even left the ground. I believe I speak for everyone as well because we all stayed up very late the night before to pack and get everything prepared to leave.
Getting back to subject…We arrived in Munich and I felt so good, especially after getting caught up on my sleep. After a few hours of waiting, we finally boarded our next flight to Chicago. Knowing that this flight was going to be about 10-12 hours, everyone was dreading it so much. Even so, I still felt physically fine. About 8 hours into our flight, I began feeling a little dizzy, so I went to the restroom to wet my face and walk around for a little bit. Nothing changed. I could feel myself becoming weaker, but I just figured it was from being on the plane for so long. It didn’t make things any better once it was announced that our landing would be delayed due to snowy conditions in Chicago. I just wanted to get off that plane.
We finally arrived. I remember thinking at this point how funny it was that even though Chicago is miles and miles from Hereford, I have never felt so close to home. That’s because I used to think San Antonio was far from home. Anyway, once we arrived, we walked toward baggage claim. At this point, I became so weak that I began slouching, but I still tried to maintain a positive and strong attitude because I didn’t want to make it seem like a big deal. Then, it finally hit me. We were waiting by baggage claim for our luggage, and I became so dizzy and weak that I just had to sit down. Soon, an unbearable pain struck my stomach. I was very cold, but I remember Kendra asking me if I was hot because I began sweating badly. My body was then becoming so numb, that I couldn’t control the cramping of my hands. I would try to extend my fingers, but I couldn’t. They just stayed in a fist. We then knew it was the effects of dehydration, so Kendra gave me bottled water to drink. Even so, the pain was too much that I then had to lie down. I was very embarrassed that I had to be seen this way in front of everyone, but the whole group’s support and care made me feel so much better. It was almost like my mother was there taking care of me. It’s funny how I can remember our first meeting as a group. I did not know any of my Readership WT Ambassadors. It only took a handful of Mondays, 10 days in Poland, and already we have grown to love and care for each other like brothers and sisters. It’s a very beautiful thing. I’m very fortunate to witness and be a part of this miracle of angels.
After a few intervals of sipping water, paramedics showed up. They had me use the oxygen mask and asked me a few questions. Then they asked me, “Do you want us to transport you to the hospital?” So much shot through my head when that question was asked. I remember thinking that if I go to the hospital I won’t leave Chicago until Saturday morning. I will also have to call my mom and let her know that I’m in the hospital, and that would be bad because I know how worried and scared she can get. If I fight through it and don’t go to the hospital, I can get home early and get checked-out and treated in Hereford. I then decided to fight through it and stay with the whole group. Also, the water seemed to make me feel a little better. Just one more flight, a bus ride, and then I’m home-free. I honestly thought at that point I would make it through okay.
After the paramedics left, I still had to go though security. Russell and Kendra helped me to my feet, but I had no energy to even stand up. So one of the girls who worked there at the airport, Ashley, was nice enough to get me in a wheelchair and push me through the crowds of people that filled the airport (Not to mention that this is the Chicago Airport, one of the busiest airports in the whole country. Spring break didn’t make things any better either.). It was a good thing we found Ashley because she knew her way around the enormous airport and got us through the crowds of people.
Once we finally arrived at our gate, I stayed sitting in the wheelchair. My whole body soon shot with pain. I had a huge headache, my body was numb, I was shivering, I couldn’t control my hands, and it felt like my chest was caving in. Russell and Kendra kept giving me water and orange juice for energy, but the pain was too much that the water and orange juice seemed useless now. At this point, I knew I had to go to the hospital.
After a short while, they laid me down on the floor. Everyone was very generous to help me with a pillow and jackets to keep me warm. I kept trying to drink water, but now the pain disabled me from even taking anything in. After a few minutes, the pain in my stomach became an urge to throw everything up. I quickly moved all the pillows and jackets out of the way and threw up everything I had in me. Embarrassed as I was, Kendra was very sweet to humor me and keep me in spirits by saying, “Hey well at least that takes care of your stomach pain.” Something was still very wrong. The pain in my stomach became worse. I threw up again, but this time it was blood. This really scared me. Seeing my own blood caused me to blackout for a short time because everything in my site faded to where I couldn’t see anything, but I was able to hear what was going on around me. I could hear Russell call paramedics and everyone else worry, which saddened me because I didn’t mean to scare anybody.
Once paramedics arrived, I was put in an ambulance and rushed to the hospital. I remember Kendra telling me that it wasn’t a long drive to the hospital, but gosh it seemed forever. We arrived at the hospital, where I was then rushed to the ER. After I was settled in, the most coincidental thing happened. The nurse asked a series of questions of my medical background, but as she asked me where I was from and I replied, “Hereford, Texas,” she looked at me in disbelief. Then she asked for my address. As I replied my address to her, total amazement came across her face. “My grandparents actually live a few houses down from you!” I couldn’t believe it, but get this…her and another doctor told me that they had two patients from Hereford earlier during the week of Spring break. What are the odds of that?! Russell joked around with me by saying, “Now they’re definitely going to take good care of you!”
After all the testing for other possible illnesses, they left me alone to rest. It took a very long time to fall asleep because of the pain that still continued in my stomach. After a while, I finally dozed off.
After a good hour and 30 minutes, I finally woke up feeling back to normal. Russell stayed with me in the ER while Kendra went to get us a hotel for the night and to find a way for us to fly home the next day. Finally recovering and able to know what is going on, Russell and I talked about the whole craziness that just happened in the past couple of hours. Then, it was time…the moment I had to call my mom and tell her that I was in the hospital. Russell called her, told the whole situation, and let her know that I was okay and safely recovering. Then as he gave the phone to me, I could just feel my mom’s worry travel through the phone. I reassured her that I was okay and to not worry because Russell and Kendra were taking great care of me. Even so, I could still hear the fear coming from her voice. I remember thinking, “Gosh, what luck I have! I was fine throughout the entire trip, but I just had to get sick right before our last flight to Dallas.”
After two full bags of fluids, they finally released me and cleared me to fly the next day. Russell and I got a cab and finally left the hospital to the hotel. Once we arrived, I was amazed with the hotel. I couldn’t believe Kendra and Russell went through the trouble of getting a really high-class Hyatt just for the night. I would have been fine staying in a Motel 6 or something really cheap. As we checked-in and got our room keys, we went to our rooms. I was also surprised that Kendra and Russell got me a whole room to myself (I cannot brag enough of how awesome Kendra and Russell are.). As I walked in my room, I was struck with awe. It was almost like I experienced another cultural shock. I just got back from Poland, where I stayed in a dorm with a twin size bed, a table, two wooden chairs, a closet, and a small window to look outside (That’s because I didn’t have much of a view, just the back alley of the medical school.). I was stranded from cell phones, TV, computers, ice, internet, and more. I walked in my room and I had a refrigerator with drinks and snacks, TV, internet, a working desk, soft-carpet floor, an iHome deck, a queen sized bed with about five pillows, and a wall-sized window to view the city. It felt so wrong and awkward to room there for the night. I honestly felt like I was committing a sin. As I put my stuff down to relax, I sat on my bed and turned on the TV. It was weird to be watching the NCAA basketball tournament, the Weather Channel, and the current news. After about ten minutes, I just had to turn it off because it just felt wrong. I quickly got comfortable and fell asleep after this whole chaotic day. It was about 1am.
Saturday morning quickly came as Russell woke me up at 7am. I remember asking Russell if everyone else made it home safe. He said that everyone arrived in Canyon at 6:30am. At that point I thought, “Aww man, I should be home by now.” I finally got up and got showered so we could leave to the airport (Gosh and that shower felt so refreshing, especially after a full day of flying and being ill.). Before we left the Hyatt, Russell treated me with a Gatorade and fruit to keep hydrated and fueled. We loaded a shuttle bus and drove to the airport. The airport was just as busy as it was the night before. I’d say it took us a good hour just to get our tickets and go through security. Oh and within that hour of waiting in line, we found out that you can mix a Labrador with a poodle. We came across a lady with an Australian Labradoodle…yeah, something that really struck our attention. Anyway, after security we picked up some quick breakfast and boarded our plane to Dallas Fort Worth.
Once we arrived, we picked up a cab and drove to Dallas Love Field. At this point, it felt like I was going through another cultural shock because of the weather. It was warm and beautiful! After being in Poland’s cold and cloudy weather, I guess I got used to that already. Russell, Kendra, and I felt so good to finally be on Texas ground and to feel that sunny 75 degree weather. Once we arrived at the Love Field Airport, we had time to eat lunch at a Chili’s. I thought about a lot of things while we were eating there. While we ate, we were watching the NCAA basketball tournament on TV. As I have mentioned before, it was so weird to watch TV again. I almost didn’t want to watch because it felt so wrong, in which Russell and Kendra agreed. As we were finally served, I noticed all the small things. Kendra was not served first, nor was she first asked about her order. I also noticed that our food was quickly made and didn’t have a significant place on the plate. That’s when I began to miss the beautiful culture of Poland. Even so, I was great to eat American food again, especially Chili’s. After our lunch, we finally began our final stretch…next stop, Amarillo, Texas.
Once we arrived, relief filled my entire body. Knowing that my family was waiting for me, a big smile shot through my face as I exited the plane. I walked through the airport and immediately noticed their beautiful faces: My mom, my dad, and my brother. So many emotions were going through me as I finally embraced them. My mom looked so happy to see me feeling better and back home safe. When she finally got to meet Russell and Kendra, she embraced them with so much love because of all they had done for me. I told Russell and Kendra “bye” and “thank you,” as I finally left with my family to good ol’ little Hereford, Texas.
Well…that’s my homecoming story. I still find it kind of funny that all of this happened to me. Now that I think about it, my whole story ended perfectly. I’m glad how all of this happened. You may ask, “What are you talking about?” Well, I experienced a lot of emotions and thoughts before, during, and after the trip.
The day before we left for Poland (3/11) was a very special day for me. After I finally finished all my midterms, assignments, and quizzes, I finally felt stress free. Now I can finally enjoy this time I have and just soak in everything about this trip. After our “Send-off Reception,” I drove to Best Buy to buy some soothing music (my thinking music) by Explosions in the Sky. After that, I drove all the way out in the country to my old house 14 miles north of Hereford. This is a very special place to me because this house was where I spent my entire childhood. No sounds of cars passing by, no houses close by, no distractions, and no paved roads. Just the open wheat fields, the sweet touch of the wind, the music from the birds, my footsteps in the dirt roads, the clouds in the sky, and my childhood memories that were made there. I decided to come here to let my inner-child come out of me, but also to find my special stone.
One thing we were told was to bring a stone that really means something to us because we were to leave our stone at the memorial in Birkenau and at the “Wall of Death” in Auschwitz I.
So as I walked around the fields and my old house, I found my two rocks. As the sun began to set, I knew it was time for me to return to Canyon to finish my packing. But…I decided to stay and watch the sunset for a while because I felt like it symbolized something. I saw that beautiful Texas Panhandle sunset as a symbol of closure. I saw it as a closing of my old-self. In the past, I have studied many tragic events and looked up discrimination that continues to exist among the world. I was well informed, but I was never truly aware. I knew when I looked into that sunset; I was to come back as a changed and aware person. This sent me chills because I knew this trip was going to be a trip I would never forget.
When we arrived in Munich, the first thing everyone saw was a beautiful sunrise. We even have great photos of it. As soon as I looked into that sunrise, I knew it was put in front of us as a symbol of rebirth. We were to be in Poland, a country totally different than the U.S. More so, we were to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, the death camps where about one and a half million men, women, and children were killed. We all knew this happened, but to actually be there was a reality. I think this entire trip was a true reflection of where my head is at. This changed our way of treating others, talking, thinking, and acting. More so, it changed our lives forever.
Ironically, on the drive back to Hereford from the Amarillo airport, the sun began to set over the plains. “An end to the Holocaust experience, but a new beginning for the ‘Agents of Change’” I thought, as I stared into that sunset, and smiled.