Westjet Care-antee – Ceili's Guarantee

 In July, 2008, my family took our first cruise to Alaska. My kids were 2 and 8 at the time.  It was a terrific reunion for an extended family group that came together across Canada. We all thoroughly enjoyed the cruise vacation, the Alaska glaciers, and the sightseeting together. 

However, our return trip home to Ottawa was more eventful than I  care to ever repeat.

We left Anchorage, Alaska and flew to Vancouver, British Columbia on another airline. No issues, save some unpleasantness from an airline stewardess. We left family members in Vancouver, as they were continuing on to Newfoundland, while we caught a Westjet flight to Calgary that would bring us home to Ottawa. We were still feeling miffed about the stewardess on the other airline, when shortly after take off on the Westjet flight, it became apparent that this was not going to be a routine flight segment.

Thank goodness for Westjet. They made a bad day go as smoothly as it possibly could. And my little 2-year-old Ceili certainly tested their Care-antee program to its fullest.

Here’s what happened.

Mid-flight from Vancouver to Calgary, Ceili started thrashing about, and wailing at a high pitch. This was very uncharacteristic of her. Although only two, she had flown many times, and had never been bothered. But this wasn’t just a bother. She was screaming in pain, and it was nearly impossible to keep her from kicking the seat (and everything else) in front of her. No amount of chocolate, gum, hot compresses, or any other distraction would soothe or console her. It was a brutal flight (one that my fellow passengers did not enjoy, I can ensure you), but the stewardess on the Westjet flight did her best to offer solutions and comfort.

Hearing this agony from the cockpit, the pilot became alarmed that Ceili had ruptured her eardrums. He radioed air traffic control, and as soon as we had landed, he asked everyone to remain seated while us 4 de-planed.  You can imagine the panic of our young family, with me trying to comfort my 8 year old that her sister wasn’t dying, all while trying to calm an almost hysterical 2 year old, and trying to sort through the maze of what was actually happening to the babe.

Ok, perforated ear drum – not so big a deal, I’d figured. What’s the worst that can happen? She’d lose hearing in one ear? Not ideal, but could manage that. At least she was off the plane, and the pressure wasn’t torturing her anymore (despite her continued keening). We could fix and/or handle whatever would follow.

Upon exiting from the aircraft, we watched the baton of care being passed from Westjet’s stewardess and pilot to Westjet’s gate attendents.

Paramedics arrived on bicycle shortly after we had de-planed. (If you ever want to see something surreal, EMS guys riding thru an airport terminal on bikes is definitely it.) After assessing the still-screaming Ceili, the paramedics also surmised that her eardrums had ruptured, and they arranged an ambulance to take us to the new Calgary children’s hospital. The Westjet gate attendents got to work quickly.

The Westjet folks jumped into practicality-mode. They knew we weren’t going to make the red-eye flight on to Ottawa that night, so they put us on a Westjet flight out of Calgary the next morning, arranged a hotel for us for the night (the last night of Stampede – so rooms were pretty scarce in Calgary), and also gave us vouchers for breakfast the next morning. So caring and attentive to detail were the attendents, they even gave us a taxi chit to get from the children’s hospital back to the hotel later that night. I couldn’t believe the service, but I’d been so distracted with soothing my wee one, I didn’t think to take names for later kudos.

The ambulance ride to the Calgary’s children hospital added another layer of adventure to the trip. The EMS workers hooked young Ceili up to various machines, and a heart monitor – all normal stuff to get details for the hospital. The relief of the ear pressure finally gone, Ceili stopped screaming, and, being laid out on a stretcher (despite sirens blaring and equipment beeping around her), she fell into a deep sleep. Her rest didn’t last. Moments later, the EMS guys noticed that Ceili was experiencing very erratic heart rhythms, and asked me to wake her. My best rousing efforts failed. I struggled to remain calm, but the fear in the young EMS guys’ eyes didn’t alleviate my rising panic. Ceili’s ruptured ear drum faded in concern, and we’re now elevated in priority at the hospital entrance.

You can believe that the “adventure” was not one I’d ever want to repeat. A scary hospital ride turning into expedited triage at the children’s hospital was not the way I’d hoped to end our vacation. Thank  goodness we got an excellent paediatric emergency doctor. After some tests and diagnostics, he quickly sussed out that while Ceili’s heart rhythms would certainly have been alarming in an adult, they were not abnormal in a very young child who’d been under severe stress.  Whew. Bullet dodged. He also told us ruptured ear drums in children often healed quite well. Whew. Another one dodged. And, after a battery of further tests, the doc assured us that Ceili’s ear drums had not, in fact, ruptured at all. Little Miss Ceili had a very severe ear infection – in both ears.

We were, obviously, relieved with this result, while at the same time shocked. How could we have been totally oblivious to such an infection? Nothing in Ceili’s behaviour on the cruise had indicated she’d been feeling poorly – there had been no upset, no fever, nor ear pulling. She had been in high spirits the whole time, and full of merriment. Nor had she shown any discomfort on the earlier flight from Vancouver to Calgary.  But, a double ear infection she did indeed have, and it seemed that the double ear infection had managed to keep itself quite hidden until we hit the mountains above Calgary.  The paediatric ER doc told us that her infection was so severe, it would’ve crippled an adult in flight. The doc wasn’t the least bit surprised that she had been thrashing about and inconsolable on the flight.

Antibiotics and pain meds helped Ceili sleep through the night at the Calgary hotel, and we all caught the Westjet flight home to Ottawa the next morning (plied with sufficient meds for the flight as well).  While thrilled with results, we were also overjoyed we didn’t have to do a more thorough test of the efficacy of the Calgary children’s hospital (especially the cardiac unit). Just sitting on the plane for the ride home, we marvelled at Westjet’s response, and their courteous, generous, and kind treatment of us through the whole situation.

We arrived home in Ottawa that evening, safe and sound. Next morning, our phone rang. Guess who’d called us? Westjet’s guest relations department! They were calling to check how Ceili was doing, and how she had fared on the flight home.

Think I recommend Westjet to my friends, family, and clients? You betcha!

The Westjet Care-antee – you can trust Ceili’s Guarantee. It’s care that goes above and beyond!