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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Allergies Suck... But It Could Be Worse - Lessons from an Unknown Soldier and George Samerjan

Have you ever had something happen to you which was life changing?  I mean... TRULY... personality, mentally, life altering?  I have been blessed to have such a thing happen.

For almost 12 years I have been managing food allergies with my kids.  Trying to keep them safe in their daily lives, school and in outside social settings.  And, I have complained, whined and felt sadness for my kids.  And then I met an Unknown Soldier and George.

Allergies Suck.. But It Could Be Worse.. Lessens from An Unknown Soldier

I am a flight attendant in my day job.  Am ready to complete 24 years of flying.  Last fall two men changed my life.  One a Vet from Vietnam... one from a much more recent war.  

I was boarding my flight to work from Atlanta to Albany.  Sitting in the boarding area and watching passengers deplane.  There he was.  The young man with the vacant eyes.  Pasty white and shaking. 

Just looking at him you knew he was just a shell of who he used to be.  Maybe 21 years old.  And then.. he started to collapse and two other men caught him.  I thought they were all together.   They sat him down in a lone standing wheelchair and walked off.  He was alone.. again. 

I quickly grabbed my belongings and went to him. Knelt down beside him and quietly started a conversation.  It went something like this.

"Sir.. my name is Daniella and I am flight attendant.  Are you traveling alone?"

"Yes ma'am. Going to see a friend". 

"Where are you going?"  All the while trying to wrap my head around the thought he was young enough to be my son.  

"Florida, ma'am", he replied with an empty gaze in his eyes. 

"I see you have an Army shirt on.  Did you do some time for us overseas, Sir?"  He was skinny as a rail, and looked as though he could just pass out. It was the first time I think I was coming face to face with a true case of PTSD.. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"Yes, ma'am.  That stuff over there really does a number on your brain, ma'am".  

"Are you going to see a friend who is going to help you out?  I want to be sure you get on that flight.  I don't want you collapsing in the airport.. let me get you a wheelchair, Sir."

We spoke a bit more but I can't recall exactly what our words were.  I proceeded to get this young man a wheelchair and made sure the agent took care of him. I did NOT want him to miss his flight to Florida.  Maybe this trip would save his life.

It didn't stop there.  Boarding the flight I could barely keep my composure because I kept thinking that could be my son in 10 years.  I can't tell you how many passengers thanked me for helping that young man and wanted to know if he was okay.  Most memorable, was the man in 3B. George Samerjan.

He took the time to thank me and tell me how much my actions meant to that young man.   How he may NEVER know my name, but that he would always remember me.  The person who took time to care just because...  I politely said 'thank you' and walked away.. I was having a hard time maintaining my composure.    

After the service, George came up and we had an incredible conversation in the galley.  He was so moved by my actions he wanted me to have a signed copy of each of the books he had written.  Just so happens he was a Vietnam Vet who had written several novels and a book of poetry.  I only had a short layover night, but cried myself to sleep reading Long Way Home.  All I could think of was that empty young man in the airport trying to make it to his next flight.

I may NEVER see that young man again, but I have gained a friend forever with George Samerjan.  We write back and forth to this day.  He changed my life.  And, my gratitude for what I have in my life.

I worry about my children EVERY day.  I pray for their safety and health EVERY day.  But it could be worse.  They have their body parts.  They have their innocence.  And, they have happiness, which some have lost.

Life threatening food allergies SUCK.  But, it could be sooo much worse.


  1. (Hugs) Thank you for this! I have know you over the years before we had the pleasure of finally meeting and I wish I could share with everyone how true your spirit is! You are exactly the person that you say you are- someone who just wants to help. Sometimes we all need a reminder that even on our bad days, things could be worse. Thank you, also, to George Samerjan for doing what you have done to keep all of us safe without even meeting us <3

    1. Thank you for your kind words.. to me and George. I do believe we all need to be reminded sometimes.. it's easy to get absorbed in our own daily stresses, especially when they're life-threatening. You never realize how impactful it may be to just stop and talk with someone else about their challenges:-)

  2. Daniella: I Googled my name today because they've changed the algorithm for smart phones and I wanted to make sure that my web site was still easy to find. When I did, your web site came up as the 8th or 9th listing. I went to it and read your kind words. Thanks. I feel the same way about what happened, and the same way about you.

    In a similar way to what you and I experienced with the young soldier last summer. Almost every year one of my poems is selected for an annual literary review which comes out. Over the years I've gotten to know the editor pretty well. What I didn't know was that she had a life threatening medical condition over the winter, and she turned to LONG WAY HOME for solace. This is what she sent me in an e-mail about the novel. "I will write you again when I have finished your powerful novel--am now handling it in small, manageable chunks because of the emotional impact it has on me. You know how much your writing has helped heal me. Your words are just that--life-strengthening. I was moved to tears, as I am now. Have re-read parts of your book--in the woods w/the fire and the spiritual guide section--several times as I'm propped up w/pillows in bed.: Quite a response to the book. I thought you'd find it interesting. What's also interesting is that the other novel I gave you, the young adult book, FROM THE SHADOWS, is being read by a group of 7th graders in the local middle school. My neighbor is a teacher, and she's using the novel with her students.

    1. George; so hoping to run into you again on one of my flights! Thanks for ALL you have taught me and the better person I have become because of our one shared experience.

    2. Thanks for the kind words. This has been an unusual travel year. I'm usually traveling between Albany and LA at least six months of the year; which is how we met. I've been home since last November, and that gave me time to rewrite UPRIVER - An ancient prophecy brings together American adventurers, Jihadis, lost suitcase nuclear weapons, and looted antiquities in a remote jungle; increase TWELVE LETTERS - Twelve wartime letters from a soldier to his younger brother dramatically change his life - from 30,000 words to 60,000 words, and get both those novels off to my agent. And then write a novel I've been meaning to write for twenty years. It's about a a self-proclaimed oracle embarking on a quest through time and space. Nothing about our culture, society, or politics is safe from scrutiny. I'm almost through the first draft. And, then in February of this year I "adopted" a 2/3 year old female Rottweiller mix from Humane Society. She was abandoned and running loose. At this moment she's asleep on the couch in my office as i write. All the best to your and your family, Daniella.


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