I have been holding on to this story for a couple of weeks, and I feel that now we are over the major hurdles of Ella's surgeries today is a good time to share it.
We left for Detroit on Tuesday, April 10th, in order to be there in time for Ella's appointment with the neurosurgeon the next morning. We had to drive from Springdale to Tulsa to catch our flight, but we were feeling very blessed to receive tickets from the Miracle Flights for Kids organization and therefore didn't mind a little extra trip. Right after we got to the ticket counter to check in, what appeared to be the entire Arkansas Razorback softball team lined up behind us. Having played softball in college myself (go Warriors!) and being a fan of all things Razorback, I thought it was cool that they might share a flight with us.
Because we needed "extra assistance," we got to board the plane among the first group and got seats right up front. As the plane continued to fill up, a seat just across the aisle from us remained empty until near the end of boarding when a guy about my age, dressed in a Razorback track suit, chose to sit there. We pointed to the empty bin above him when he began looking for a place to put his bag and made small talk as the crew performed their pre-flight tasks. I assumed he was on the coaching staff, and he confirmed my assumption when I asked him. I told him about my glory days of college softball (ha!), and he humored me by listening. He shared that this was his first year at Arkansas and talked about his own child who was around Ella's age. Ella played with us and waved dutifully as we chatted.
After a while, he asked why we were going to Detroit. See, I never know how much of our story to share with strangers. I come from a long line of oversharers, but I am self-aware enough that I can usually reign it in. People are nice enough, but they really don't want to or need to be burdened by all the details of Ella's medical history of seizures and delays and so on. However, I don't like lying to people even if I don't know them either. So as a compromise, I chose the more innocuous and not untrue alternative explanation that we have family in Ann Arbor. See, that's technically true (Hi, Amy!), and therefore my conscience is clear :).
As we continued to talk, he asked whether there were flights to Detroit directly from Northwest Arkansas. I explained that, yes, there are, but we were flying out of Tulsa because we had gotten assistance from Miracle Flights and were at the mercy of what they had available. The Miracle Flights discussion begat a discussion about Ella's upcoming brain surgery and pretty soon I had shared the whole story anyway.
A little while later, the coach stood up and reached for where he had stowed his bag. Before we realized what he was doing, he handed us a red shirt that said "HOGS softball" and appeared to be the perfect size for Ella. He said, "Please give this to her. We'll be praying for her."
We thanked him profusely, and before long the flight ended and he and his team made their way off the plane to catch their next connection toward Kentucky. Just after the team deplaned came the announcement that Athletic Director Jeff Long had decided to fire head football coach Bobby Petrino for his indiscretions. It did not have the same blow for me that it probably did for many other fans because our family knows first hand that upstanding character is the rule and not the exception in the personnel and student athletes that remain in the program.
We'd like to thank Coach Coy Adkins (we googled him) for his kindness. As soon as Ella is feeling up to it, we plan on attending an upcoming game and thanking him in person. Go Hogs!