Joe Don Rooney Suffers Panic Attack on Plane to Nashville
- Rooney's battle with alcohol became public in September 2021, when he ran his car into a tree. He was arrested and later pled guilty after receiving a DUI.
- He says he spent four months in rehab and has now been sober for 28 months.
- The 48-year-old broke his silence earlier this month with a lengthy update on social media.
"Let me tell you about my PTSD experience Sunday evening flying from Denver to Nash," Rooney begins on X.
The ordeal started after 11PM, when his plane landed in Nashville, and didn’t end until after 4AM when he picked up his bags. The extended wait on the tarmac triggered his anxiety disorder and claustrophobia, he says.
“So I stared freaking out a bit and I had to take the one pill I had left of the medication I take nowadays for my anxiety,” he writes.
That wasn’t enough.
“At 1 hour I was in the lavatory trying to breathe slowly and deeply as the first beads of sweat started to drop from my forehead,” Rooney recalls.
Flight attendants were sensitive to his situation and accommodating, as long as he agreed to step out when people had to use the bathroom. They also offered him a drink, but he explained his was in recovery.
Still feeling trapped, Rooney tried meditation music, counting exercises and calling a sober friend. This mitigated the danger, but he was still “sweating beads the size of .50 BMG bullets" as the wait on the tarmac neared three hours.
“I say another prayer to God asking for the strength to hang on just a little longer,” Rooney says after comparing it all to the 48 hours he spent in solitary confinement in 2022 — (“And that’s another story for another time”).
Relief came when the jet bridge was attached to his plane and he could de-board, but at 2AM, his journey was far from over: It took another two hours for his bag to come down the carousel.
“I was finally able to laugh — and I mean ‘laugh out loud' laugh — about the whole ordeal. People were looking at me like I was the Joker from Batman.”
Rooney reveals he was on a United flight, but didn’t blame the airline or the staff on his plane. He shared the story hoping to relate to others, but also as a way to start a conversation about how all airlines can do better.
Unfortunately, his troubles still weren't totally over — snow in Nashville created a terrible drive home, and Rooney recalls driving at 30MPH through it.