Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Passenger of the Day: All in the Family

I've been very lucky in the arena of medical incidents in my career. The first one I had was within my first few months of flying. It's one of those things you never forget, like your first kiss, your first speeding ticket or the first time you realized you hate fruit cake.

I was working on a 727 and we were taxiing for takeoff from Chicago. There was a commotion a few rows from the back of the plane; a man was having a seizure and the passengers around him began to go crazy. I heard someone yell for a spoon to put in his mouth, something you never want to do. If anything, too many people already have silver spoons, but never place anything in the mouth of someone in the throes of a fit.

He recovered quickly and was taken care of by medical professionals, who were able to enter the plane via the air stairs in the tail of the aircraft. What a wonderful feature to have, as it saved us from taxiing all the way back to the gate.

On another flight bound for Ontario, CA, we had to divert to Las Vegas for a woman who had the worst panic attack I've ever seen. We were only 90 minutes late to Ontario, and could have arrived sooner, except that we came in so fast, we had to wait for the brakes to cool down.

My favorite experience (if you can call it that) was on a flight where I was the purser and a man had fallen ill on our way to Washington, DC. I called for medical assistance and a doctor came forward, as well as a nurse. They tended to the patient and the flight attendants working in the back took over as I returned to first class and continued to communicate with the captain. The captain asked me if it was serious enough to divert. The doctor, upon my asking this question, suddenly went from saying this was serious and the guy needed medical help right away, to saying, no, I think he will be fine to get to DC. Obviously, this doc had an important engagement he didn't want to miss. It was too late for a good tee time, so who knows...

Mostly, I encounter people who simply need a bit of oxygen. We ask for medical help, and I don't think I've ever been on a flight where there was no one available. The key is to ask for anyone with medical training. If you ask for a 'doctor on board', you may miss someone who could be a vital help, as even a veterinarian has the basic skills to assist where no one else does.

The worst we get is the occasional vomit on the floor, which we must clean up. I had one so bad, I worked for half an hour with a beautiful plastic apron and mask on my face, sprinkling lemon scented powder all over the mess, scooping it up with a flimsy scooper and finally placing down a large blanket to cover the mess.

Keeping my skills current, I was recently on a flight home from Lima, Peru. I was working the aft galley and a woman looking a bit pale entered. She didn't speak English, but we had 2 language qualified flight attendants in the galley. She was not feeling well and clutched the walls. She went down and someone shouted for oxygen, which I obtained. I knelt down, turned it on and began to place the mask on her. She shooed it away and rolled to her side. Someone said she was going to be ill and asked for a bag. I moved back, praying it wasn't going to be of the projectile variety.

She recovered and I got the oxygen on her and a call went out for medical assistance. Shortly, we had an RN and a doctor, who seemed very comfortable taking her pulse, comforting her, moving her purse out of the way. I had taken gloves from the AED to hand to him and thought it very odd that he refused them. No one refuses gloves when dealing with bodily fluids! Turns out, the doctor was the woman's husband. He spoke to the language flight attendants and mentioned that she was also a doctor.

Soon, another woman, young, attractive, straight black hair, was hovering nearby, offering her medical assistance as well. I told her that with the doctor and the RN, I felt we had it covered. But this was not just another soul offering medical assistance, it was the couple's daughter. It was then that I noticed the doctors very nice gold watch and the patient's leather Gucci purse. I wanted to ask if the daughter was single! Was everyone in their family in the medical field?

In the end, our patient recovered quickly, which was a good thing, as the bag that was delivered for her to be sick in was clear and I could see that, like me, she had the chicken for dinner. The sooner we got that out of the way, the better we'd all be! She soon was on her feet headed back to her seat. Another happy passenger taken care of by a team of well-trained flight attendants who were happy to assist and to do what we do best...take care of passengers.

No comments:

Post a Comment