Friday, January 25, 2013

Flight Foibles (warning, graphic description!)

Two blog posts in a week?  You people are lucky.  It's only because I had the craziest thing happen to me last night, so I had to share it with someone, so you're the some one(s).

I was flying back from a business trip from Jacksonville, FL through Atlanta, GA and my trip was relatively uneventful for the first hour other than the fact that I was on a McDonnell Douglas MD-80 which is quite possibly the noisiest plane ever produced.

See the engine?  I was sitting directly next to it. I may as well have been sitting on it. I couldn't hear myself think.  Good thing I had my trusty iPad and some headphones to watch the most recent episode of the Biggest Loser.  I've been relegated to watching it on my iPad since John dislikes the show so much.  Anyway, I digress...  

About an hour into my flight, a flight attendant came over the loudspeaker and asked if there were any trained medical personnel on board because they were having a 'severe medical emergency on the plane' and if people were willing to help could they please push their call button, which of course I did.  I love to help in emergency situations, I was an EMT for 6 years and am still a first responder and serve on my company's emergency response team.  So the flight attendant came to my row, and tossed the AED (automated external defibrillator) at me and told me to run to first class.

Trusted most often by those trained to save lives
Which I did. By the time I got there, a nurse was already with the passenger who was having difficulty, a 58 year old man who appeared to be in cardiac arrest. He had no pulse and wasn't breathing. The nurse was panicking because she wanted us to being CPR and she didn't know how we were going to get him to the floor.  I moved her out of the way, grabbed another male passenger and he helped me lower the man to the floor, and he sort of dropped his end of the patient and the patient gasped loudly and vomited everywhere. Another nurse and a pediatrician came to help. I ripped off the man's shirt, applied the pads of the AED to his chest, plugged them in and pushed the analyze button.  The AED told us shock wasn't advised, and the patient regained consciousness momentarily.  We used one of those masks the safety demonstrators use on the flight:

..and then found the plane's oxygen tank and started the flow... by the way, the bag DOES inflate :-).  I had one of the nurse's start an IV and I prepared the Saline bag and had the other nurse get a set of vital signs. The doctor listened to his breath sounds and helped administer medication.  The lead flight attendant ran up to me and told me the pilot wanted to know if I thought we should divert!  No pressure right?  I told him I thought we should get another set of vitals to see if he was improving or worsening after we gave him dextrose and Aspirin.  I got to speak with him on that bat phone thing the flight attendants use to talk to the cockpit.  I got to make the call that we could make it to Denver without stopping in Omaha.  Meanwhile the man was in and out of consciousness and continuously vomiting and there were 300 people watching what we were doing... all while we were trying to keep his wife calm, and encourage her that he was going to be ok.  It was crazy.  We monitored our patient, and air traffic control diverted all the flights surrounding Denver into a holding pattern and let us land first. Did I mention I had to sit on the floor holding the patient's legs steady while we were landing...I guess that's one way to get a first class upgrade! We also got the express taxi service to the gate, and Denver paramedics were waiting on the jetway.  They hustled onto the plane as those 300 people watched, asked us a couple of cursory questions about his condition and didn't waste any time buddy carrying him off the plane.  As the nurses, doctor and I walked back to our seats to get our stuff to deplane, and people clapped for us. So awkward.  I know the Lord was with that man last night, to have so many trained capable people on one plane to provide ACLS for him... what a blessing.  I'm just thankful I got to be a part of it.  And the adrenaline was fun too. :-) 


  1. Great story and good work. My only questions is if the AED was built by Medtronic :-)

    1. Ha! No it was a Phillips AED... I felt it was ok to cheat on Medtronic just this once...

  2. Great going. As a heart patient, I'm glad for his sake that you were there and helping out.
    By the way, I'm Michelle Elings's Dad i.e. Mike's f-i-l.

  3. What a story. That must have been the fastest cross country flight you've ever been on.

    Very cool that you got to make the call about landing the plane or not. Any idea why you were the one to make it instead of the nurse or doctor?