A good outcome, and a good lesson, too

All I did was supply a pen and a writing tablet. Other than that, I was useless.

Everyone else did the real work that made a difference.

A woman two rows ahead of me suffered a seizure on an Alaska Airlines flight to Anchorage last Saturday evening. The man next to her quickly brought over the flight attendants, who called out to ask if there were any medical personnel on board while they tried to comfort the woman until help arrived.

Fortunately, there was a doctor, a physician’s assistant and at least two nurses among the 178 passengers on the full plane. It was like an airborne emergency room, only no waiting and no forms to fill out.

As the medical team worked to help the woman, passengers contributed a blood pressure cuff and a blood sugar testing kit. The only thing the medical personnel asked for but no one on board had in their bag was a blood oxygen monitor.

Blankets and pillows came next, along with an oxygen tank, as the team laid the woman on the floor in the aisle.

That’s when one of the medical personnel saw me with a writing pad in my lap and a pen in my hand. I was editing an oil and gas newsletter I publish each week. He needed the paper and pen to record the woman’s vital signs and take notes to give the EMTs when we landed in Anchorage.

After what seemed like a quick 45 minutes in the air — I could see that the pilot took a faster approach to the airport than normal — we landed in Anchorage and responders took the woman off the plane. By then, she was awake and alert and talking with medical personnel.

The flight crew had asked the passengers to stay in their seats after landing, to allow responders to do their job and bring the woman off the plane. Everyone followed the instructions. I didn’t see any cheaters get up and start collecting their bags from the overhead bins.

The flight attendants were poised and calm, working with the doctor and nurses to do what they could to help, while moving passengers around to different seats so that the medical personnel could have clear access to the woman in the aisle.

As it became obvious that the woman would be on the floor during landing, along with the doctor and two of the nurses tending to her, the flight attendants instructed nearby passengers to reach over and collectively hold on to the unbuckled medical personnel who were kneeling on the cabin floor.

It was a cooperative effort that ended well. A smooth landing, and the woman even smiled a bit as she was wheeled off the plane. The passengers applauded the flight crew and medical personnel.

As I walked off the plane, I thought about how everyone pulled together when needed. No one hit the call button to provide YouTube medical advice. No one hassled the medical personnel, who all put on facemasks. No one complained about the delay in deplaning, or the fact that the flight attendants did not come through the cabin with another round of drinks.

It was a scary 45 minutes, but a reassuring 45 minutes. People at their best, not fighting, not lining up in political camps and not getting angry.

As everyone was getting off the plane, the doctor commented to someone that it was just like his work in the ER, but without his tools.

I was glad that I could contribute my minimal tools — paper and pen — to the effort. Everyone contributed something.


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