yet, on our cross Atlantic leg of our plane trip to Milan Italy yesterday, an incident occurred on the plane that we all pray will not happen when we are flying.
one, of the passengers — an Asian woman in her early 60’s — when waiting for the bathroom near the back of the plane, fell to the floor and passed out. she lay there absolutely motionless. no twitches of the fingers or hands. no chest heaving. no apparent breathing. it was scary.
by chance, at the same time I was in the aft galley of the airplane stretching my legs and getting some ginger ale. I was a witness to this.
to his credit the male United Airlines attendant near by immediately went to her and felt for a pulse. within 30 seconds her hands started to twitch, which was a very good sign. and then she started to breath. you could see her chest move slightly.
the UA staff person next got on the airplane’s intercom and asked if there was a doctor on board. understand that the plane is totally dark at this point of the trip. no lights are on. most passengers are sleeping. we are about half way over the Atlantic Ocean. not near any land mass.
meanwhile the male steward got the oxygen tank out and affixed the suction cup over her mouth and started to pump oxygen into her. at this point she is no longer laying down flat on the floor, but has her back propped up against the wall of the plane with her legs stretched out in front of her.
suddenly it occurs to me that Dr. Tom may be able to help. I walk up the aisles to Dr. Tom’s row and sure enough he is sleeping. nestled in the window seat, I could not reach him. Tapping the man in the middle seat I ask him to tap Dr. Tom. he does so, and Dr. Tom looks up and wonders what is up. I simply say that we could use your help. he gets up and follows me to the aft of the plane.
and he immediately joins in. we have a doctor. thank goodness.
over the next 30 minutes or so, he and the male steward work on the woman. trying to figure out what has happened. a fainting spell, a heart attack, or something else. she is obviously very weak and shaky but she is at least somewhat responsive at this point.
they decide to move her up to first class so that she can lay down. getting her up there was not easy but they were able to do so. when we arrived in Milan, the airline had medical personnel at the gate ready to come on board to assist the woman.
thank you, Dr. Tom!!!
after the incident, I talked to Dr. Tom to get a better understanding of what he was going through. Dr. Tom is a retired vascular surgeon. has been retired for 13 years. for the last 7 years he deliberately has not kept up his credentials because he wanted to totally retire. and he did not want to be put in this kind of a situation. he is no longer a practicing doctor.
so what does he do in these types of situations? it is a tough call. on the one hand, he does not want to get involved because he is no longer a practicing doctor and does not have the appropriate credentials. on the other hand, he is the only person on the plane who has any background that can be helpful to a potentially critical situation, and he wants to do whatever he can but with full understanding that he is no longer a doctor. tough situation for him to be in.
we are all lucky that we have Dr. Tom and the other Dr. Tom’s of the world around us at any given moment to possibly lend a hand.
thank you again, Dr. Tom.