please notify your crew member. We have a medical emergency on flight.”
Hearing those dreadful words over the intercom, I froze in my seat.
Oh no. Someone’s in trouble.
I paused. What if they’re sicker than what I can handle? What if I don’t know what to do? We were already in the air, so if it were a real emergency, we’d be in trouble.
I pressed the call light anyway, hoping it wouldn’t be serious. I hope I don’t have to start any IV’s because I can’t remember the last time I inserted one…
The stewardess led us to a worried mother and her baby. At a quick glance, the baby looked fine. Mom described her concern, in mandarin, and the stewardess interpreted in English. We did a quick assessment, listened and spoke with mom (through the stewardess) and returned back to our seats.
Phew. So thankful that was an easy one. And I thought we were on vacation…?
~ ~ ~
The past few days since I’ve returned to work, I had been lingering upon this. The notion that when I’m on vacation, I refuse to work. Because it is my earned time of rest.
But after a week in Asia, I began to feel like a receiver who constantly accepted without giving back. I had been welcomed in Beijing and Hong Kong with such hospitality, but was unable to offer much in return to either populations, because I was just visiting. Or just passing by. Or just on a layover.
Until this happened, reminding me that as a medical professional, I’m never really off duty. I must always be prepared to respond to any medical emergency or disaster, at any given time and place, even when I least expect it.
~ ~ ~
Actually, a few years ago, I had just boarded a flight to Paris, when…
“If there is a doctor or nurse aboard, please notify a crewmember…” In the corner of my eye I saw two doctors get up from their seats to assess the situation. Shortly thereafter, they returned to their seats, so I assumed no extra assistance was needed.
But the main cabin door wasn’t closed yet, and we weren’t ready for takeoff for some reason. I heard the stewardess mulling about. So I stood up to see what was going on.
A female passenger was talking to another passenger. “I’m okay, really.” She explained.
I interrupted. “Hi. I’m a nurse. Do you need help?”
“Hi, I’m a doctor, and I got it under control,” he replied, looking at me, then back at the other passenger.
“Really, I’m fi…i…n…..” she started, then fainted mid sentence.
My eyes widened in shock, my arms reacted and reached towards her. The doctor, standing between the galley and the narrow hallway, responded even faster, arms swooping in, catching the woman right before her head hit the ground.
“Ma’am! Ma’am! Are you okay?!” we shook her shoulders and tried to wake her up.
Her eyes opened. She was half slumped on the ground, the doctor still holding her up. “I’m okay.. and… I have to go to Paris,” she said, slightly drowsy, but with persistence in her voice.
The doctor repositioned her, laying her head on the ground and raising her feet in the air to encourage blood flow back to her brain. It was a strange sight, her head on the floor, in the aisle, and her looking up at the doctor. He was still standing in the galley.
A stewardess came by. “Ma’am, I’m sorry but we will need to escort you off the flight to go the hospital…”
“I’m not going, I’m fine,” she insisted.
“You really need to go to the hospital, you fainted twice now,” the doctor explained.
She shook her head. “No no…I’ll be okay, really…”
Coincidentally, just the night before that flight, I had taken care of a patient in the hospital who had ended up in our city due to an inflight emergency. She was in a rehab hospital for months. She never even made it to her destination. I didn’t want that to happen to this passenger.
I crouched onto the ground, in the narrow aisle, so that I could speak to her closer, face to face, and so she wasn’t looking up at me upside down. “Ma’am.. it’s safer for you to get checked out by the hospital first… you can always go to Paris afterwards if you’re fine to fly,” I recommended.
“Yes ma’am we can reschedule your flight and waive the rescheduling fee,” a stewardess offered.
“Really? Are you sure? But I’ve always wanted to go to Paris….” she asked.
“Paris will still be there, after you get checked out and you’re okay,” I replied.
A little more coaxing, and she finally agreed. She exited the plane and left for the hospital.