AndyO Blog

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Seattle to Kauai - Nightmare at 35,000 feet

They're serving dinner on the plane right now, but about an hour ago the aisle next to me looked like an emergency room.

It all started with some commotion in the seats behind Brenda and the kids. I thought that the young man sitting there just felt sick. But then came the call over the intercom, "Is there a doctor on board?"

In all the limited flying I've done in my life, I'd never heard a call for a doctor. (And of course I imagined if this ever happened, that doctor would surely look like Leslie Nielson from Airplane!) But this obviously wasn't a laughing matter.

In seconds the doctor was sitting next to the young man who was sick. Flight attendants stood in the aisle, giving him what he needed. People turned around in the front of the plane and gawked. Voices were never raised, but there was a palpable tension in the air.

One of the flight attendants plugged a headset into a connection in the overhead compartment and relayed information back and forth from a hospital somewhere. I could hear words like "blood sugar" floating in the air. And soon it was clear the young man was suffering from a diabetic seizure. He had low blood sugar, which could be life-threatening.

Of course, the first thing that came to my (and probably everyone else's) mind  was that the plane might need to turn around and go back to Seattle. But the doctor, flight attendants, and several "nurses" who were also on the flight were working feverishly.

After 30 or 40 minutes I saw the young man talking calmly to the doctor, and it seemed that the danger had passed. Soon, the doctor got up and walked back to his seat to applause.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

In this world of superstar celebrities and people who are famous for being famous, we often lose sight of the true heroes. Like the doctor who came forward. Like the flight attendants who kept their cool through the whole situation. Like the nurses who assisted. Like my wife Brenda who offered food and other supplies.

What could have been a true nightmare turned out OK. Later, when I was waiting for the lavatory at the back of the plane, I asked one of the flight attendants how often they see problems on the plane.

"Oh, it happens on overnight flights a lot." By overnight, I believe she meant a flight where the crew stays overnight somewhere. "And when there's a full moon."

(I should point out that there was no full moon on this particular night.)

The flight attendant said she'd never seen diabetic shock before, but that she'd been trained to deal with it. I didn't ask how close we'd come to turning around. Some things are better left unsaid.

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