Tackling a fear…

One of my favorite bloggersand good friendHappy Medic very recently wrote about a overcoming a fear from his childhood. I was lucky enough to be around to help drag him towards that evil clown witness the event… Honestly, it was one of the highlights of Expo week for me.

Those who know me best know that I have a few irrational fears. Flying is one of them.(Clowns is another one, but that’s another post for another time.)

I do not fly well.

Actually, I don’t fly at all if I don’t have to,something about hurtling through the air at 40,000 feet in a metal tube is a little unsettling to me. My fear of flying is so intense that in the pastifI’veneeded to get somewhere that was less than a 24 hour drive, I’d hop in the car instead of flying. Even if the cost of gaswasmore than the airfare. Even if it meant I’d spend 48 hours less at my destination because of the long drive. When I learned that EMS World Expo was going to be in Las Vegas this year I knew that I was going to have to suck it up and fly out.

And I did. I hiked up my supergirl panties and stepped onboard.The take off was just as nervewracking as I remember them being, which is to say I left nail imprints on the armrests of my seat. It took a goodthirty minutes of shaking like a leaf and suffering from a significant bout of anxiety induced tachycardia before the color slowly started to return to my face.I swore that under no circumstance was I going to leave my seat until we were safely back on the ground. I was convinced that if I tried to walk while we were in the air I would inevitably fall on my face due to my shaky legs. It took an additional 15minutesto get to the point where I could actually look out the window.

And you know what? The view wasn’t half bad.

Ihad managed to relax enough to hold a conversation with the flight attendant sitting in the last row directly behind me. We talked about careers, and what a typical work week was like for the both of us. Weagreed that we could never do the other’s job. She claimed to pass out at the sight of blood, and I’d offered that I’d probably have a stroke if I had to spend hours a day in the air. She was very sweet and I appreciated the distraction. It was beginning to look like it was going to be an uneventful flight. Just how they’re supposed to be.

I wouldn’t be writing this had the flight been uneventful.

While the nice flight attendant hadexcused herself to go tend to a call light, I had cracked open a book and allowed myself to relax and enjoy the quiet time.I wasdeeply engrossed ina novel about sparkly vampires(don’t judge me) when I heard what I could only describe as a sick thud followed by a frantic one-sided conversation coming from the fight attendant. “What the… Jesus!… Hey… Are you okay? Sir?” I was turning around to look at the exact moment that she grabbed my shoulder and asked me to help.

There he was, splayed across the floor, directly in front of the rear restroom. He couldn’t have been 30-years-old and looked to be in good physical shape.

I knelt down next to him, checked for a pulse andgave him a wicked sternal rub.

“HEY! Come on, You OKAY?

The flight attendant looked as white as a sheet. “He just dropped, hit his head on the emergency exit door…”

I gave him another sternal rub that I can guarantee removed any chest hair he may have had remaining. At that very second the bathroom door opened and a very shocked 70-year-old woman almost tripped over him. She shrieked, which miraculously stirred our patient. He opened his eyes slowly and began to rub his head.

Hallelujah. My work here is done.

“Uhm… how… What happened?” He was trying to sit up. I put a hand on his arm and suggested that perhaps he should stay put for a minute.I asked him his name.

“Erik,” He answered. Erik had no medical history.No allergies. No alcohol or drugs on board.He ate dinner on the way to the airport. He was on Coumadin, but he didn’t know why.

Wait, didn’t he say he had no medical history?

His pulse was steady and strong now, his color was better than mine.

“I’m fine, I just need to pee.” He was still rubbing his head. There was a pretty impressive bump there.

“Okay, do you think you’re ready to try to stand up? How are you feeling?”

“I’m really okay, the pride took a hit is all.” Erik stood up, he was taller than I was. He was blushing and probably wanted to escape the worried eyes of the four flight staff who had congregated at the back of the plane with us.

He took a step into the bathroom, turned to close the door, and collapsed like a sack of potatoes onto the toilet. His chin rested upon his chest, his arms dangling limp at his side.

“Oh, hell. Help me get him to the floor.” I grabbed under his arms, one flight attendant grabbed at his waist, and another pulled his legs.

“YO! ERIK!” I was yelling at him while Ichecked for a pulse. Ididn’t immediately feel one.Without warning the plane hit some turbulence and I (irrationally — remember, irrational fear of flying)thought I might possibly be plummeting towards the ground in a prettyugly way. I grabbed onto the door to the restroom and said a silent prayer that A) I wasn’t going to fall out of the sky, and B) That I wasn’t going to have to do CPR on a 30-year-old man in an airplane somewhere over Nebraska. Within a few seconds the turbulence subsided and I was able to think a bit more clearly.

Erik was cyanotic. I’d tell you what I was thinking at this point, but you can probably imagine.

I pulled his dark red tshirt up. “I need a defibrillator… Do you have one?” I was asking the nice flight attendant who just a few minutes ago I had been having a nice calming discussion with. “And a BVM. Bring whatever medical supplies you have.”

Another flight attendant started yelling for a doctor as she sprinted to the front of the plane where everything we needed was located.

I checked for a pulse one more time.

Please… Please… Don’t do this. I don’t want to have to push on your chest. I don’t want you to die up here. It’s been a while since I’ve mentally begged a patient to do (or not do) something, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I did it on that flight.

Erik, or God, or someone must have been listening.Hegasped. I repositioned his head. Still, his eyes didn’t open. Another pulse check revealed a slow, but very obvious pulse.I don’t know that it wasn’t there before. What I knew was that I felt it at that point.

I was on my knees, in a freaking plane, and I had no idea what supplies I was going to have or what I was allowed to do with those supplies. What I did know what that I had an unconscious bradycardic patient withvery slowrespirations.

A defibrillator was handed to me. Pads were applied.

Another breath.

I was handed an ambu bag. I ripped the plastic open with my teeth and gave him a quick puff.

There was another yell for a doctor by a frantic flight attendant.

I squeezed the bag again.

Come on, Dude.

Another squeeze. Another spontaneous breath, this one forceful. It sounded likea breath onewould takewhen staying underwater a few seconds longer than they were comfortable with.

Oooh, he’s starting to pink up….

Another breath. Another breath. Another breath.

I checked Erik’s pulse again and he was around 60. I thought I was going to cry. His eyes opened and stared at the ceiling for a few seconds.

“HowlongwasIout?” His words were blended together. Slurred.

“Entirely too long. DON’T YOU DO THAT AGAIN!” I was a little louder than I meant to be. I hope he forgave me for that.

“We have the Doc online,” someone offered… I couldn’t tell you who said it, although I’m sure it was one of the flight attendants. A doctor who happend to be on the plane appeared and basically shoo’ed me aside. I was fine with that. I went back to my seat and exhaled.I read about sparkly vampires for a bit and managed to nap for over an hour. That’s something I haven’t been able to do on a plane since before 9/11.

Erik was waiting for me at the end of the jetway when we landed. “Hey, I just wanted to thank you…”

I gave him a quick hug. “No problem. Glad you’re feeling better.”

Fear of flying?

Conquered. (Well, for the most part.)

Number of grey hairs that sprouted within aten minute period?

More than I’d care to admit.

Stay safe out there!

7 Comments

  • Robert Ball says:

    Awesome work Epi! Nothing like a medical to take your mind off the flying bit. Frankly, I love flying…but don’t really enjoy commercial (too cramped).

    Flying combat nap-of-the-earth in a C-130…that’s flying (oh, and checking on patients while doing so…). But that’s for another time. Also, it’s much less cramped, so more leg room etc.

    • epijunky says:

      Bob, thanks for the comment! I’ve never flown in a C-130 but if there was more leg room than I had on Spirit Airlines, I might have been a teeny bit more comfortable :) A teeny bit. Maybe.

      Hopefully it’ll get easier with some more time and a few more flights.

      • Robert Ball says:

        It probably will. Side note, you may want to google C-130 Air Evac Missions before considering “teeny bit more comfortable” ;). What you gain in leg room…well, there are only a couple window, you sit sideways, and you wear hearing protection. But there is more leg room ;).

  • Old NFO says:

    You done good Epi… Flying is REALLY fun at 500 feet at 500 kts is a fighter :-) Airlines? Just another bus! :-)

  • Jim Isbell says:

    I am in love with the fact you are back writing, Epi!

    Great job with Mr Syncope. Imagine the potential outcome had you decided not to deal with your fear of flying. I’m proud of you!

  • Walt Trachim says:

    All I can say is “Obi-Wan has taught you well…”

    Bravo Zulu, lady.

  • Andrea says:

    Nice work!

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