“Is there a doctor on board?”

I was on a 6am flight and like the rest of the passengers, l was sleeping.  As the plane cruised at 30,000 feet and everyone sleeping on board, this announcement came over the PA system…“Is there a doctor on board?”

Ok, even though I was just waking up, I knew what the announcement meant…someone on the plane needed help. Instinctively, I got up and proceeded to where the flight attendants were huddled around a passenger in the first class cabin. There were 3 flight attendants who were attending to the ill passenger and emergency equipment were scattered on the floor. I came along and immediately was asked if I am a doctor by the head flight attendant.

No, I replied. I’m not a doctor… I am a nurse…a “registered nurse” I said.  Irritated, I ignored the flight attendant and proceeded to assess the patient. The patient looked like he was in his mid 30’s, alert, awake and oriented. He said he was attempting to stand up and go to the bathroom when he felt light headed and passed out. The patient was cold, clammy, pale, no cyanosis, regular pulse and breathing regularly. He denied any chest pain or any other pain. He said he was just getting over pneumonia and was on Z-pack.  Patient stated he was up since 1am and didn’t get enough sleep before this early flight. He has no history of diabetes or hypertension and not taking any other medications but the Z-pack.  Other than looking pale, the patient was fine but I wanted to check his blood pressure and listen to his lungs just to make sure until we land.

And this is where my irritation about the  “is there a doctor on board” continued. I wanted to  listen to his lungs and take his blood pressure but I didn’t have the equipment I needed. So I proceeded to open up the plane’s emergency equipment to get the stethoscope when I was stopped by the head flight attendant. He said…you’re not a doctor…you cannot open the emergency equipment.

WHAT??? WHAT??? WHAT??? Say that again????

Mind you, I was the only one who responded to the  “Is there a doctor on board?” plea….there is no doctor on board and I was the only one who came to help and I can’t even get the stethoscope out of that bag????

So there you go…luckily, after two glasses of orange juice and two cookies, the passenger felt much better. Still looking pale but skin is dry and warmer now, the patient was told by the flight attendants that emergency personnel would be waiting for him at the gate when we land.

As for me? I got a “thank you” from the patient who was a bit embarrassed but was very appreciative. The head flight attendant gave his thanks via the PA. “thanks to the medical personnel who assisted us”.

We landed safely, the passenger reluctantly went with the paramedics waiting for him. I had to fill out the “medical personnel responding” section of the “incident report” for the airline…and…there was a comment section…and guess what I wrote???

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