Lisa was a flight attendant. Part of her job was keeping passengers safe on their journeys, but one day she found herself fighting against her supervisor, and a faulty airplane. It happened on a journey from Philadelphia to London – she noticed a serious problem with the plane, but nobody wanted to listen. Next thing she knew, she was in a hospital in a strange country, and it was up to her to get the truth to the world. She did the best she could, and eagerly awaited a statement from the airline – but what it said on the news, she could never have predicted.
Lisa was exhausted. She knew that being an air stewardess was going to be difficult, but she had never been so desperate to sleep in her entire life. She walked into her apartment in Philadelphia, locked the door, and threw herself down on the sofa. She meant to sit there for a few minutes and then make something to eat. She closed her eyes for a moment, but when she opened them again hours had passed and she was starving.
She lived alone, which was good because her hours were so unpredictable. The hours made it difficult to maintain relationships too, so she had been single for a while.
But that was all ok because the money was good, and Lisa had plans. Her dream was to work that job for a year or two in order to save up money for college. Her dream was to be a doctor in an emergency room. She had always loved watching TV shows set in the ER and longed to be the hero in such an emergency situation.
That’s why she had taken a first-aid class back in elementary school, and a refresher course after finishing high school. Now 23 years old, she had never had to use these skills. There was part of her that felt disappointed.
Cleaning The House
She looked at her phone and saw that it was 7 in the morning. She got up to make some coffee. She had to be back at the airport that evening – her next shift was a flight to London. But first, she had to clean her apartment and pack her suitcase. She hated cleaning, but she preferred to come home to a clean apartment.
So she drank her coffee, ate some breakfast, and then got to work. It took a couple of hours to clean the apartment properly, and she was glad when it was finally over.
Later, she arrived at the airport. She got changed and boarded the plane with the other crew members. They had an hour to complete preparations for the arrival of the passengers. As she entered the door, her supervisor – whose name was Max – pulled her aside and told her that she would have to clean up a mess in the middle of the aisle.
Lisa didn’t like Max very much. With trepidation, she asked what and what kind of mess. The answer that she received failed to fill her with happiness.
Good Start To The Shift
It was a vomit stain on the carpet, courtesy of a passenger on the previous flight. The cleaning team hadn’t had enough time to clean it properly because of the quick turnaround. Lisa had drawn the short straw. With a sigh, she picked up a bottle of the standard cleaning fluid, poured some on the stain, and started scrubbing the area.
Her friend Ruby offered to help, which made the work go quicker. They both complained about the smell of the cleaning fluid, which was basically just strong bleach, but it wasn’t much different to what she used at home.
After about ten minutes of work, the two stewardesses agreed that the area looked clean enough, so they got up and got on with their other tasks. Soon, the tunnel was attached to the plane and the passengers started filing in. It was a full flight, Lisa noticed. The crew began their shift.
The passengers were seated, Lisa helped ensure that everyone had their seatbelts fastened, and the plane took off. Everything looked normal – but then Lisa noticed something worrying.
Something’s Not Right
There was something wrong with the plane. It wasn’t an obvious problem, so nobody was panicking, but she wasn’t the only one who noticed. As she was walking up and down the aisle, she thought she overheard a couple of passengers commenting to each other about the problem, although she wasn’t entirely sure.
Nonetheless, she was worried. She approached Max and asked if she could have a word in private. They walked together to the galley and she asked him if he had also noticed the issue. He told her that she was imagining it.
So Lisa tried to put it out of her mind and got on with her job. They landed in London after a long flight, and Lisa had a couple of hours to relax at the airport. The next flight was back to Philadelphia again, on the same plane. The strange thing was, none of the other crew noticed that there was an issue.
Was she imagining the problem? She didn’t want to get on that plane again, but since nobody else had a problem, she was embarrassed to make a fuss.
Ignoring Her Qualms
Boarding the plane on the way back, Lisa tried to put her worries out of her mind. She focused on doing her job to the best of her ability. However, it would not be long until things came to a head – and her first-aid skills would become useful for the first time in her life.
It was only an hour after take-off when the drama began. A middle-aged man stood up, presumably to go to the bathroom. He took a few steps and then grabbed on to the back of a seat, trying not to fall down.
Lisa approached him and asked if he felt alright. The man looked at her and began to say something, then stopped mid-sentence. He looked very unsteady on his feet. Lisa began to advise him to go and sit back down, when suddenly the man’s eyes rolled back into his head.
He passed out, right there in front of her. Lisa went to grab him to stop him from hitting the floor too hard, but he was too heavy for her.
The best thing she could do was grab the lapels of his jacket and slow his fall. He sat down hard on his backside, and Lisa lowered his torso to the floor, almost falling over herself in the process. Immediately, she checked his pulse and his breathing.
Both seemed normal – but Lisa knew why the man had passed out. The pilot asked over the speakers if there was a doctor onboard the plane, but nobody came forward. Lisa called Ruby over and told her to stay with the man. She needed to talk to Max.
Not Ready To Listen
Lisa was annoyed. In the galley, in a hushed voice she told Max that she knew she had been right. There was a weird smell on the plane, and it was getting worse. Max just repeated what he had said before – that there was nothing to worry about.
Lisa couldn’t believe what she was hearing, and she was about to say so, when another commotion erupted behind her. She turned and looked down the aisle, and began to get scared when she saw what had happened.
Things Are Serious Now
Her friend Ruby was lying on top of the man on the ground. She had passed out too! Lisa turned to Max and glared at him, before rushing over to help her friend. Lisa bent down and with the help of some passengers managed to lay Ruby down on the floor.
Just like the man, Lisa’s friend had a strong heartbeat and was breathing fine. It was the smell. It was getting stronger, and the passengers were starting to get rowdy. They were demanding answers from the cabin crew, and Max was busy calming everyone down.
Dramatic Turn Of Events
As Lisa was making her friend comfortable, something happened which she did not expect. She began to feel dizzy. She was on her knees holding Ruby’s head, when suddenly she realized that she had fallen over too. She tried to force herself back up but her head reeled.
Through sheer force of effort, she got to her feet, intending to get back to the galley. The last thing she saw was the ceiling of the plane spinning around crazily, before everything went black.
Getting Her Bearings
Lisa woke up in bed. She felt groggy and hungry. She looked around and quickly realized that she wasn’t in her bed, and she wasn’t at home. She was in a hospital! Lost time is a very disorienting experience, and Lisa felt really confused. She couldn’t remember why she was there.
What had happened? How long had she been unconscious? Where was she exactly? She turned her head left and right and saw what she was searching for – an alarm to call a nurse. She pressed the button.
What Year Is It?
On the side of the bed was a jug of water and some glasses. She sat up and poured herself a glass. As she drank, she realized how thirsty she was. This kind of thing had never happened to her before.
She’d seen people in movies suddenly wake up in a hospital bed without knowing how they’d got there, but she never expected it to happen in real life. A nurse came into the room and seemed glad that Lisa was awake
Not In Kansas Anymore
She wished Lisa a good morning, and Lisa immediately detected a strong accent. With a shock, she realized that she wasn’t in the US at all! The nurse asked Lisa how she was feeling and assured her that they had found nothing seriously wrong. Lisa felt fine.
But what had happened? The nurse explained that she had been one of three people to pass out on the airplane, and they had made an emergency diversion and stopped.
Lisa had never been to Ireland before, and here she was sleeping in a Dublin hospital! Then she realized that she didn’t know how much time had passed – and the nurse assured her with a smile that she had only slept overnight. As Lisa’s memory started coming back, she started to feel angry.
She knew that there was something wrong with the plane, and her concerns had been ignored. What if they had been over the Atlantic ocean when it happened?
What Happened To Her Friend?
With a jolt, she suddenly remembered her friend, Ruby! Where was she? The nurse told her that she was in a room down the hall, and Lisa got out and went to find her. She found Ruby sitting on her bed, reading a local newspaper with a troubled expression on her face.
When she saw Lisa, that expression became a big smile. The two started talking about what had happened. They came up with a theory about what had caused the problem – Ruby had heard from a pilot friend about an incident the previous week.
This pilot was supposed to fly from Madrid, but things went very wrong. The plane began filling up with smoke – thankfully before takeoff – and everyone was evacuated. The crew was stuck on the tarmac for two hours after that. The reason?
An oil leak from the auxiliary power unit. As soon as Lisa heard this, she knew that this was what had happened to them. How irresponsible of the airline to ignore this problem! But she was about to get a shock.
Ruby pointed to an article in the newspaper. Lisa could see that it was talking about the diverted flight. When she read what they had written, she was absolutely furious. How dare they lie like that? The airline had said in an official statement that the incident was caused by a spilled cleaning solution.
Lisa knew that this wasn’t true, and she could not believe that they could be so irresponsible as to lie. People’s lives could be in serious danger!
Getting To The Bottom Of It
Lisa was determined to expose the truth. She asked a nurse for a telephone, and then she dialed a certain number. As an employee, she didn’t need to jump through the customer service hoops – she got through to a receptionist at the head office.
After she identified herself, she was immediately put through to the company’s legal department. The man on the phone began to say something, but Lisa cut him off. Wy had they told the media that cleaning fluids had caused the problem?
Coming From The Inside
She was told that it was a member of the cabin crew who had reported this, and she knew exactly who it was. Max! She couldn’t believe it. In fury, she hung up the phone and made a call to Max. He answered the phone, and Lisa let him have it. How dare he endanger people by lying about a technical issue on an aircraft?
He knew full well that cleaning fluids don’t make people pass out! Max didn’t have a good answer, and Lisa demanded that he tell the truth of what happened to the airline.
Denying The Truth
Lisa was flown back home and given some time off. She followed the case on the news. The airline replaced the auxiliary power unit on the aircraft, which was returned to service four days after the incident. The company admitted that the problem was not caused by cleaning fluid.
Lisa was glad to hear that – but was amazed by what the company said next. A spokesman denied that there was an oil leak! Lisa was even more amazed to hear the airline’s final statement on the matter.
The airline then said that in the flight to Dublin, the auxiliary power unit had not been operational during the flight, so that couldn’t have been the issue. Lisa realized that the airline was never going to admit the truth. But its final statement on the matter really galled her.
The airline said: “It cannot be emphasized enough that the health and welfare of our crews and customers continues to be our top priority.” Lisa was no longer so sure. She decided that the time had come to find a different job.
Cometh The Hour
If you are on a flight and there is a medical emergency, you will be expected to help out if you have any medical training. Take Mike, for example, a 55-year old podiatrist. He was feeling down in the dumps after meeting some old college-mates. Their boasting had knocked his confidence.
Soon afterwards he found himself locked in a battle of wills with another arrogant doctor, with a man’s life at stake. Did the mild-mannered podiatrist manage to find his inner superhero?
Wishing He Hadn’t Come
Mike, a 55-year-old podiatrist, sat in the conference room watching his food congeal on a paper plate and taking sips from a cup of cheap orange juice. People were buzzing around him mingling with each other, but he felt depressed. He had come to this medical conference because he’d thought that it might be stimulating, and a nice change from his usual routine. In reality, it had been boring and had knocked his self-confidence.
Mike had a small clinic in his home town of Indiana. He had graduated from medical school with top grades and could have gone into any field that he’d chosen, but he went for the stable and lucrative field of podiatry. He enjoyed his job. He was a family man, which is why he had decided to stay in his home town.
The conference had come up in his email inbox a few months earlier. The subject wasn’t really related to his field, but he saw that many people from his college would be there, people whom he hadn’t seen for decades. He thought that it might be interesting to catch up with them, see where life had taken them.
His wife had agreed that going to the conference was a nice idea, but reminded him that he would have to leave early because he’d promised to drive their son to college.
So he took the seven-hour-flight to Reno, Nevada, and arrived at the event hall. As it turned out, the speakers didn’t talk about anything he didn’t already know, and the food was terrible. His meetings with his old classmates didn’t go well either. On the first day he had been happy to see someone with whom he’d shared a dorm.
They drank a beer together and Mike listened to him boast – doctorate this, straight-A student children that, expensive car and big house. He made Mike feel embarrassed to talk about his own, relatively modest life.
He had a similar experience with other classmates too. One had gone into research after college and had published many well-received papers. One was a surgeon in an exclusive private hospital, another was the attending at a busy ER unit.
Mike listened to them tell their stories to each other, and realised that he couldn’t compete. He had always been perfectly satisfied with using his knowledge to help people in his home town, but the ailments that he treated were never exactly life-threatening.
Reconnecting With A Teacher
One of the speakers was an old professor of his. Mike approached him after he’d finished his talk, and the old man was very happy to see him. But when Mike told him that he’d become a podiatrist, he thought that his old teacher looked disappointed.
These interactions left Mike feeling thoughtful. He was proud of his clinic. He personally knew and cared about all of his patients, and he was an effective and diligent doctor. But he had never saved anyone’s life. He had to admit to himself that this had always bothered him.
Fully Certified For An Emergency
Mike was certified to give aid in life-threatening situations – in fact, he re-took the qualification every two years – but in the thirty years since he’d graduated he’d never once had to use it. Some small part of him felt somehow less of a doctor.
When his son was small, he’d told all his friends that his dad was a doctor, and on one parents day Mike had gone to speak to his son’s class. The kids had had lots of questions, but when they heard that Mike was a foot-doctor they’d lost interest. His son had looked disappointed.
That son was now 18, and about to start college. He was going to study medicine too, although he probably wouldn’t be following in Mike’s footsteps. Mike left the conference without saying goodbye to anyone, and made his way to the airport.
He had to fly to Chicago before taking a connecting flight to Indiana. The journey through customs was uneventful, and he got on the plane and found himself sitting next to a friendly woman named Martha who asked him where he was going.
A New Friend
When he told her that he had been at a medical conference, she had been fascinated. She asked him what it was about, and all kinds of details about the event. And then she asked him if he was a doctor himself – Mike said yes. What kind of doctor, she asked. A podiatrist, replied Mike.
The conversation petered out after that, with the woman saying that she needed some sleep. Mike took a book out of his bag and began reading. And then he heard a woman scream.
An Ominous Sound
The scream had come from the first-class section, behind a blue curtain at the front of the plane. Mike felt afraid, wondering what had happened. He considered getting up to look, but then the seatbelt light was activated and the captain told everybody to remain in their seats.
When a couple of air stewardesses rushed passed Mike and disappeared behind the curtain, he begain to feel really worried. He could hear a commotion back there – raised voices, movement, and then that scream again.
The Finger Of Fate
Mike wasn’t the only person whose curiosity was piqued – heads were craning all over the flight deck. The woman next to him had woken up, and asked him what was going on.
At that moment, one of the air stewardesses came out from behind the curtain and called out in a loud, slightly shaking voice: “Is there a doctor on board?” Mike suddenly felt a weight of responsibility on his shoulders. He looked around, hoping that someone else might answer – but there was no-one.
His confidence had taken a bashing over the weekend, but that wasn’t a reason not to step up, Mike reminded himself. He raised his hand, and the stewardess rushed over with a look of relief on her face.
“You’re a doctor?” she asked him, and Mike nodded and started to get up. Suddenly, he felt someone touch his arm, and he stopped and looked around. It was Martha. “But you said that you’re only a podiatrist,” she said.
How Dare You?
This had an interesting effect on Mike. Having a crisis of self-confidence was once thing, but having someone actually belittle him made him feel insulted and angry. Apparently, this was visible in his facial expression because Martha looked away, abashed.
The air stewardess led Mike towards the curtain and swept it aside, revealing a scene that he would never forget.
A Dramatic Scene
He saw a middle-aged man lying on the floor, his face red and his shirt ripped open. He was not breathing. A woman was on her knees next to him, desperately performing chess compressions with both hands. Next to her on the floor was strewn a selection of medical equipment – a defibrillator and a portable EKG, among other things.
Two scared-looking air stewardesses were attempting to comfort a hysterical woman – Mike assumed that this was the man’s wife. After taking in the scene for a moment, Mike rushed over and got down next to the man.
Getting To Work
Mike felt for a pulse, noting that it was weak and erratic. He took over the chest compressions, asking the woman – who turned out to be a retired nurse named Lisa – to fill him in on the situation. As Lisa was speaking, Mike bent down and breathed air into the man’s lungs, and he started to cough – he was breathing.
But they weren’t out of the woods yet. Mike realized that the man’s life was in serious danger – he turned to an air stewardess and said: “You need to land the plane.”
The air stewardess rushed off, and Mike told Lisa to get the man’s medical history from his wife, who was sobbing her eyes out. Meanwhile, Mike connected the EKG to the man’s arm and looked at his heart rate.
His blood pressure was seriously high. Lisa saw it too. Without a word, they began working together to set up an IV – the man needed fluids to bring his blood pressure down. Lisa got the equipment out of the medical kit and Mike began prepping the syringe. Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder.
No Time For This
The air stewardess handed him a phone. Mike grabbed the thing and put it between his shoulder and his ear while he worked. “What?” he asked. The voice on the line introduced himself as the airline’s doctor, and he wanted to know what was going on.
Mike, annoyed by the unnecessary interruption, told him that he was busy treating a very sick man and handed the phone back to the air stewardess. She put the phone to her ear and walked away – then turned back and gave Mike the phone again.
The doctor on the phone told Mike that he needed to hook the patient up to an EKG. At this point, the IV was all ready to go. Mike swallowed his annoyance and told the voice on the phone that that had obviously already been done, and now they were going to hook the patient up to an IV.
The voice on the phone told him to stop, immediately. Mike paused in his work, and Lisa looked at him, puzzled.
Mike demanded to know what he was talking about, and the doctor on the phone said that it sounded to him like the patient didn’t really need an IV.
Mike wasn’t sure if the man was attempting to inititate a battle of egos or if he was trying to save the airline some money – but neither of those was a good enough reason to let a man die. He told Lisa what the man had said, and they both agreed that it made no sense.
Not Worth Responding
They both knew that the EMTs on the ground would put an IV in to the man’s arm, and doing it now would save them precious time which could be the difference between life and death.
Mike didn’t respond to the man on the phone, he simply handed the receiver back to the air stewardess and told her not to give it to him again. Together with Lisa, they attached the IV to the man on the floor.
Out Of The Wood
Mike said: “Frankly, the doctor on the phone was not there. The man’s life was all on me.” Over the next few minutes, the man’s condition stabilized, and Mike allowed his wife to sit next to him and hold his hand.
Mike and Lisa stayed with their patient, carefully monitoring him. He heard the captain announce that the plane would be making an emergency stop in Denver, and the plane began its descent shortly afterwards.
The plane landed, and a team of EMTs got on with a stretcher. They looked at the man on the floor and Mike related his condition to him. One of the paramedics thanked Mike and Lisa and congratulated them on a good job.
With the patient gone, Mike and Lisa stepped back through the curtain to return to their seats, and they were greeted with a rapturous round of applause from the rest of the passengers. Mike went a bit red in the face but couldn’t help but smile. He sat down next to Martha without saying a word.
Attention From The Press
Obviously, Mike didn’t get back home in time to drive his son to college. He went back to work intending to keep his life-saving escapade to himself, but the very next day he got a phone call from a local reporter asking for a comment.
“It was a team effort,” said Mike. “The nurse and the crew should be recognized for their amazing work, assistance and everyone staying calm and focused.”
When Mike got home that day he was met by wife who guided him to the computer with a big smile on her face. He saw that an article had been published with the story. He felt a little embarrassed – he didn’t like attention, and in his opinion he had only done his duty – but at the same time he couldn’t help but feel a bit vindicated.
The negative feelings left over from the weekend conference were completely washed away, and Mike could now say that he had saved a life. But the biggest surprise was to come the next day.
Secret Identity Revealed
He got to work and noticed that everyone was behaving strangely towards him. He employed a few nurses and a junior doctor, and they seemed to be hiding something. He discovered what it was at lunch time when they called him into the staff room.
They had ordered him a cake with Superman on the front. If this was the life of a superhero, thought Mike, then he could get used to it.
Soon after, he received an email from the airline. It thanked him for his assistance and offered him 25,000 air miles. He thought about where he would take his wife on vacation next – maybe somewhere exotic.
His clinic’s social media page was inundated with well-wishers and comments. One patient wrote: “You deserve to be recognized as an exceptionally wonderful man.”