I am working on my second tray of drinks in the forward galley when a woman walks up to me and says, "I don't feel well." She is feeling weak with pain in her mid-chest and under her arms. Her seat is near the front, so I ask her to return to her seat and let her know I will follow her there. I reach for the interphone and call the Captain to start a phone patch to MedLink (the medical company that assists us with inflight medical emergencies). I also call the other two Flight Attendants to come to the front of the aircraft. I quickly grab an oxygen bottle from the forward overhead bin and give oxygen to the passenger. This relaxes her. Meanwhile the other two Flight Attendants bring me a medical questionnaire pad, MedLink headphones, the Emergency First Aid Kit, CPR mask, gloves, and the defibrillator. An announcement is made over the PA requesting medical assistance. No one responds. Wearing the headphones and waiting for the MedLink contact, I gather medical information from the Customer. She is diabetic, has high blood pressure (for which she recently changed medication), and takes medication for anxiety. This is the third flight of her life.
MedLink comes over the headphones, and I begin relating the patient's vital information. Per the MedLink doctor's instructions, one aspirin is given along with two nitroglycerine tablets. He says to wait five minutes and repeat the nitro tablets. If the pain does not disappear, I am to do this a third time. I am relieved when she tells me she feels much better after taking the fourth tablet. Her seat is reclined and oxygen continues until landing, which is within thirty minutes. We are given priority landing and paramedics meet the aircraft. She is taken to the hospital for observation.
Were we scared? Concerned for the patient, yes. Scared, no. Flight Attendants receive basic first aid instruction during initial training and every year during recurrent training. MedLink is a 24-hour medical-help hotline in the emergency room of Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix. A doctor provides recommendations for any inflight medical emergency or medical condition when advice is necessary. They assume responsibility for the actions of a Flight Attendant or medical volunteer when they are acting under the direction of MedLink. The addition of the defibrillator on every aircraft is a great help in the event that a Customer has a heart attack.
Nearly 200 inflight medical emergencies occur industrywide every day throughout the world. Many of those emergencies are the result of people boarding who are already seriously ill. This could be a fatal mistake. Please encourage your friends and family to travel only when they are feeling well.