3 months ago in Honolulu, we came across a drunken bum lying in the sand around a huge crowd of people, and flagged a cop over to make sure he wasn’t having a medical crisis instead. Our initial impression was correct. Luckily. He wasn’t dead, nor did we think so, but anyway…
We just arrived in Hololulu again two nights ago, and the flight here was interesting to say the least. There was nothing wrong with the actual flight as you probably can guess by the title.
Just prior to half way through the flight, the lady one row up and across the aisle started to call out “my husband, there’s something wrong with him, help us.” Before I could think about moving, I had unbuckled my seatbelt and stood up to help. I could see his head shaking, and rolling back, almost seizure-like, and when I stood up his color looked like death.
From there, I checked the pulse on his wrist. None. Crap, was all I was thinking, we’re going to have to do CPR on this guy for hours because we’re right over the ocean. Secondly, I cannot get this guy out of the seat myself. So I gave him a half assed sternal rub, then called out “we need to get this guy on the floor, now.” The flight attendant came over, small and nervous as she was “I know CPR I can help”. Very cute. But you aren’t gonna lift this guy either. Then, a big tall guy lifted him to the floor, and about half way down he groaned, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
After we (the dentist who lifted him, and the young lady resident who came also) got him to the ground, we got the story and it seems he was embarrassed to throw up on the plane, and held it in. He likely had a vagal response which dropped his pulse, and BP causing him to pass out. He was a marathon runner too, but sure didn’t look it, and was prime heart attack age. He wasn’t having a seizure, and he never had chest pain. Phew.
So, after about an hour of taking pulses (my hand never left his wrist, though I should have checked his neck pulse instead when he was unconscious, but felt weird doing so, and that’s why he didn’t have one-his pulse was too low initially to find one on his wrist), the flight attendants did their protocol paperwork, and asked us questions, and watched over the guy. We gave him some juice, sat him up, and the “health link” of the sky told him to keep oxygen on for the rest of the flight, and see the medics when we got in to Honolulu. He did both, but we saw him looking pretty pale afterwards still. Though, he said he felt great.
If you’ve never seen death before, well, its yellow, grey, and pale all at once, like the blood has run out of the body completely, and you won’t forget it. And, if you pass out sitting up, as I found out, you look very much the same way. Dead.
Lessons learned: don’t check radial (wrist) pulses first. Airplane aisle seat arm rests don’t lift and the aisle’s are not ideal for CPR, nor are the seats as they flex when you push or shake the chest in attempt to wake the person. They don’t carry suction equipment. Tell people that they often shake when they pass out. It’s not a seizure. Lastly, don’t hold in your barf. Let it out! Loud. In those TINY little barf bags.