Saving A Life

Graduated from the class of 2013 in the Medical Program.

Do you ever run random life scenarios through your head while you’re bored? Do you ever think to yourself, “What would I do in this situation?” or “How would I react if this were to happen?”? Do you ever wonder if you’ll make a difference in the world?


As a growing healthcare professional, it’s easy to doubt yourself. It’s easy to wonder if you’re really making an impact. It’s even easier to brush yourself off as a small, insignificant being, struggling to make sense of a big, intimidating, world. But then life takes over, and a moment happens. A couple minutes, a handful of seconds, or a few bated breaths that feel like a lifetime. And in that moment, you know you made the right choice.


The flight attendant asked me to help a woman in the front because she wasn’t feeling well. I was sitting in the very last row of the plane. So I anxiously squeeze through the narrow isle of sleeping passengers to find a small crowd of other flight attendants and a second-year medical student kneeling in front of an older woman. As nervous as I was, I had enough experience to just let my fundamental nursing skills take over.

Assessment first. Asking pertinent questions, taking vital signs, auscultating heart, breath, and bowel sounds. By the way, taking a manual blood pressure with a cheap stethoscope over the sound of a roaring plane engine in a pressurized cabin is not an easy task. Also, plane first-aid kits need an upgrade on thermometers, sphygmomanometers, and medication stock. But, I digress.


She complained of abdominal pain and dizziness. Luckily, the woman was only feeling faint and hadn’t vomited or had any diarrhea. So although I’m not a doctor and can’t diagnose, I had a hunch that she was dehydrated and had a mild stomach bug from eating some questionable seafood before boarding.

I had to ask the kind and curious second-year medical student (who had no patient experience whatsoever), to move out of the way because he was kneeling right in front of the woman while I was trying to assess her. And he also kept saying to give her aspirin because he thought she was having a heart attack. But none of my assessments pointed in that direction. So, as a patient advocate, I put my foot down and said no. Aspirin wasn’t necessary, and although it’s just an aspirin, you shouldn’t just give any medication without a solid reason behind it. I asked the flight attendants if I could take a look at what medications they had on board. I was looking for Zofran (ondansetron), which is a fast-acting antiemetic sublingual tablet. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any.

Meanwhile, the flight attendants paged a doctor on land and gave me an order to give the patient promethazine, an antihistamine that treats motion sickness. I gave the medication, told her to drink more water and that I’d be back in about 20 minutes to check on her.


Afterwards, she was feeling much better. Although I didn’t do much, I was glad to help in any way I could. I learned a couple things that morning. To stand up for your patients’ rights, speak up for them when you know that something isn’t right. It’s part of your due diligence as a healthcare provider. I learned to trust in my training and everything I’d worked so hard for up to that point. It was also a gentle reminder to step up and fight for the greater good, even if it’s 4 am, you’re nervous as hell, and over 30,000 feet above the ground!

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