By Dr. Brent Wyatt
Specialist in Emergency Medicine, Baptist Health System

On our recent flight back from the Press Ganey conference in Orlando, there was unfortunately a true medical emergency. An elderly man had been late for the flight and rushed onto the plane at the last minute.

Shortly thereafter, during taxi to the runway for takeoff, he became unresponsive in his seat, and fellow passengers called for help. Luckily, there were numerous medical professionals on this flight. Nonetheless, David Mitchell, chief nursing officer for Baptist Emergency Hospitals in San Antonio, and Sue Ellen Carnevale, hospital administrator at Baptist Emergency Hospital in Hausman, were immediately front and center assisting the man who had quite obviously at that point (gone into cardiac arrest).

He was pulseless, apneic and blue. David was quick to begin chest compressions. Laura Salgado calmly made a very flustered and confused flight attendant understand that she needed to retrieve the AED right away.

When the defibrillator became available, David took it and began putting pads on the patient. Sue Ellen searched through the airway kit to find a bag valve mask and oral airway to assist the multiple physicians that had at this point gathered around the patient (one of which was Dr. Thomas Lee, Press Ganey chief medical officer).

Due to this calm collaboration in the face of chaos, and despite the cramped working environment of a commercial aircraft, the patient was quickly defibrillated and a perfusing rhythm was restored.

The man began to breathe on his own and to move spontaneously. By the time medics boarded the plane, he was alert and answering questions. All the passengers cheered and offered the man prayers and well wishes as he was taken from the plane for transport to a local hospital.

The swift action, calm compassion and true professionalism David, Sue Ellen and Laura exhibited helped save this man’s life.

The executive team at Emerus is proud and grateful for the actions of Wyatt, Mitchell, Carnevale and Salgado, said Dr. Dan Middlebrook, chief medical officer at Emerus.

“Although their actions are no different than those our physicians and staff perform on a daily basis, their example reminds us of the admirable culture we have created by just being who we are,” Middlebrook said. “Whether at a facility, within the confines of an airplane or within any community we find ourselves, the focus on providing compassionate patient care is engrained in each of us.”