Traveling with Parkinson’s Disease can be stressful. My husband and I have traveled so much in the last few years, that we have learned how to make getting through airport security and onto the plane as stress free as possible. Yesterday morning, we left for Washington DC on a United flight from Los Angeles. The flight was fairly uneventful, although a bit bumpy, until about half way through the flight. I was exhausted, having not slept well the night before, and was trying to rest. At some point I became aware of the flight attendants talking to the man sitting in the seat directly behind me. Apparently he was dizzy and not feeling well and they, along with his wife, were trying to determine what the problem was. About an hour later, they were back since he was not doing well at all.
A passenger, who was a registered nurse, came to help and worked with the flight attendants, taking charge gently, to check the man’s blood pressure and his blood sugar levels. When asked about his medical history and medications, his wife handed over a huge amount of medications that he was taking for his heart, for chemo and other things.
Someone brought him some orange juice to help stabilize his blood sugar levels and the flight attendants gently laid him down on the floor in the aisle so that they could monitor his blood pressure and heart rate. Another passenger who was a doctor, also came to help. They brought over a defibrillator, which, fortunately they did not have to use. The pilot radioed for the paramedics to be at the gate when we landed. A bonus, our plane was given priority for landing and getting to the gate quickly. In the meantime, the flight attendants stayed with the man on the floor of the plane, gently reassuring him and helping him to relax, until we landed and the paramedics came on board.
The airline personal were calm and very professional. It was clear that they have been trained well to deal with medical emergencies. An announcement was made shortly before landing that the paramedics were coming onto the plane as soon as we reached the gate, so no one should leave their seats until after the man was taken off the plane. It was amazing. No pushing or shoving. Everyone waited until we were given the OK to get off the plane.
Living with Parkinson’s, as I do, or any chronic disease, can make traveling stressful. Watching how the flight attendants are prepared for these kinds of emergencies certainly made me realize that we can be well taken care of at 35,000 feet. But one important lesson comes out of this incident. When you are traveling, ALWAYS have your medications in your carry-on bag. Using your smart phone, you can keep your entire medical history easily accessible if something should happen to you while traveling. I keep a list of my medications, health problems, allergies and any other important information in Apple Health on my iPhone. And if you are traveling with someone, make sure that they are aware of your health problems and where they can get the information needed if something should happen while on your flight.
I hope that the gentleman in seat 12B is feeling better. And I want to thank everyone on Flight 67 who took care of him at 35,000 feet. You give new meaning to Flying the Friendly Skies.
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