A passenger seated a few rows in front of me suffered a seizure on my flight yesterday. Incidents like these always focus my thoughts on the fragility of life and make me so thankful for those willing to step up in time of need.
Seizure On My Flight
Just 20 minutes after takeoff, I suddenly heard a commotion in the cabin and looked up to see a man shaking violently a few rows ahead of me. Several passengers screamed and a flight attendant darted over. Another appealed to passengers for assistance over the PA system:
“If there are any medical professionals onboard, please identify your immediately.”
Three people seated in business class jumped up and volunteered their assistance. The man had some medication in his bag and was shortly stabilized, though not before he was placed on oxygen for the remainder of the flight. Paramedics met us at the gate and the man was whisked off and examined in the terminal.
It was comforting to see the three medical professionals (whether they were doctors or nurses I do not know) so carefully attend to the patient and spend the next hour watching over him.
No diversion was needed and other than a delay to meal service, the flight proceeded as normal.
I’ve never witnessed death on a plane before, but it happens. Thankfully it was just a seizure on my flight. But to see someone lose all control and shake violently also shakes you up.
What if there was no nurse or doctor onboard? How do you treat someone who is having a seizure?
It made me think of the father of a friend of mine. All of a sudden, a couple months ago, he started having seizures. Doctors were not sure why, ran some tests, and discovered he had stage-four brain cancer.
He was dead less than a month later.
We can’t all be doctors. But as I sat paralyzed watching yesterday’s incident unfold, I did pull out my laptop and begin researching how you help someone who is having a seizure.
As always, assistance should be left to medical professionals, but if you are ever in a situation in which it’s all up to you, hopefully this will help you, courtesy of Cedars Sinai:
- If the person is not already on the floor, help lower them gently to the floor.
- Turn the person on their side. This will help keep their airway open so they can breathe.
- Place something flat and soft, like a folded jacket or blanket, under their head.
- Loosen ties, collars or anything around the neck.
- Remove their eyeglasses, if they wear them.
- Move anything hard or sharp away from the person to prevent injury.
- Time the seizure. Most last a minute or so. If the seizure lasts five minutes or longer, call 911.
- Stay calm and speak to the person in a calming tone.
- Stay with the person until they are fully awake. When the seizure ends, help them sit in a safe place. Explain very simply what happened.
- Check for injuries after the seizure.
- Help arrange for transportation, if necessary.
- Remember as many details as you can about what happened during the seizure and write them down. The person who had the seizure may not remember what happened, and this information may be important to give to their doctor.
And here’s what NOT to do:
- Do not place anything in the person’s mouth. A person having a seizure will not swallow their tongue.
- Do not hold the person down or try to stop them from moving.
- Do not give mouth-to-mouth breaths.
- Do not offer food or water until the person is fully alert.
I do realize seizures are fairly common (1 in 10 will experience one in their lifetime) and not necessarily life-threatening. In that sense I am not trying to be overly dramatic. Still, to see someone shake uncontrollably is extremely unsettling.
Cherish those friends and family members you love and who love you and perhaps even those who do not. Time flies by so quickly. Reconciliation and forgiveness are blessed gifts that liberate the soul. You never know when you will be trust into a position in which someone needs your help. As best as you can be, be ready for that day. And treasure each day you are given, for it may be your last.