This has been the most amazing and crazy month. I took a vacation in late September. I wanted to have peace and quiet to begin writing my book about people with difficult neurological conditions who have become well. A couple of hours into the 10 hour flight from Seattle to Frankfurt, I heard the surreal announcement....."Attention all passengers: If there are any doctors or nurses on this flight, please make your way to the main cabin as soon as possible." Does this really happen? Is this real? A universe of thoughts/possibilities and choices went through my mind. Within 3 seconds, I was heading to the front of the aircraft. Although I'm not a medical doctor, I thought I may have something to contribute.
A German nurse was walking ahead of me, a German nurse behind me. When we approached the main cabin, there was a limp man, completely unconscious, slumped forward in his seat. His legs and left arm were covered in vomit. The aisle to his left and the floor in front of him also was covered in vomit. At this point, the nurse behind me turned right around and went back to his seat. I thought, "It's the 2 of us left."
The head flight attendant told me that if I couldn't do anything to wake this man up or make him improve somehow, they would probably have to land the plane before reaching Frankfurt.
I fired off questions to his wife. What happened? Is he on medications? Does he have a heart/lung condition? Is he dehydrated? Has he had any alcohol to drink? He had been in excellent health, very fit, no significant medications. However, he was dehydrated and had twice as much alcohol with the plane meal as he usually has at home. I called for an oxygen tank. Most people on the flight were dehydrated, so why did this man vomit? I thought he probably had a cerebellar deficiency on one side or a brain stem deficit, but how could I determine that while he was unconscious? I also had no tools with me.
The nurse suggested that we lie him face up in the aisle. I said, "I don't think that's a good idea because he's been vomiting and we don't want him to aspirate on his own vomit." Thinking... That's how Jimi Hendrix died. I gently pushed his head from against the seat in front of him to sitting upright. Now he was breathing from an oxygen tank. It could have been 2 or 30 minutes. I don't know which, but eventually his eyes opened. Although he didn't know his name, his body was limp and he was dazed and confused, eventually he was well enough for me to do a simple eye exercise to determine if he indeed had a cerebellar deficit. He did have a left cerebellar deficit. I rolled up my sleeves, stepped in front of him, in the vomit, and began moving his left hand, then left elbow in circular motions.
The oxygen levels in his blood, as determined by a pulse oximeter (pulse O2), were in the mid-70s. This is a critical situation, as a low level would be 94%, and within normal limits would be 98-99%. His brain was starving for oxygen and he was losing cells every minute.
Within a few minutes of passive left body movement, his pulse O2 went to the mid-80%. His face became a bit more animated. The nurse wanted to shine a big flashlight in his pupils to see if there was a response. I recommended against that, as the flashlight was not small or gentle or specific enough. Too much light with a brain that fragile could kill more cells.
For approximately 4 hours of that flight, I was taking care of this man. The amazing details go on and on. I will write all the details of his ordeal in a chapter in my book. I used the medical kit to invent some treatments and continued to gently stimulate his left cerebellum, a couple hours before the flight landed, his pulse O2 was 99% on both sides of his body. It just seems that I was in the right place at the right time with the right set of tools in my head to help this man.
When we landed in Frankfurt, my one check in luggage bag had been lost. When I finally got my luggage 4 days later, I had never been so happy to see my pair of nail clippers.
Keep up the encouraging lifestyles! Dr. Merry