Monday, February 20, 2006

Think Twice About Travelling With Me

When I was in college, flying to Philadelphia, a man across the aisle would not wake up for his in-flight snack. I helped do CPR on him as we made an emergency landing in Rhode Island—but he was, quite clearly, already deceased.

When I was a month out of med school, buddy Ike and I were driving to Long Island to sail. We got off the interstate somewhere to get gas, and passed a crowd of people on a sidewalk with two legs sticking out, like the Wicked Witch after being squashed by the house. We hesitated, looked at each other, one or the other of us said “We’re doctors now—we’re supposed to do something.” We pulled over and tentatively nudged through the onlookers to the unconscious man on the pavement. Ike started a sternal rub and I started feeling for a pulse—just then a man tore through the crowd and shoved us aside, shouting “Get out of the way, I’m a doctor!” We heard an ambulance coming down the street and decided to vacate.

The next year, flying to St. Lucia to help move a boat, the flight attendant came on the P.A. system asking if there was a physician aboard. I raised my hand, and asked what the problem was. She said someone was having sudden chest pain. She asked if I had proof that I was a doctor. I wasn’t sure. She said she couldn’t let me see the person unless I had proof. I started fumbling through my wallet. She left, said to call again if I found proof. Eventually I found a CPR card that said “MD” on it. I called her back. She said they’d found a doctor in first class. She didn’t thank me. I’ve carried a copy of my medical license with me ever since.

Two years later, Ike and I and friends were down at Tropical Paradise 2 on vacation, sailing. One night I stayed on the boat while Ike and others dinghied over to a nearby ship, a fabled floating bar, famed for body shots and a tradition of jumping naked from the rigging. Someone did the latter, missed the water, caught a deck cleat, and tore open his thigh to the bone. Ike helped out… I was glad to miss out.

Two more years, in the back seat of a car of friends-of-friends, late at night, surrounded by a press of honking traffic after a Springsteen concert, at which I had had a number of beers, we passed a wreck out on the highway. Two cars were off the road, something was on fire, the night was oily dark, and there may or may not have been the shadow of a person pinned under one of the cars, and there may or may not have been shadowy figures of the other people running in circles like wraiths. I realized, simultaneously, that there was no ambulance there, and that I was too intoxicated to provide remotely adequate medical care. I still go back and forth with myself about that night, sometimes beating myself up, questioning whether a physician ever has a right to incapacitate his faculties unless he is sure to be utterly alone until he sobers up.

This week, flying back from Tropical Paradise 2, and ten minutes short of landing at Major Metropolitan Area, the flight attendant again asked if there was a physician or nurse aboard. My party comprised a psychiatrist, two pediatricians, and a urogynecologist. (We’d also had a pathologist, but he caught an earlier flight.) All four of us got up—but there were already doctors crowding the aisle. Apparently someone in the back had fainted, then recovered. Paramedics came on the plane as soon as we landed and walked off with the patient.

Just some random stories. I’m home.


Anonymous Johanna said...

Welcome back (to no snow still?)
My home-made solutions to the snow thing:

1. suck up to friends who own vacation homes in the snow belt. Put snow tires on VW. Drive.
2. complain about lack of snow in conference calls with Norwegian colleagues. Accept ensuing invitation to Norway.

Hey, it's working for me...

Trying to wrap my head around the discovery that, though 20 years older than the most of the article subjects, I fit a pattern. And why is there no catchy name for the shot from below where you puff your cheeks out like you're going to vomit? Try that for self-branding!

2/21/06, 7:31 AM  
Blogger Will said...

Every plane coming back from vacation land should have a shrink.

2/21/06, 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Might also be wise if you were to post where you're going on vacation, so we can get outta Dodge before you get there.. :D

2/21/06, 1:03 PM  
Blogger Katinka said...

Hey, welcome home! How was the sailing?

You know, maybe you could corner a market in the travel/health insurance business? I feel your pain though, I tend to attract my own set of mishaps.

In fact, I just got home from collecting a friend at the Airport, and what should have taken 1 hour took 4. It's becoming tradition!

2/21/06, 10:06 PM  
Anonymous girltuesday said...

welcome back tg. i've been offline for a couple of weeks and just getting caught up on the musings.

3/4/06, 5:06 PM  
Blogger The MSILF said...

Is there a name for a phobia of that happening?

3/14/08, 3:46 PM  

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