Emergency at Thirty-Six Thousand Feet
by Dr. Tomas McFie
I was standing at the lavatory sink in Minneapolis International Airport early on a Sunday morning when an elderly gentleman stumbled to the sink next to me. I looked and saw he was pale, shaken and wobbly so I asked him if he was okay. He gruffly replied “No, I’m not okay.” I asked him if I could help and he emphatically said “NO. I have a wheel chair outside.”
I left the restroom and looked around to see where his wheel chair might be; found and located it about 50 feet away. It was loaded with luggage and two women were standing over it. I approached the women to ask them if the gentleman in the restroom was in their party, mentioning that he probably needed some help when...out the gentleman stumbled. He lurched towards the wheel chair, and the women tossed the luggage to the floor so he could sit down. As he went to walk around the back of the wheel chair, so he could sit down, his feet got caught up in the shoulder strap of one of the pieces of luggage which had hastily been tossed to the floor. He would have fallen with his face forward had the younger woman in his party not reached out and grasped his beltline pulling him back to his feet.
Within minutes of sitting down he was wheeled down the skyway and pre-boarded. The rest of us passengers followed and boarded as well.
As we climbed to thirty-six thousand feet and while the flight attendants where distributing drinks, snacks, and breakfast sandwiches the loud speakers came on and the flight attendant asked if there was a doctor, nurse or paramedic on board. Two gentlemen seated just behind me stood up and walked up the aisle towards the flight deck. The flight attendant stopped them at the seat where the elderly gentleman whom I had first seen in the restroom just 45 minutes early was seated. Within the next few minutes the two volunteers had the fellow in the aisle and were performing CPR.
An emergency landing at the nearest airport which would accommodate a 757 Boeing jet was made. Ambulance and emergency crews were waiting there to come onboard. As they boarded the plane and relieved the two volunteers, it was only seconds before the bad news was known throughout the entire plane. What took place next was heart wrenching. The son of this elderly gentleman simply broke down and sobbed.
I couldn’t help reflect on the morning events as I looked back on them. As I reflected I wondered where this son was when his father needed help in the restroom. Why was the wheel chair so far away from the restroom door? Why did the poor fellow have to trip over luggage to get seated in his wheel chair? And what could I have done to help this poor fellow even though he didn’t want my help when I had asked him?
That is the advantage of retrospection. You can see what may have needed to happen to prevent what did happen. Though it never helps to blame others, or yourself, there are huge dividends for those who reflect on the past so that that they can plan for their future. As the old adage goes, “History repeats itself, and those who are wise study it to prepare for the future.”
Benjamin Franklin stated, “Two things in life are definite, death and taxes.” We can’t do much about taxes in this economy, but we can make our death easier for those that we love and care for.
I am shocked time and time again when I hear people mention that they don’t want to leave anything for anybody when they die. Nobody should have to face what this family on the plane is now faced with, without a life insurance policy to make the financial concerns be the least of concerns. And that is something that everybody can prepare for in advance and should if we really love anybody besides self.
The past holds some valuable keys to your future financial success. You don’t need to have an emergency at thirty-six thousand feet to force you to reflect on what can assist you today and tomorrow.
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