“Is There a Doctor On Board?” | My Experience


Is there a doctor on board? Now these words uttered by a flight attendant are sure to get anyone’s heart racing,
especially a doctor’s. This is my story. [music playing] Okay, so before we dive in, it’s important to understand how medical school, medical training in the US works. Now we do four years of medical school and in the last couple months of your fourth year between matching to residency, which happens in mid-march and the end of June, you don’t really have that much to do. A lot of students, myself included,
we usually take this time for either easy rotations, research rotations,
or not having any rotations. And we use that time to travel
because once you’re in residency, you don’t really have much of a chance
to actually travel internationally, enjoy yourself, things like that. So my friends and I, we had created our schedule
for our fourth year of medical school such that it was front-heavy, so that at the end, we actually didn’t have class that we
needed to take. So we decided to travel and what better place than Bali
to celebrate graduating medical school. Now once you graduate medical school,
you have your MD and you’re a doctor. And then you have to do anywhere
between three and seven years of residency in whatever specialty you choose. Okay, so my friends had left before me
and I was catching up. So just me, you know, on the tarmac,
in this plane, SFO Airport. We hadn’t taken off yet and then I hear
over the loudspeaker… “Is there a doctor on board?
We require your assistance.” And I’m sitting there like, “Hmm… I wonder what the medical emergency
could be?” Since I was not a doctor, I was a medical student. A fourth-year med student. I had completed all of my training and was essentially just waiting
until graduation. I was like, “You know what, not a doctor.
Med student. I’m gonna sit down. This is an international flight.
There are hundreds of people on this plane. I’m sure there is a doctor here,
that’s gonna get up, volunteer and handle the situation.” So I sit there, you know, return to
like texting or getting excited about this Bali trip. And then a few minutes later, I hear again. “Excuse me, is there a doctor on board?
We require your assistance.” And now I’m getting a little bit stressed because on one hand I feel responsible,
like I should do something but on the other hand I’m, like,
“Well, I’m literally finishing my fourth year. I’m in like relaxation chill mode and what if this is something that I can’t handle. What if, what if it’s an MI, what if it’s,
you know, syncope. How am I gonna work this up?” Like, “Do I remember everything that I need
to know to handle such a situation.” After about 20-30 seconds of contemplating,
I realized that none of that really mattered. There could be someone in need and I could go up
and see if I could help and if not, not a big deal. So I get up and I find this group
of flight attendants around a bathroom. I’m like, “Oh man, someone must have
passed out. What could this be? All right what would I do
to work up A, B, C and D.” And I walk up, I say, “Excuse me, I’m not a doctor,
I’m a medical student but what is going on?” Now there was a little bit of a language barrier so I’m not sure if they understood
that I was a med student not a doctor. But you know, they moved me forward
and I see this mother and her daughter. Now guess what the medical emergency could be. Again, we’re– The plane is now delayed,
we’re still grounded not taken off yet and we are delayed
because of this medical emergency in the bathroom. Let me surprise you. It was a tick! That’s right. A tick. So, the mother had found a tick
on her daughter’s thigh. Her daughter was maybe 3 or 4 years old and the mother was very visibly distressed
because of this tick. And she’s, like, “Oh my God!
What are we gonna do? Like I can’t– We can’t take off.
We gotta take care of this.” I’m like, “Ma’am don’t worry. This is–“, you know,
well, we should be taking a tick off within 24 hours of it first attaching to
the patient just because you want to minimize the risk of any disease
transmission, especially the Lyme disease.” But you know, what’s 20 minutes between, you know, doing it right there
and then waiting till we take off. So I calmed the mother down. I explained to her, “Hey, you know,
this is not something that’s super urgent. We can take care of it as soon as we take off
and once the seat belt sign comes off.” So I calm her down. Go back to our seats. So I sit down, of course,
pull up UpToDate on my phone, I still have reception because
we haven’t taken off yet, and I take a screenshot of the instructions. Again, it’s very simple to remove a tick
but anyways, we take off, we’re in the air and as soon as
the fasten seat belt sign comes off, boom! The mother and the father
and the daughter are right by my side, back in the plane and they’re like,
“Oh, can you help us now? I’m like, “Sure!” You know again, I’m a med student,
I’m not a doctor so here the instructions and I pull out my phone and
I show them the screen shot, which was like steps 1 through 6. Very straightforward, not a big deal. They are like, “Oh no, no, no you do it!” And in that moment I’m thinking… “Okay, the Good Samaritan Law
probably doesn’t apply here. We’re now flying internationally.
I’m not in the States. Any malpractice, any liability.
Is this a good idea?” And then I realized, “You know what,
it’s a tick, not a big deal.” So we get out, we go to the back and you know, mom pulls onto her toddler and I grab some tweezers and then you can
gently want to remove the tick. You don’t want to separate the head from the body, and you don’t want to squeeze out the
contents. Other than that, it’s pretty simple. Pull it out. Ziploc bag. Seal it. Done! And that was that. So then the mother and the father are so grateful. They’re like, “Oh thank you doctor! I’m like, “Hey, med student!” But, “Oh thank you, thank you, thank you.” I’m like, “Really not a problem. My pleasure. I’m happy I could help out, you know. Take care.” And, you know, we had a great conversation. They were in Vermont, which is an area
that does have Lyme disease. So I’m glad that we took off the tick and you know, and then I’m heading
back to my seat and then the flight attendants stopped me
and they’re like, “Oh thank you doctor, thank you doctor.” I’m like, “Med student!” And they were also so grateful. And they like treated me
like a celebrity for the rest of the flight. It was hilarious, actually. So first they were serving food and they gave me extra food just because I had helped this fellow
passenger out. They gave me ice cream. They just like brought ice cream for me for free. They brought me like alcohol. It was– It was crazy. Free alcohol, free ice cream, just because I had removed a tick,
like seriously, the easiest thing you can do on an airplane
in such a situation, right. I really lucked out. And that was that. So then, you know, we’re flying, smooth sailing. I think I arrived in like Tokyo or Taipei and then from there went to Bali. And I told my friends about this. And my friends were, like, “Whoa, Kevin. Someone said is there a doctor on board
and you…” and again we’re all fourth year
med students at this time. They are like “you got up?” Some of them were like,
“Wow, Kevin you’re really brave.” Some of the other ones were like,
“I would never do that, that was foolish of you. What if it was something you couldn’t handle?” So mix of responses
and the main lessons I took were number 1, when I changed– When I shifted perspective and wasn’t really worrying about myself, because in that moment that before, you know, I was hesitating even after
they called it a second time for like 20-30 seconds, I was
like, “Ooh, what if I can’t handle this? You know, I’m, I’m just a fourth year med student
not a doctor yet.” And when I realized that it wasn’t about me, it was about someone
who could be having an emergency. Maybe it was something
that was way over my head. Maybe my basic ACLS training
would not have sufficed or maybe it was something
that I just couldn’t handle. That being said, I could help. I wasn’t going to make the situation worse. So that’s what I told my friends, you know. In this situation it wasn’t about me, it wasn’t about, “Oh am I a doctor?
Am I a med student? No I’m only a couple months away
to complete my requirements.” That’s not important. What’s important is that
someone needs help and I could possibly help. Because I have the medical training,
I have this skill set that not everyone has. So that was number one. Number two, I felt really privileged in that moment to be going into the career of medicine, to be a physician because
the way that you can help people in their times of need is such a–
It’s a very satisfying and rewarding experience. And not because of the free
ice cream or the free alcohol, but it just, it feels good to connect
with another person and walk them through a situation where they are distressed, where they’re not happy,
where they’re not in a good place and help them through that. It’s just– It kind of comes back to the whole like, how do you find meaning, purpose
and happiness in life? It has to be something outside of yourself. If you are just constantly seeking, you know, “I just want to be happy, I just wanna be happy.”
You’re never ever gonna be happy. But if you instead have a mission to help others or provide value in a way
that doesn’t just focus on yourself, you actually benefit much more. So anyways, that is my story. I feel very privileged to have been able
to help someone in their time of need, even if it was something as small as a tick
needing o be removed, really not a medical emergency. But I hope you enjoyed that. If you have any stories
about when you were on a plane and there was a medical emergency, I’d love to hear it down in the comments below. And I will see you guys in that next one. [music playing]

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