Is there a doctor on board?

“Is there a doctor on board?” I hate to hear those words. Several years ago, while I was working aggressively on expanding @miraclenoodle, I was flying about twice per month. For some reason in one of those spans, I had multiple flights where I heard the above.

On one particularly dramatic one, there was a woman who was having a minor stroke. There wasn’t much to do and the pilot urgently pushed for my decision regarding whether we needed to land the plane. The flight was from Germany back to the US. There was no choice really, I told the pilot, , we needed to land for her sake. The closest airport was Reykjavik, Iceland. Besides the few glaring people upset at the delay, most on board were very understanding. There was really nothing much to do but give her some oxygen and hold her hand. She sent me a lovely note 2 months later when she finally made it back to LA and was doing well. We flew in low into Iceland which was quite dramatic coming from the sea.

Shortly after that, I was on another international flight and this time, as I was getting out of the bathroom, looking directly at me just coincidentally the flight attendant was on the speaker and said “Is there a doctor on board?” In this case, I couldn’t avoid it, I often pause for a moment and look around to see if another doctor is jumping up 🙂 This time, it was a guy who had hernia surgery 2 days prior and from sitting, the wound swelled up slightly and he passed out after coming back from the bathroom after the look of it made him faint.

A few short weeks later, I was at a sushi restaurant and a similar situation presented itself, I was walking out of the bathroom and a woman literally jumped up in my face clutching her throat as she was choking on sushi. My God, I thought, not again! I gave her the Heimlech but it didn’t work, she passed out, I thought she was going to die because I certainly wasn’t confident doing an emergency tracheotomy. I started doing admominal thrusts and by a real Miracle, really, it popped out and then the EMT’s came, by then she was breathing and ok. When I looked up from the ground, her husband was crying as was the restaurant manager. All I know is I now had a splitting headache, couldn’t really finish dinner with my friends and went home and sat in the bathtub for an hour thanking God it all worked out for her.

Shortly after that, I was on another plane and saw a bunch of people in wheelchairs before a flight, I had a bad feeling and sure enough about 2 hours in, again!! Well, this time another doctor had jumped in and the flight attendant said it was fine. Incidentally, an EMT would probably be better than any MD especially one that is a specialist like me that rarely deals with anything other than some minor bleeders during procedures and people passing out from the same procedures!

I don’t know why all of these things happened to me in a such a short period of time, but with life resuming and travel becoming more popular again, it made we remember these events and think about the role of a doctor in society and how we actually all bear responsibility to know basic first aid in terms of the care of people around us. We also bear some responsibility for the general health of those around us. Whether that is making it known you are open to sharing the ideas of the healthy lifestyle you might be pursuing or serving as an example of someone who is proactive about their health. Never before do we have at our disposal more resources to reclaim our health from chronic disease while at the same time never before have some many institutions been arrayed unfairly against that information. Hopefully, you never have to deal with urgent situations, but we also have people slowly dying from diseases that they don’t have to suffer from. In your family or community it may not be verbally expressed but there is a silent call screaming out “Is there a doctor here?” In this case, maybe it is you who has the information or just the hand to hold while they work on making better choices and healing themselves

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Jonathan Carp, MD

Dermatologist, health food entrepreneur, beach addict, and health teacher.