Back in the days when I was a flight attendant, in one of my flights (Beirut – Bahrain), about 1 hour 30 minutes into the flight, and while doing the usual tour of the cabin, I noticed an old man -sitting next to his sleeping son. He was looking at my direction with a blank face. I smiled but he didn’t smile back. I smiled again and again… he didn’t smile back! In normal days I would have just rushed back to the galley, mumbling about how rude it is not to smile back at people who smile at you! But not that day. Something made me approach the old man and ask him if he needed anything. And guess what?!… yes he didn’t answer me… Again! he just kept looking at the same direction without even blinking. A gentle nudge was all he needed to fall back in his seat and make me realize that something was wrong! He was still breathing but not responsive. I remember this very very well; I was probably 22years old then. I remember how with my one free hand, woke his son sleeping next to him, (the other hand was holding him tight), and asked him to run to the nearest available crew member and ask them to come. I remember taking a deep breath and screening my brain to look for the right drill that I should follow. I remember clearing his airway, checking his breathing, and pulse. Everything was fine. But still the man wasn’t responding! My colleague, who was called by the old man’s son, made an announcement asking if there was any doctor onboard …. Of course there was none!
At that instant the old man’s breathing became very weak, as did his pulse, and in the blink of a eye, I was with another one of my colleagues performing a CPR to the body now laying on the floor, against the bulkhead! The captain was informed and we were about to divert and land in Kuwait… the only thing is… my colleague and I had to perform that CPR for the next 30 minutes or so, until we land safely into Kuwait International Airport, and the old man goes into the care of a doctor who would either save him or pronounce him… yes that’s right, pronounce him DEAD! Can you imagine what that means? A human being’s life was in our hands! Can you imagine the pressure? The panic? The shaky hands? the sweat dripping from our heads? Our exceedingly fast heartbeats that we were almost certain could be heard from distance? Yet and in the middle of all that, I knew what I had to do and I was doing it!
We were supposed to take turns with another pair of fellow crew members, and just seconds before I moved my hands to make space for the person replacing me, the almost cold body underneath my hands jumped… his eyes were open and the breathing was back! Just like in a movie! and before I knew it, the man sat upright a little confused but absolutely aware of what had happened to him! He was crying, holding our hands and hugging us! We saved his life! Can you believe it! Yes, he was awake, breathing, and alive! Before we even landed in Kuwait (Which we did anyways, so that he can receive the medical care he needed!).
This was the first time in my whole life, I deal with a real crisis! A matter of life or death! The first time in my life, my actions had a huge impact on someone else’s life! A weight on my shoulder that I never ever thought I would be able to carry, it never even occurred to me that something like that might cross my path.
When we face a crisis, some of us freeze, some other people panic, and very few might respond calmly and efficiently. The only thing is that you don’t really know to which group you will belong until you actually face the crisis! and even then you still can’t be sure how you will react to the next one, because each crisis is different, and each one provokes a different reaction.
It is very scary, knowing that sometime, somewhere, you will face a situation where you might just freeze. You might not know what to do or how to react! You might have no help, no guidance, no advices! The consequences might be fatal! Someone might never forgive you for what you did, or what you didn’t do actually! You might lose someone very dear to you. Someone might die, someone might get fired, someone might lose all their life savings… etc!! And all that is based on how you will react…. Scary isn’t it? So how do we prepare ourselves? How to be certain that when that dreaded time comes, we will be ready? This really scares me…. How can I make sure that in every critical situation, I’ll be able to do what I did years ago, and save someone’s life, preform the drill correctly? Will I even remember the drill? Yes, I believe in God and I believe that everything is written somewhere up there, but I still worry! Sometimes I practice … Yes, I do! In my mind I play multiple scenarios, I give myself a chance to explore all the options …….. What I will do, what I might do, and what I shouldn’t do! You see, it is like a software that I programmed in my brain, every time with a different scenario, so that when something actually does happen, I can be familiar with it! I’ll remember how I dealt with it, how I solved the situation, what worked and what didn’t.
Have you ever faced a crisis? and how did you deal with it? Do you ever think of training yourself so you can be almost sure you’ll do the right thing? Maybe we all should? What do you think?