When Chris Van Gorder boarded United Airlines Flight 395 to San Diego after a recent board meeting in Chicago, the Scripps Health CEO didn’t know the most eventful part of his day was still ahead.
The flight experienced turbulence during takeoff and about 30 minutes in, a passenger became sick and began vomiting. Van Gorder identified himself as an emergency medical technician and assisted the patient with two registered nurses. The woman’s daughter translated most of the conversation, as the ill passenger only spoke Spanish.
“She had varying levels of consciousness and she was vomiting. She was pretty sick. Later (the RNs) expressed to me they thought she was having a stroke. The patient said she couldn’t feel her hands,” he said.
Van Gorder then followed stroke protocol. Initially the woman wasn’t squeezing Gorder’s hand as roughly as she was asked to, causing more concern.
“We took care of her for a few hours and the flight personnel were very supportive in getting us the things we needed. They brought me their medical pack, which was very impressive: it had IVs, nausea medications,” he said.
After two hours, it was decided to divert the flight to Albuquerque so the ill patient could be tended at a hospital. After about an hour layover, passengers re-boarded the flight to San Diego International Airport.
“I’m always willing to step up and help,” he said. “I just hope the patient and her family are OK—I wouldn’t know because of HIPAA—and that she’s receiving the best care at the hospital in Albuquerque,” Van Gorder said.