By Julie Janovsky-Mason
It was, perhaps, an airline passenger’s worst nightmare.
En route from North Carolina to Phoenix, Bernice Samuels, was about two hours from landing when she suddenly became ill and lost consciousness.
Samuels’ brother William Cheeks, who was travelling with her, asked the flight attendants if there was a doctor on board.
“She was not responding and appeared to be dead. Dr Mikhael came forward and quickly assessed the situation,” recounted Cheeks in a letter to Mayo Clinic, commending hematologist Joseph Mikhael, M.D., for coming to his sister’s rescue on a U.S. Airways flight in late February.
Dr. Mikhael, suspected the passenger - who was in her late 60’s, diabetic and on dialysis - was hypoglycemic.
“The medical pack on the flight was well stocked and I gave her a dose of glucose and aspirin. Thankfully she became alert rather quickly and we were able to give her fluids and monitor her for the rest of the flight,” said Dr. Mikhael, who kept the situation on the plane calm until paramedics arrived on the scene upon landing.
“Dr. Mikhael stayed with my sister throughout the whole ordeal monitoring her blood pressure and looking for any signs of brain issues or heart attack symptoms. His bedside manners were flawless,” said Cheeks, adding “Mayo Clinic should be proud to have this caliber of a doctor on staff. It is this caliber of doctor that helps maintain the positive image Mayo Clinic has around the world.”
Dr. Mikhael, who travels often, has been in similar situations on flights many times before. He says he’s treated medically distressed passengers for hypoglycemia, dehydration and heart problems, once instructing a pilot to land after a passenger was presenting with heart attack symptoms.
His selfless efforts helping Samuels did not surprise his colleagues.
“Dr. Mikhael embodies the very mission of Mayo Clinic. The needs of all patients come first, not only the ones in our exam rooms,” said Ruben Mesa, M.D., Chair, Hematology and Medical oncology division, Mayo Clinic in Arizona.