Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I could have saved someone's life- shame on me.

I have witnessed many anxiety and panic attacks in the 2 years I have been flying. I have held hands with a crying 6 foot 300 pound crying man, I have sung "somehwere over the rainbow" with a girl hyperventalating so much I thought she would pass out, but besides some edema from a sunburn, until this morning, I have never had a "real" medical emergency.

A man told me he felt faint. I got him a cold compress for his neck which helped. I asked him if he had any medical conditions, he said he had high blood pressure, I helped him get his medication and hoped he was just airsick. When he said he had to use the rest room I clicked into action. In training we were told that that can be an early signal of a heart attack so hearing that I got him some oxygen.

I was really proud of how competent I was, this man could be at the beginning of a heart attack and I was right there ready to help- I felt confident in my abilities that I could do a great job if it were to happen, or even better- prevent it.

I sat with him and got info on his symptoms, he wasn't nauseous, he wasn't sweating, and he had no chest pains, but he did have a stiff neck, faintness, abdominal discomfort, so kept an eye on him and let him rest, and the paramedics met the plane when we landed.

In the end it turned out it was anxiety! He was claustrophobic and hadn't slept much the night before! I was honestly shocked, he was so calm I didn't think anxiety for a second, but the paramedic described him as "a duck," calm on the outside but under the surface paddling like hell. The passenger rebooked to a later flight so he could chill out.

I can see today that therapy is a very good thing for me. How did I feel after leaving work? I should have felt really proud of my calmness in the situation, and happy that he was okay. Instead I felt ashamed, like I was stupid to think it was something serious when it was just anxiety.

I have heard that giving oxygen to someone having a heart attack can save their life, I am not trained as an EMT, I didn't know what was wrong, I did a good job, and if he had been in real trouble I would have really helped him. And even knowing that, I still felt really down on myself, not as in I didn't feel better than normal, instead I felt as if I had done something bad!

Therapy IS working, because I am recognizing that I am thinking this way, and I am challenging it instead of trusting the feeling that I had done something wrong.

I came up with why I do that to myself. I take accountability to unhealthy extremes. It gives me a sense of control. When I was a kid and my dad was passed out drunk every night, my life wasn't the way I wanted it. I was facing a difficult adolecence, my mother had died only 3 years earlier, my stepmother just left, I had developed early and was overwhelmed by the attention and teasing it led to, and I was having a hard time with classes. I was alone at that point, not only was he not helping me through these hard issues, but I was also alone safety wise. Someone in our tough neighborhood could have very easily watched my dad's evening routine and known that our house had the door unlocked, our belongings and a little girl inside, unguarded. Facing the fact that my life was like this and there was nothing I could do about it was a little too much for me to swallow. So I convinced myself, with quite a bit of logic twisting, that I was accountable.

I did everything I could to be perfect and easy, so he wouldn't have to drink anymore to run away from the pain of having to raise me. When it didn't work I felt that I failed, so instead I was bad (as bad as a goody-goody like me can be anyway.) At least then I felt a sense of cause and effect- I am a bad daughter, that's why he passes out everynight, becuase I am so hard to manage. Another reason I was "bad" is summed up by a poem I wrote back then:

Daddys on the bottle
Mommys in the grave
If no one's there to notice
then why should I behave?

Back then I learned to claim responsibility for things I had no control of, I would blame and punish myself when things went wrong so I didn't have to feel powerless.
Dr. T calls this a "Maladaptive Behavior" people don't have bad habits out of the blue, they start out as survival tools. Because they were "effective" at the time, we continue to do them, even if they interfere with our present lives.

[Hmm, maybe thats part of why I am idle in response to a messy house too. (Imagine the squalor you see on "Cops." the sinkfuls of dishes with flies, garbage and junk strewn all over the floors, that was my house was after my dad started drinking)]

To feel ashamed of myself today instead of proud makes no sense when I look at it in a vaccum. But when I look at the big picture, that I have the maladaptive behavior of expecting myself to be perfect and to be able to control everything, it makes sense.

Now what I need to do is treat myself the way my mom, (or my dad before he started drinking) would treat me. I should give myself a big hug and say "You did a good job today- I'm proud of you"

mood: cry-ey. But thats a good thing. I love to cry but I rarely can. I got some good tears out of this post, real good.


That Girl said...

You did do a good job, it could have been something serious.

Satan said...

Diana, Diana, Diana

I'm so disappointed in you for NOT being the ONLY fully qualified 'Flight Stewardess MD'. I know the pay is low for a Doctor but you're doing it for the love of helping people with their medical emergencies and keeping their tray in the upright position upon landing and take off, right?

I'm glad your seeing the bigger picture, you did really well. Congrats.

Next week on Flight Stewardess MD... Diana attends to the wounded during freefall after a mid-air collision - Yeah, I think we can turn this into a show.

Diana Crabtree said...

Thank you Sparkle- that reinforcement means the world to me :)

Diana Crabtree said...


That must be the best possible thing you could ever say! That was so funny! Thank you.

UH! Now off I go for my next emergency...maybe I will deliver a breach baby while simultaniously performing open heart surgery on the mother using soda cans as scalpels.

Satan said...

Who are you calling sparkle?

Satan said...

Don't forget to make sure every one gets their little packet of nuts.

Diana Crabtree said...

"That Girl" is Sparkle.

You are Twinkle

Satan said...

You're surrounded by 'Stars'.

Diana Crabtree said...

Yeah! People call me "spacy" all the time!

Satan said...

That's becuase you are the firmament above our landscape.


Diana Crabtree said...

Goodbye twinkle, my head is in the clouds, soon my whole body will be :)

Diana Crabtree said...

Damn, I don't think I saw that. New Roommate and I will soon be getting Netflix however

Satan said...

What do you mean... Goodbye??????

Satan said...

It's Kevin Spacy film where he's an Alien. Surprisingly Good.

Satan said...

Well, I hope you landed safely. : )

Satan said...

Well, I hope I see it again.

Diana Crabtree said...

K-Pax? You can get it at any Blockbuster store nationwide :)

elvira black said...


Bravo! You should be super-proud of yourself for doing such an excellent job.

My boyfriend is prone to anxiety attacks, and he tells me they are horrific. The symptoms can be very similar to a heart attack--including chest pains, etc.--and from what he tells me it feels like you are going to die then and there.

At one point when he kept getting chest pains day after day and night after night, I entreated him to let me take him to the hospital. He refused, but when he finally saw a doc, they said his heart was fine--just anxiety. From then on, the pains stopped (for a long while, and now they're much less frequent).

That's the thing about those symptoms--sometimes you think you or someone else might be having a heart attack, and if you don't go to the doc and it goes away, you feel kind of glad you didn't go though the whole rigamarole for naught. Just last week, I started getting an ache in my arm right before I visited the doc. He checked my heart and said I sounded fine. On the way home, I figured it was probably from carrying a heavy bag around--duh!

So although your passenger wasn't having a coronary, thank goodness, I still think that what you did to help and attend to him was invaluable. How much more horrific, being trapped in a plane with no way to escape, not to have anyone to keep your from spiraling even further into panic?

I, too, have taken on more responsibilty than I was "entitled" to (lol) at certain points in my life. About 19 years ago, when I was editing some college bulletins, I wound up in a mental hospital because I became convinced that some typos might have crept in and that I would be the ruin of student's academic careers for printing the wrong prerequisite for a course or something. It was all a delusion, but in any case it took me years to loosen up a bit and stop being so meticulous. Truly maladaptive behavior indeed--when I lost control, I fell completely apart. In the back of my mind, I always knew that day of reckoning would arrive.

But at least your heart (and mine) were in the right place--i.e. trying to do your best because you had a sense of accountablity and empathy. There are many people in all walks of life who eschew responsibility and do not take their jobs seriously. I think whether you are a sanitation engineer or a president, doing your job in a competent and conscientious manner is essential.

Witnessing the incompetence and indifference being displayed by our admin and fed branches for all to see, it truly astounds me, because the President and the head of FEMA et al actually do handle life and death decisions every day. How do they sleep--how do they keep themselves out of the mental ward? Well, some people are "carriers" (lol)--they just drive other people crazy.

In any case, I think you did a real mitzvah. If I were ever sick on a flight, you'd be the one I'd want to turn to!

Idony said...

I agree with above commenter.. Dude, don't rack down on anxiety! I'm sure the guy was appreciative of your attention!

J has anxiety, but when his attacks hit, its more like he can't stop babbling, he starts sweating, looking disoriented etc. No wonder you couldn't tell it was "only" anxiety.

You did great!