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Providence Employees Ease the Way at 33,000 Feet

April 29, 2013

On a recent Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Los Cabos, Mexico, one of the passengers suddenly experienced extremely low blood pressure and fainted.

As it happened, there were two people of Providence on the flight, and both came to the man’s assistance. Jay Kay, senior director, communications infrastructure, and his wife were sitting in the first row in Coach, directly in front of the sick man. The flight attendants started giving the man oxygen and applying cold compresses, and then needed some help as they tried to make him upright in his seat.

Jay jumped up to assist. As he did, he told the flight attendants that during boarding he had noticed a passenger wearing a Providence St. Joseph Emergency Department vest. Jay suggested the flight attendants locate that passenger and ask for help.

Kristine Zeigler, RN, from Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson, came forward. The flight attendants handed her a blood pressure cuff and a stethoscope. “The stethoscope was broken and the BP cuff wasn’t calibrated,” Kristine said. So it was “a bit of a struggle” to determine the man’s blood pressure, which had fallen to about 82/64. Kristine suggested the man lie down. Together she and Jay stood him up and were able to lay him on the floor between Coach and First Class.

Kristine put the man’s feet up and then sat next to him, taking his vitals and comforting him, as well as applying compresses and giving him oxygen. As she spoke with the man and asked about his medical history, Kristine determined he had probably become dehydrated.

The plane was still more than an hour out from Los Cabos and Kristine stayed throughout with the passenger, whose condition improved slightly. “He was alert and in generally good health,” Kristine said. “A lot of what I did was to reassure him and his wife, who was of course very worried.”
After the plane landed, all the other passengers, including Jay and Kristine, were instructed to leave. Local medical personnel then came aboard to tend to the man.

In a bit of irony, Jay had visited the Polson hospital just the week before, but he and Kristine did not meet then. He thinks their meeting in the air was fate.

“It was clearly Providence that I noticed Kristine’s vest when she boarded the plane,” Jay said. “And it was Providence that someone with her compassion and knowledge was on our flight to help.”