We all know that air travel is one of the safest modes of transportation available today. In fact, a recent study conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that (on average) over 46,000 people die in auto accidents annually, compared to 137 deaths in 2020 due to air travel accidents. Dr. Barnett of MIT compared the chance of dying from an airline accident versus dying from an auto accident, and determined you are 19 times safer in a plane than in a car. It’s no doubt for those of us who perhaps need that extra adult beverage before we get on board to ease our fear of flying, that’s a comforting thought.
However, what if you have a medical emergency at 30,000 feet? The likelihood of simply landing the aircraft within a timely manner to save a life becomes nearly impossible.
That’s the challenge that faced a Delta airline flight To New York City on October 6th, 2019, as witnessed by acclaimed conservative radio host and best selling author Todd Starnes, a passenger on the miracle flight.
The flight began as routine, until a fellow woman passenger seated a few aisles away began having trouble breathing. Moments later, a concerned flight attendant got on the intercom asking if there were any doctors on board and if so, they were needed quickly. Incredibly, there were 5 doctors on board, one of which was a cardiologist.
“It must have been terrifying, but there was such a calm atmosphere on board,” Starnes said. “The Lord was clearly in control.”
Soon, there was another announcement by the flight attendant asking for the cardiologist, indicating that the woman passenger might be having a heart attack.
Moments later, another announcement by the same flight attendant requesting a particular heart medication for the woman, which Starnes actually had in his mini travel bag tucked in the overhang compartment of the plane. The medication would normally be in a suitcase in the cargo section of the plane, but the 54-year-old radio personality had rushed to the airport earlier in the day and stuffed his medicines into his travel bag.
Starnes knew very well what the lady was going through because in 2005, at the age of 37, he underwent open-heart surgery to replace his aortic valve with a mechanical valve. “As a cardiac patient,” he said, “you do think about what would happen if you had an episode on a plane or driving down the highway.”
The pilot decided to divert the flight to Biltmore so the woman could receive medical attention quicker by paramedics who were waiting for her on the ground. Once the Delta flight landed, the stricken passenger was immediately taken off the plane. The flight resumed to New York City 45 minutes later.
This incident reminded Starnes that there was still some good left in humanity, and that all of us have to be there for each other. “Passengers in my section of the plane had actually stopped watching the television screens and they put down their smart-phones to engage in what was happening,” he said. “They kept coming back and asking to see my medications and one guy marveled at the ‘coincidence.’ I remember telling him quietly, ‘No, sir. It’s not a coincidence. It’s God.’”