It’s been one month since Dean LaBarba graduated from medical school – but he wasn’t expecting to start his life-saving career so soon.
LaBarba, who had just finished at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, on a 12-hour flight from Zurich to Los Angeles with his wife last month when a female passenger sitting close to them said that she didn’t feel well. Before she could get up to use the restroom, she collapsed.
LBarba immediately rushed to the woman’s side only to find that she didn’t have a pulse. He tried massaging her sternum as a means of improving blood flow – but to no avail.
With the help of another passenger, he had the woman lie across a row of seats so he could begin chest compressions. After six pushes, she started to regain consciousness.
LaBarba, his wife, and the passenger were moved to first class where the newly-graduated doctor monitored her health.
“I remained at her side continually checking on her and asking if she felt any abdominal pain, chest pain, nausea or leg cramps,” LaBarba said. “It’s hard to say what happened in those 15 seconds after she collapsed, but I think she may have experienced a syncope episode.”
A syncope episode is when someone faints as a result of a drop in heart rate or blood pressure. Though the woman was shaken, she made it through the following 10 hours of the flight without any incident.
The passenger expressed her extreme gratitude towards LaBarba, who happened to be the only physician on board the 300-person flight that day. He says that the experience confirmed his “calling and desire to help people.”
LaBarba’s wife Ivy said: “I was so proud to the point of tears.”
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