Here’s what Southwest Airlines Did When 3 Women Ran to Assist a Passenger Having a Seizure


It was a sleepy Sunday morning in New Orleans airport.  After just attending my 20 year high school reunion in the “Big Easy” I was tired, wearing comfortable travel clothes, and scrolling through my Facebook feed at the gate as we were just about to begin boarding.  However, a man yelled out “someone help” and huge circle of space opened up from where the yell emanated close to the boarding area across the room.  He pointed to a man shaking violently in his chair with foam coming from his mouth.


This immediate backing away from the scene is typical of a medical type emergency as most people feel unfamiliar or scared to help when they are not sure what to do, and therefore people tend to scatter out of the way. Contrast that with people who are medically trained- we tend to run toward an unknown situation where help is needed.


This large man was actively having a generalized seizure in a chair where he sat alone.  3 women ran to his assistance.  We briefly introduced each other to understand our skillsets (one was a surgical tech, another a nurse, and myself a physician).  We worked together to lower him to the ground where we could lay him on his left side to facilitated oxygenation and attempted to protect his head from the surrounding metal seats during the violent seizure.


Southwest flight attendants (or perhaps gate attendants) quickly approached and asked how they could help.  We asked for them to call 911.  We quickly reached to grab his wallet to find identification and to see if there were any medical alerts that may be of assistance.  We asked the attendants to also try to find out if he was traveling alone, and if they could contact family.


No one from southwest questioned our ability to help, or ask for credentials proving who we were before allowing us to assist this man in need. 


The man stopped seizing and we all took a deep breath and discussed the next steps, but he suddenly started seizing again.  We waited with him patiently, protecting his airway and his head and the second seizure eventually stopped. 


EMS arrived about 5 minutes later and got him to a stretcher and off to the hospital. He was still in a post ictal state from the seizures and obviously in no condition to travel.


We realized after the crisis was averted that the gate at the terminal had become eerily quiet as everyone watched the ordeal unravel.  Once he was on the way to the hospital people began to mill about, and I joined my husband back at my seat.


Unfortunately, there have been many articles recently about women physicians being turned away by flight attendants during a medical emergency in flight, and having to prove their credentials before being allowed to assist.  These women doctors were apparently not meeting a certain stereotypical appearance expected by the attendants.  In contrast, older male physicians coming along later were allowed to help without question.  These events have hampered timely medical intervention and exposed sexism still prevalent in our country.


Southwest employees did none of this.  They were supportive in any way they could be, were appreciative for the help, and had the ailing passenger’s best interest at the forefront of their actions. 


After about 10 minutes, an announcement on the load speaker requested the 3 women who assisted in the medical emergency to come to the gate desk before we board.  Here we go, I thought.  They are now going to make me show my credentials, explain what happened, prove how I am qualified to have assisted.  But no, they gave each of us a small voucher for a future flight instead and thanked us for the help, with no further questions asked.  Kudos Southwest.


This event occurred a few months ago and I haven’t thought of it since that day.  However, I was reminded of it today when I saw an article about how a homeless man helped injured and bleeding children in the wake of the tragic events at the UK concert suicide bombing.  His credentials are irrelevant.  When a need arises for a fellow human and everyone else runs the other way, I hope more people step up like he did. 


hospital birth, Parenting, Physician Training, Uncategorized

Mother’s Day on Labor and Delivery

Mother’s Day weekend is a great time to be the ob-gyn on call for deliveries at the hospital.  Of course, we physicians would love to be snuggled up next to our little ones on this special day.  However, the next best place to be is bedside with a woman about to become a first time mom.

The new mom is unaware how her life will change. Sure she has had countless advice from well-meaning friends and family. What diapers, breast pumps, sleep sacs, and toys are essential and how to handle the sleepless nights and messy house are all topics of endless conversations these days.

Labor stories abound and she has heard 50 different versions of what could happen during the process and how it didn’t always go the way it was expected.  Everyone has their own struggles and triumphs to share but most of the stories end with a healthy baby and a physically exhausted mom who may be hurting from delivery or surgical wounds but exhilarated in the way only a new mom can understand.


Little does she know, she will never be the same person.  Her body will never be the same.  Her heart learns to expand to be able to love exponentially more with each child she has. Her needs now become secondary to those of another, and she will gladly have it this way.  She experiences life with a different view and understanding of others and thinks of random strangers as “someone’s son or daughter”.  She finally has a better appreciation for her own mother and understands her love in a much deeper way.  To help deliver her baby and be a very small part of this transformation is a unique gift.  Watching it unfold as her newborn is placed in her arms for the first time is one of the most gratifying experiences as an ob-gyn, and for a moment everything is blissful.

But there is also a different group of women that are sometimes forgotten on mother’s day.


On Mother’s Day, many other patients are also on my mind.  The patients who have struggled with infertility for years. The patients who have suffered miscarriage, possibly multiple times. The patients who have lost an infant shortly after birth, or many years down the road. This day weighs especially heavy on them.  It forces them to deal with their hurt.  It resurfaces pain and brings memories to the front of their mind that are always lurking in the background. I have been on this journey with many of them.

While celebrating the wonderful women in my own life and the people who are getting to experience the world of motherhood for the first time, I stop to remember and include the women who are forever changed by the short life of a child, pregnancy that ended too soon, or the indescribable desire to become a mother.



The 20 Minute Infertility Patient


You arrive early to the office and start reviewing the schedule for the day.  There it is…4 infertility consults scattered in the schedule amongst annual exams, postoperative follow ups, new obstetric patients, and “problem” visits. You know that infertility consults take much longer than the 20 minutes allotted for the appointment time. For a second, your mind jumps to how these appointments will undoubtedly make you run late for the rest of the day, and how being late will cause frustration to your other patients waiting to be seen.  


However, you quickly remember that it is not the patient’s fault that your schedule is not under your control.  You wish you could schedule this patient for the hour they deserve.  It is not the patient’s fault that they are dealing with this complex issue with multiple layers of social, medical, financial, and emotional components. Your patient is hurting and confused and needs you at your best.


You give a quick tap on the exam room door and then introduce yourself with a warm smile.  Your patient tries to reciprocate but you can see the nervousness behind their forced smile that appears it could crack at any second and lead way to tears.  Her husband sits quietly in a chair next to her, his eyes glued to the ground for most of the visit.


So much is tied up into a consult for infertility.  There is fear, hope, confusion, excitement, frustration.  Fear that something may be terribly wrong and they can never have children. Hope that maybe you have an answer, a medication, or a treatment to help them.  Excitement that they are taking the first step towards the road to concrete ways to get pregnant.  Frustration that they have been trying for over a year on their own without success.


There is so much to go over in so little time.  You have 20 minutes to find out about their health history, their struggles to this date, their medications.  When discussing this painful struggle your patient breaks down in tears as this has affected her life in so many unspoken ways.  You give her a tissue and time to compose herself and patiently wait for her to be ready to proceed.  All of this occurs before you can even move forward with their reason for coming- answers. 


You must review their insurance information as not everything may be covered for infertility services and they will want to know this moving forward.  Cost is a huge part of infertility and testing/treatments.  They need testing- a lot of it.  Both your patient and her husband will need lab work.  You order a special radiology test, hysterosalpingogram, to check if the fallopian tubes are open. You feel this test needs an explanation as this is an invasive procedure and somewhat uncomfortable test, so you take an extra 5 minutes to review what will be involved when she goes to radiology.


Finally, once the beginning plan is in place and your patient knows what tests are required, how to find out more about her insurance coverage, and what to expect in the coming weeks, she looks relieved. She feels heard, understood, and reassured.  This health care environment is not easy for anyone to navigate, especially the patient.


You wrap up the visit, happy that you are going with her on this journey and look forward to her hopefully becoming pregnant and then delivering her much desired baby down the road. You know there is a long path ahead of her and there will be many future visits before that can occur.  However, there is hope through modern medicine for couples with infertility that may not have been there decades prior. 


You realize the tradeoffs and imbalances that are occurring in medicine.  Innovation but with astronomical expense.  If your patient requires IVF down the road this may be cost prohibitive to her as not all insurances provide coverage for this treatment which can require tens of thousands of dollars.


For physicians, there is pressure to see more patients with less time allotted for each patient, despite increasingly high risk, complex medical conditions.  For employed physicians there is no financial incentive to do this and there is little control over the schedule.  You take additional minutes with the patient where you can, save the documentation for later, and give the patient the time they need when the situation calls for it.



You Retired From Medicine- Now What? 

There is time for recovering.

 I’ll be honest, I feel like the first 2 months after retiring from my career in OB/GYN were about reclaiming my life. I got a full night’s sleep.  Actually, my nights were still broken up by 1 & 3 year old tears regularly (which I don’t mind so much when I know I don’t have to go to work in the morning).  However, I was having much more restful sleep as I was no longer on call or answering my pager/phone calls from the hospital throughout the night. I rediscovered exercise.  I haven’t exercised regularly in 8 years. Wow, what a difference going to the gym on a regular basis makes!  In summary, step 1 was take better care of myself.


Learning about something completely new.

I want to learn about finances.  This is important when you retire at 37.  You need to make sure the future is secure for yourself and your family.  Although I had reached financial independence at the time of decision to retire, finances will remain on your mind when you retire young since there is so much life ahead.  I finally had a chance to delve into finance books, learn about the stock market, how to make passive income.  Luckily this was a good time to get interested in the stock market as it has been on a record streak.  I don’t presume to think it is my expertise in stock trading that has made it so much fun, but being in the right place at the right time and jumping in.  If you are interested, I found the following books helpful: The White Coat Investor: A Doctor’s Guide To Personal Finance And Investing,and  The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy.


Pursuing something I always wanted to do.

I am writing!  My first article was about the decision to retire at 37.  It was published on the website KevinMD.com.  I was shocked and impressed by the reach of his website to other physicians.  It was wonderful to reconnect with colleagues when contacted after seeing the article.  I also enjoyed hearing from internet “strangers” who have been in remarkably similar circumstances and felt like I was telling their story.  Since the article appeared to resonate with a lot of physicians, it made me want to write more.  There are obviously people going through the same struggles and maybe it helps to let each other know about it. I also feel it is important to know your life can take another path if you need it to and I want to help others realize this.  Hence my blog.



If you told me I would be blogging 6 months ago I would have said, “Not a chance”.  I am typically a very private person but I’ll admit that sending in my article about leaving medicine was cathartic and liberating.  Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to share your life with other people, especially if it may help them.  Besides, I am not bound by an employer or hospital anymore so I can pretty much say whatever is on my mind. 



This is one of my main passions.  I would go anywhere, anytime. I am always up for a trip to somewhere new.  So far, in my 6 months of retirement, I have been to the following places:

Clearwater, FL

Wilmington, NC

New Orleans, LA

Las Vegas, NV



 Plans in the next few months:

Fernandina Beach, FL

Outer Banks, NC

Sonoma, CA 

Trips out of the country are limited for now with 3 young kids.  I have to convince my husband that you can travel long distances with little ones first.


 Being available and present for my kids.

 I haven’t been able to be there for so much in the past.  It’s hard for all working parents- I get it. I absolutely understand this is a luxury and am so grateful for this. I wish there could be a better balance so that mothers and fathers wouldn’t feel so conflicted between their jobs and their family life. So, since I have this opportunity I am excited to relish it.  I will be there now for all field trips, doctor’s appointments, teacher conferences and soccer games.  All things I had to miss in the past.  I know kids are resilient and they know their parents love them when they are working but it’s hard on the parents sometimes more so than the kids.  We want to be there for those things. So for now, I am doing things like writing and investing and exploring new adventures that are flexible so that I can make my own schedule with my own priorities first.  I have been missing this control over my own life so much over the years.


Planning next steps.  

Retirees like to travel but when you have young kids you need to get creative.  In the next few years I want to start coordinating summer long trips to other countries with my family.  I don’t want to uproot them from their schedules/school life, so I plan to use the summers to experience other cultures and expose them to different ways of life.  I want my children to know more than the comfortable lifestyle in America that they are privileged to experience currently.  We are such a small piece of this world and I want them to understand that. There are things bigger than ourselves.


Lastly, I want to learn how to cook! 

Going straight from college to medical school, to residency, to full time employment as a physician left no time for learning to cook for myself or family (also no time to actually make a meal even if I knew how). I currently know how to make a pizza using premade pizza shells or “breakfast for dinner” which includes pancakes and eggs.  Yes, sad I know.   So, my goal is to learn how to make one thing every 3 weeks.  I need to start small- cooking is overwhelming to me!

Thoughts, comments? Suggestions?  Are you retired or do you have plans for what to do if you retire early from medicine? I would love to hear from you.