By Ms. Suzanne Ovel (Army Medicine)February 1, 2018
TACOMA, Wash. -- When a fellow passenger lost oxygen and experienced chest pains last summer while flying at 35,000 feet in the air, Dr. Curtis Hobbs stepped up to stabilize him and make sure he landed safely.
"You stood up and not just took care of the patient, but took care of family members and actually showed dignity and respect for everyone on that plane, and it takes a special effort to do that," said Brig. Gen. Bertram Providence, commander of Regional Health Command-Pacific, who recognized Hobbs with a commander's coin at Madigan Army Medical Center on Jan. 31.
A Madigan endocrinologist with 33 years of experience as a doctor, Hobbs said this was the fourth or fifth time he answered the call of an inflight medical emergency during his career.
"I would want people to do the same for me if I had some kind of inflight emergency," said Hobbs.
Last summer, he happened to be on a flight to Texas with retired Sgt. Maj. Cielito Pascual-Jackson and her husband Louis Jackson. About 30 minutes into the flight, Jackson became weak, lethargic and was turning blue.
"He had such a hard time breathing and couldn't move. I felt he was having a heart attack," said Pascual-Jackson. "Dr. Hobbs came to the rescue … He stayed with my husband all through the flight constantly checking on him."
Hobbs used the airplane's medical supplies to address Jackson's "ABCs": airway, breathing and circulation. He started Jackson on oxygen, jerry-rigging a stabilization device for the oxygen bottle with a seatbelt extender, and then monitored his blood pressure and heart for the rest of the flight. Hobbs made sure to keep notes of blood pressure readings and times to share with the emergency medical technicians on the ground.
"He remained with my husband until he was stabilized," said Pascual-Jackson. "Even when we deplaned … he stayed with us until the paramedics showed up."
Hobbs encourages others to help out with inflight emergencies if needed.
"I would encourage anyone with medical training not to be shy about raising your hand if that's what they ask," he said.
As for the Jacksons, they were grateful for Hobbs' help during their emergency.
"If not for him, no telling what would have happened to my husband," said Pascual-Jackson. "Dr. Hobbs assured me all through that time, that my husband is going to be okay."