FORT IRWIN, Calif. – When Spc. Charles Duplessis and Pfc. Zachary Flowers boarded a flight April 8 to North Carolina, they had no idea they would put their skills as medical professionals to the test thousands of feet in the air.
Thanks to their Army training, Duplessis and Flowers - both combat medics with Weed Army Community Hospital - remained calm while rendering care to a fellow passenger who suffered a seizure in the middle of the flight from California to North Carolina.
During the flight, Flowers said he heard a commotion and saw a man having a seizure. When he realized the flight attendants may need help, he identified himself and offered to help.
“The patient was not able to clearly and coherently express himself because he was in [the] postictal phase and he wasn’t adequately breathing,” Flowers said.
The postictal phase is the final phase of a seizure when a person has stopped seizing and is returning to their normal state of consciousness.
Flowers then waved Duplessis over to provide additional assistance.
“I talked to Flowers about what was going on and from there we just put some oxygen on [the passenger], got a history from his family that was there, and provided the care that we could with what we had from the flight attendants,” said Duplessis. “For the rest of the flight we just reassessed his vitals and kept oxygen on him until we landed.”
Maintaining their professional bearing during stressful events is something Duplessis and Flowers both said they learned in their Army training and from their leaders at Weed ACH.
“You always have to remain calm because it helps the patient, it helps the bystanders, and it helps the family trust that you know what you’re doing,” said Duplessis.
The incident served as a reminder why Duplessis, who joined the Army in January 2019, chose his profession. “It feels good helping people because that’s what I want to do in life; I want to help people,” he said.
For Flowers, his decision to respond to the situation was the same reason he joined the Army in June 2020. “I feel a call to action to help other people who are in need or in danger,” he said. “I felt like volunteering my time could help the outcome of this patient [and] I felt like I made a difference.”
Duplessis, who was on the flight to go to paramedic school in North Carolina with Flowers, said helping the passenger on the plane made him even more motivated to attend the school. “It definitely made me more excited to come [to paramedic school] because I’ll get more advanced training on how I can assist people when they need it,” he said.
Duplessis and Flowers will remain in the paramedic course until August then return to Fort Irwin.