On Flight Home, AFSCME Member Comes to the Rescue

One moment Sami Abed was just a passenger on a United Airlines flight. The next moment he was a central figure in a medical emergency.

One moment, Sami Abed, president of United EMS Workers-AFSCME Local 4911, was just a passenger on a United Airlines flight. The next moment he was a central figure in a medical emergency.

Thanks to Abed and an unnamed doctor also aboard that flight, a 68-year-old, unidentified man who might have died in the aisle was revived so that he could be taken to a hospital for treatment.

A paramedic with more than 13 years of experience in Santa Cruz County, California, Abed was returning home from New York on April 3 – Good Friday – when an intercom announcement called for anyone with medical training to help a man lying unconscious in the aisle.

Within seconds he was on his feet, along with the doctor. The two began helping the man get oxygen. “I couldn’t feel the (heart) beat on his wrist,” Abed said. There was a “very faint one on his neck,” so they placed an automated external defibrillator (AED) on the man’s chest to check his heart rhythm. The device can also shock the heart back to a normal beat. Next, they placed an IV on the man.

The passenger, who had been unconscious about a minute, revived.

Less than an hour into the flight – the second leg of his journey home – Abed learned they would be diverted to Omaha, Nebraska, so the passenger could get prompt hospital care.

A fire crew at Eppley Airfield boarded to take the passenger to a hospital. Abed learned nothing more about him, including his name.

His journey home resumed with no further incident.

“I’m really thankful for all my training, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s all kind of reflex for me.”

Crediting the crew and the unidentified doctor for their efforts to save the passenger, Abed is grateful that it worked out so well. “Everybody came together to help this guy,” he said.

The lesson, he adds, is that “emergencies can happen anytime.”

We’re glad this public service hero was there to help save a man in need of his medical skills. We’re also proud of Abed and the thousands of such everyday heroes who are also members of AFSCME.

-Clyde Weiss | April 09, 2015