The most unexpected story on patient experience you will read today…

My Research Manager at Energesse, Kiran, flew to New Zealand a few days ago and she often gets nervous on flights. Something happened on the flight that shocked and inspired her…. here’s her turbulent tale…

At about 10.35am, the Malaysia Airlines plane hit a rough patch. A warbled cry pierced the air. 5 rows down from her, a 20 year old man called Calvin, was having a seizure!

For a moment, no one did anything. Passengers around him stared in alarm as he made strangled sounds, his arms jerking about. Then panic, as someone shouted ‘He’s choking! He’s choking!’. Someone else made a move to give him the Heimlich maneuver. One other recognized it as an epileptic fit.

47188500 - blurred interior of airplane.

Suffice to say, it was a complete state of confusion!

A steward came running in to help. He was visibly panicked and paged for a doctor.

There were none on board (I wasn’t there of course!). And poor Calvin was travelling alone.

An elderly lady jumped across three rows of seats toward Calvin. She looked determined. Taking off her jacket, she asked the people around her to help. She waited for Calvin’s movements to slow down and then got him down to the ground, lying him on his side and extending his neck. We collected tissues to wipe his mouth. The steward brought an oxygen tank and placed the mask over his mouth. Passengers helped push blankets under him and managed to lift him up onto the seats. The elderly lady kept reassuring Calvin.

‘’You just had a seizure….you’re ok…..tell me your name”.

His head was lolling about and she kept waking him up and calmly asking, “Do you have medicines, Calvin, where are they? Do you take the full pill or just half? Calvin, listen, stay up, stay up”.

She repeated this until she managed to find the medicines in his bag and administer the right dose.

She stayed with him until he was fully conscious. Others helped to take him to the restroom and bring him water.

The situation was under control. Until 6 hours later.

Calvin had another seizure. Things got interesting in a different way.

The elderly flying superwoman was there as soon as she heard Calvin’s now-familiar cry.  8 passengers and 2 stewards entered the scene. Instructions were minimal and actions were on auto-pilot.

Wait. Lie. Towels.

Wipe. Blankets. Brace.

1,2,3, Up!

Secure. Clean. Clean. Oxygen.

Reassure. Reassure. Reassure.

Calm. Thank you, everyone.

The ‘fluidity’ of the scene before Kiran was like music.

This impromptu, unstructured, unaligned, very diverse team of airline passengers came together with one goal: Help Calvin. They moved together calmly and quickly. They looked to the Flying Superwoman to lead. She led in a way that was positive, calm, consistent and inspiring. New passengers came to the scene; they had watched, understood and felt compelled to help. They found a fit almost immediately.

Once the scene had settled, the leader stayed around Calvin. She’d missed her dinner. She stayed until the pilot said we were landing.

No, this wasn’t a scene in a hospital where everyone knew their roles. It wasn’t an OT (operating theatre), it wasn’t a ward. Calvin’s patient experience took place in row 20 of a NINE HOUR FLIGHT.

I can’t help but be drawn to the Flying Superwoman in Kiran’s story.

It is very likely that, whatever her background, she had probably had excellent training, a long track record of medical EXPERIENCE, and probably some highly qualified mentors along the way. She had immediate buy-in and ENGAGEMENT from those around her through her demeanor and actions. She asked questions, she listened, she didn’t panic. She showed a high degree of EMOTIONal intelligence. The lesson that passed on from rescuer to team, from leader to followers, happened quickly.

120 people in that flight cabin went home that day with a skill, a piece of knowledge, a little less fear and a sense of participation in something that was beyond them.

How does one get to this point in EXECUTING your duties? When does leadership becomes so effortless, where inspiring is so easy, where a team of people rallies around you and finds their place so easily because they understand your purpose and they understand their purpose?

Fundamental to any form of leadership is the ability to take charge yet be approachable and accessible, managing your response and reaction to situations and delivering EXCELLENCE.

You can get these fundamentals right with Energesse as your Learning Partner. Be prepared to deal with the unexpected when it happens by learning about the ‘6 E Framework’ for improving the Patient Experience, anytime, anywhere.

Don’t wait another day to EVOLVE your own ‘superhuman’ abilities in really knowing what to do for your patients when they need you.


My phone line is open. The numbers are 02 809 0918. Let’s have a 15 minute conversation TODAY about your leadership and team challenges.