Random Thoughts – Randocity!

COVID-19: Should I help out?

Posted in advice, Health, medical, pandemic by commorancy on December 22, 2020

Here’s a solid question that may appear to not have a clear answer, but it really does. Let’s explore.

Emergency aboard a plane

Imagine you’re flying on a plane to get somewhere. Imagine that the person across the aisle from you appears to be having trouble breathing and is sweating. Then, imagine that same passenger begins having a seizure which turns into a medical emergency. Now imagine another medically trained passenger steps up and begins performing CPR on this now stricken passenger and continues performing this activity until the plane lands (i.e., over an hour).

This scenario just played out on a United Airlines flight on Monday December 21st. A scary situation to be sure. Is jumping in to aid a possibly COVID-19 infected passenger wise? Could this situation have been avoided?

COVID-19 has familiar symptoms including shortness of breath, sweating, fever, chills and other outward signs of infection. These symptoms, particularly when this severe, should be easily spotted. Yet, no passengers, none of the flight attendants, none of the airport or airline attendants did anything to question this clearly ailing man before boarding, while boarding or during the flight. How does this happen?

Airline Negligence

Before I get into the meat of this article, let’s discuss the side dishes. This side dish is negligence. When you’re flying on a commercial jet, it is the airport, TSA and airline staff’s responsibility to properly vet passengers all along the way for who may be showing outward symptoms consistent with COVID-19. How does an airport and an airline miss his condition? This is the job of those who run airports and airlines. This is partly why they get paid.

Clearly, this man should have been coughing and having trouble breathing even sitting in the terminal. COVID-19’s symptoms don’t appear at a moment’s notice. Clearly, not only is the airport itself, but so is United Airlines entirely remiss in spotting this ailing passenger at the many touch points of passenger check-in. Even the TSA failed to spot his condition!

How does an airport and a wide array of airline and airport staff miss seeing a sweating, ailing, coughing passenger in their midst? I’m at a loss here.

Passenger Due Diligence

It’s not really on the passengers to do an airline’s or an airport’s job. However, it is on every passenger to stay aware and vigilant of their surroundings. We’ve all been taught to stop, look and listen. During a severe pandemic, it is firmly on ALL of us to be aware of our surroundings. With the pandemic, we need to become even more vigilant and hyper aware of those around us by listening to and watching everyone around us. If someone is coughing, sneezing, wheezing or appears in any way distressed, you should not only move away from them, you should get as far away as possible.

However, when we’re sitting in an airport waiting for a flight, we’re trapped at that terminal. What that means while we can move away from someone who appears to be ailing, we must also notify those in charge that a specific passenger appears to be in a problematic state. At that point, those in charge would need to step up and determine whether that person is ailing, has a fever or appears to have any outward signs of COVID-19 and to pull that passenger aside and deny them access if necessary.

In other words, there were so many touch points that failed to identify this distressed United Airlines passenger, it really throws into question just how diligent and effective airlines and airports really are to screen infected passengers. It’s clear that they missed this passenger. It’s also clear that the passengers themselves missed notifying those in authority.

Passenger Aids COVID-19 Passenger

When the distressed passenger moved into a medical emergency aboard the flight, another passenger aboard that flight decided to jump in and perform CPR. The aiding passenger wasn’t entirely sure if the passenger was COVID positive. However, it has been reported that the wife of the passenger had later stated he had tested positive. This means that this aiding passenger should have known he had tested positive before performing CPR. Here’s Face’s tweets on this subject:

He claims that the distressed passenger’s wife never mentioned that her husband had tested positive. However, it has been reported that she had stated that he had tested positive. I’m not sure of this conflicting information, but it’s possible Face never asked her before jumping in to perform CPR. Unfortunately, his efforts to perform CPR didn’t succeed and the passenger succumbed to his COVID-19 medical fate and died.

As a result, this helping passenger has now tested positive himself. Should he have jumped in to help? Let’s understand this question a bit more in detail. It is also the meat of this article.

Helping in a post-COVID world

While Face may seem like a hero at a time when this passenger needed CPR most, the difficulty in performing this medical intervention is ultimately COVID-19. Coughing, sweating and fever don’t indicate a condition that warrants CPR. It indicates COVID-19. CPR may be required IF the person goes into cardiac arrest. However, let’s understand the position this distressed passenger was actually in.

This situation occurred aboard a flight while in the air. Flights have limited access to medical equipment, but planes do have a defibrillator… a defibrillator which should have been used first to attempt to resuscitate this patient before attempting CPR. Planes may have small oxygen canisters aboard for flight attendant use. It is unknown if this was used.

COVID-19 is an illness that can escalate into a life threatening situation quickly, particularly aboard an airliner where air pressure and oxygen saturation is reduced at 30,000+ feet. That means less oxygen is available when flying on an airliner. For someone with trouble breathing under the throes of COVID-19, boarding an airliner, as in this case, could end up a death sentence.

As I said, there is very limited medical equipment aboard a commercial jet. Let’s understand that even as hospitals get inundated with massive amounts of COVID-19 patients, even their ability to handle these patients is limited and in many cases fails leading to death. Why then would a good Samaritan think they can save a COVID-19 patient clearly requiring access to hospital equipment and oxygen?

Lending Aid

While I applaud Face’s willingness to jump in, the effort ultimately proved entirely futile. Worse, not only did it prove futile, Face became infected with COVID-19 by performing his good Samaritan routine. I applaud good Samaritans willing to self-sacrifice to help out another person, but at some point, you have to logically deduce the odds of success.

For example, if the wife had been forthcoming about her husband’s COVID-19 positive test, it would have been perfectly clear that this passenger was afflicted with COVID-19 and that almost no means could impact his survival short of a hospital visit. That means this first responder would know his odds. Considering that there is very little medical equipment aboard a plane, performing CPR alone would not be enough to stem the tide of what COVID-19 is doing to this person’s body. Logically, he should have assumed COVID-19 (based entirely on this person’s symptoms) and deduced his efforts would fail. Helping is great, but not when the risk far outweighs the reward.

Let’s better understand this logical dilemma. If hospitals with access to their best doctors, best procedures, best medicines and best equipment can’t save severe COVID-19 patients under that level of distress, what makes a basic trained first responder think that performing CPR alone can?

At some point, you have to calculate the odds of success and deduce when the risk is greater than the reward. For Face, this means the unknown of how COVID-19 would impact his health. Will he survive his own infection? Could he end up in a similar situation clinging to life?

That’s what we all face in a post-COVID-19 pandemic world. We must make critical decisions that can impact our own survival.

However, this situation could have been prevented if even one person had stepped up at the airport prior to boarding, recognized his symptoms and called an ambulance to get him to a hospital. Seeing how far along that he was with COVID-19, it’s possible that even a hospital couldn’t have changed his fate. However, that everyone missed recognizing his so obvious symptoms not once, but many times all along the way is disconcerting… no, horrifying.

Ever Vigilant

As we move further and deeper into this pandemic, regardless of the vaccines, we must acknowledge this virus’s effects on the world. We must remain vigilant to those around us no matter where we are and what we are doing. What that means is that if we’re at a grocery store or restaurant or at Target (or aboard a plane), we must remain hyper aware of those around us. We need to stop, look and listen. If someone is coughing, sneezing or appears to be sweating or having any other outward signs of illness or distress, we must move as far away from that person as we can get. You must always look out for you in this pandemic. No one else is.

If you can leave the building and come back later, even better. There’s no reason to stay and risk your own health or those of your family by bringing COVID-19 home. COVID-19 is clearly a devastating illness with severe consequences. Denying that these consequences exist is a recipe for exactly what happened to both Face and that distressed passenger aboard that United Airlines flight.

Worse, every single passenger and crew aboard that same flight could potentially face testing positive for COVID-19 following that flight. There’s no telling exactly what may have flown around in the air while that passenger performed CPR. That situation is a danger to everyone aboard that flight… which means that everyone aboard that flight can now become super spreaders unless the passengers are forced to self-quarantine for at least 14 days. Yet, I haven’t heard anything about this. I’m not even sure that everyone aboard that flight is even aware of what happened. Has United Airlines contacted the CDC with the passenger manifest? Has the CDC contacted every passenger to ensure quarantine? Doubtful.

Not only did United Airlines ignore this aspect of this COVID-19 positive man’s ride aboard the flight, the airline acts like everyone who was aboard is now perfectly safe.

This is why we must ALL remain vigilant. We must step up and call out people who appear to be ill. We must stop them from boarding flights or trains or entering stores. If an airline (or manager) refuses to take action, we must refuse to board the flight and choose to take another flight. Is it really worth risking your own health for the possibility of becoming infected while on a flight, all while knowing that a coughing and sneezing passenger is three rows up from you?

Air Travel During a Pandemic

With the pandemic quickly spiraling out of control, is it the best of ideas to be hopping aboard a plane? While I know that sometimes we must travel for family emergencies or other situations out of our control, we must also acknowledge when not to travel.

Right now, traveling aboard any airliner, train or other means and which affords contact with members of the public, isn’t the smartest of ideas. Worse, many airlines have been reducing their responses to COVID-19 by increasing passenger load aboard planes while the pandemic escalates into the highest infection rates and deaths we have seen so far. While I realize a lot of people don’t believe the pandemic is real, the above United Airlines story is a stark reminder of how very real COVID-19 is.

If you don’t need to travel during the pandemic, don’t. There’s no reason to sit next to other people who may not be as vigilant or as concerned about the pandemic as you are about your health. Unfortunately, our illustrious President has entirely downplayed the seriousness of this pandemic… even going so far as to ignore the worst surging portion of the pandemic entirely over the last several weeks since the 2020 United States Presidential election. This apathy has been taken to heart by many people who believe just as our lackadaisical President.

While we can’t control what others do, we can control what we ourselves do and how we respond. That means avoiding public transportation, avoiding eating at restaurants, avoiding shopping in stores, avoiding doing outdoor activities where we come into contact with the public in close proximity and choosing to not go out unless absolutely necessary. If you need to invite someone into your home, like cleaning staff, baby sitters, plumbers or electricians, require that they wear masks the entire time they are in your home.

Quarantine Period in the Home

For anyone entering into your home whom you don’t know, such as plumbers, electricians or even maid services, they can easily bring COVID-19 into your home. It’s important that you ensure that you protect your home and family. After someone has entered your home, you should avoid the room they have visited for at least 24 hours (if possible) and open the windows to allow it to completely air out. If you can’t avoid using that room, then you may want to use Lysol or another disinfecting product to clean the surfaces they have touched. If you can wait an hour or two for the air to settle, then you can use disinfectant on surfaces to kill any viruses they may have left behind.

For maid services, you should request limited services to limit their exposure around your home. Better, suspend maid services or limit them to once a month. It can be difficult to stop emergency home services, but optional services should be limited or eliminated.

It’s difficult to foresee every single possible exposure in your home, so just use your best judgement. If someone wants to enter your home and it’s not critical for your home, reschedule for them to come back after COVID-19 has passed.

Where do we go from here?

The pandemic is not going away. It’s also very real. Should we bank on the vaccines? No. It is a stop-gap measure. At first glance, it may appear to be the pin that punctures the COVID-19 balloon, but it may simply be a small bandage. That small bandage may prevent the balloon from popping when the pin is inserted. Instead, it may allow a very slow deflation which could take years to ultimately deflate.

Ultimately, the vaccine has promise, but it has not yet proven itself to be the single thing that halts this virus in its tracks.

The only person who can keep you away from infection is you. Taking the vaccine may help and is something that may be required eventually, but only you can prevent you from becoming infected. You have to decide when and how often to go out. You must decide whether you wish to attend a gathering where the vast majority of people are not wearing masks. You must decide how important your health is to you.

For example, the distressed passenger above took it upon himself to subject hundreds of other people to COVID-19 aboard a flight knowing that he tested positive. Who in their right mind does this? It’s clear he wasn’t in his right mind. This is the mind of, at best, a sociopath… someone who puts their own goals above all else and above all others. Karma had other plans for him. Many people don’t believe in Karma and Fate. Good on them. That doesn’t mean Karma doesn’t exist.

While movies like Final Destination take Karma and Fate to ridiculous levels by setting up highly elaborate Rube Goldberg machines that ultimately result in the death of a character, Karma doesn’t work like that. Karma is the act of making the unexpected happen at the most inopportune times, mostly as a result of a careless act by the individual.

For example, if a person is in the throes of COVID-19 and is already in severe breathing distress, the reduced oxygen and pressure on a plane at a high altitude is likely to cause a cardiac episode. Why? Because the body cannot get enough oxygen to support the body’s systems. While one might not think that Karma is at work, it is. Anyone who understands how planes operate must recognize this situation. If this man had realized his own level of lung distress, he would have turned around and checked himself into a hospital, not boarded a plane. By not understanding exactly how well a plane’s oxygen functions at high altitudes, he sealed his own fate (and potentially those he infected along the way).

His stupidity coupled with Karma sealed his fate aboard that airplane. There was literally nothing that anyone could have done to prevent that situation from unfolding. You can’t resuscitate someone with that low of an oxygen saturation level. Planes do have small oxygen tanks for flight attendants to wear in case of emergency, but it is unknown if those tanks were used or even if they were enough to help. Regardless, that passenger’s fate was sealed when he stepped onboard that flight.

What this all means is that you need to know what you don’t know. In this case, what he didn’t know about how oxygen levels work on a jet ultimately killed him. As I said above, even with the best of medical care in a hospital, survival of this virus can be a problem, particularly if the body becomes that level of distressed. There was no way a random trained individual could provide the level of care necessary for a COVID-19 infected person who was that far gone. No, that distressed passenger sealed his own fate by entering that plane. He may have also callously sealed the fate of all aboard that flight by infecting them. However, Karma stepped in to intervene, but not before allowing everyone aboard that flight to potentially become infected.

Ultimately, that man will no longer be able to spread COVID-19 to others, but unfortunately at the price of he himself dying.

Denying COVID-19

COVID-19 is a real and dangerous virus. It is at least 6 times more deadly than cold and flu viruses combined. For those who continue to deny that COVID-19 is a real, I feel for you. I don’t understand that level of delusion, but I can feel for you and pity you. The phrase “Ignorance is bliss” only holds true when that ignorance leads to something other than death. When death is involved, ignorance is most definitely NOT bliss.

However, for those folks who are willing to attend rallies and gatherings without masks, who visit bars and party like it’s 1999 and who choose to “Throw caution to the wind”, then there’s an award for that… The Darwin Award. If you bring COVID-19 down upon yourself by choosing to ignore your own personal safety and then subsequently die, then a Darwin Award waiting for you on the other end. Too bad you won’t be able to accept it when you’re pushing up daisies.

As the author of this blog, I’m perfectly okay with that. In fact, I wholeheartedly endorse allowing these folks to become infected. If they can survive, fine. If they die for their own stupidity, then the gene pool has been cleansed of yet another stupid person.

People can be kept from their own folly for only so long. Eventually, people succumb to their own bias and prejudices and will do whatever they feel they must. If that means hanging out at a bar with others drinking and cavorting in close proximity, well then “Hello, Mr. COVID”. If that leads to a Darwin Award, so be it.

I don’t wish harm on others, but I also won’t keep people from their own fate and folly. It’s not my place to tell people how to live their lives. However, I can write advice articles like this to inform. How someone utilizes this knowledge is entirely on them. If that knowledge is ignored, that’s perfectly fine.

I write these articles to relay my own knowledge and experience. My blogging goal is to use my knowledge and experience to help others become just even the wee bit wiser. If that happens for even one person, then I’ve done my job. I can’t save the world, but I can help save those who wish to read these articles and learn from my experiences on this earth.

Anyone who chooses to deny and ignore COVID-19 as though it doesn’t exist deserves whatever fate befalls them… that fate which has arisen from that ignorance. I shrug and walk away from those people. There’s nothing I can do for those who wish to remain ignorant. Darwin has other plans for them.

Full Circle

To circle back around, if you are a medical professional or a trained first responder, you need to rethink your own involvement with COVID-19 distressed individuals outside of a hospital setting. The only exception is ambulance drivers. These are not only trained professionals, they have a mobile hospital at their fingertips. They can then transport the distressed individual to the hospital quickly for further treatment. Outside of an ambulance setting, attempting CPR on a distressed COVID-19 patient at 30,000 feet up is not likely to succeed.

Everyone must be smart enough to calculate the odds of a COVID-19 breathing distressed patient. Even hospitals with their vast array of medicines, equipment and expertise can’t save every COVID-19 patient in distress. At some point, the patient must be left to see if their own body will overcome the illness. In the case of the distressed COVID-19 patient aboard the United Airlines flight, there was almost no way to save that person with the extremely limited amount of medicines, medical equipment and expertise aboard that airliner.

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