Vonnie Gaither detested departing from a family reunion in Baltimore. However, she had to force herself to leave in order to set out on her journey back to Anchorage, Alaska.
She had a smooth flight from Baltimore to Salt Lake City. She buckled up and contacted a buddy to let her know she was on her way after getting on the plane headed for Anchorage.
She subsequently slumped. She was discovered by a pair of flight attendants checking that everyone was using their seat belts. She had no pulse and was unresponsive.
James "Hutch" Hutchison, one of the attendants, administered CPR. Another went to get a defibrillator that shocks the heart automatically. To get the heart back to its regular rhythm, the AED shocks or pulses it with electricity.
Flight attendants and airline personnel are required to attend CPR training and obtain a CPR certification. The life-saving skill can make a difference in times like these. Medical personnel stationed at airports are even required to have BLS training and certification to handle medical emergencies.
The shock failed to produce a steady rhythm. Gaither received a second jolt on the breezeway as she was being carried away from the aircraft and toward rescue personnel inside the airport. In the ambulance en route to a hospital in Salt Lake City, her heart needed the third shock.
An AED device is essential to deliver a shock to the heart and help it start pumping blood again. How to use an AED device is one of the instructions taught in a CPR certification class and BLS certification classes.
Toi Gaither Registe, Gaither's adult daughter, received a call from one of her mother's friends informing her of what had occurred while she was still living close to her mother in Anchorage.
A flight to Salt Lake City was arranged by Registe. When she found a doctor who could explain what had happened, she was on her way to the airport in Anchorage.
Her mother suffered a heart attack before going into cardiac arrest. The phrases are frequently interchanged mistakenly. A cardiovascular arrest is more of an electrical issue than a heart attack.
Registe overheard the flight attendants discussing a passenger who needed CPR on the previous flight while she was on board. She could tell they were clearly agitated. Then it dawned on her that she was traveling on the same plane as her mother on its return flight.
When the plane touched down, the crew asked that everyone remain seated so that Registe could leave first. As soon as possible, they wanted her to get to the hospital.
Gaither believed she had passed away when she came out of her induced coma the following morning. Registe had flown to Salt Lake City with several other members of her family, including her Ohio-based son. The father of the kids, her ex-husband, had traveled up from Las Vegas.
Hutchison, one of the flight attendants who contributed to saving her life, visited her the following day to see how she was doing. He was welcomed by Registe with a bear hug.
Within a week, Gaither was released from the hospital, allowing Registe to throw her a quiet but heartfelt "55 and Alive" birthday party.
Gaither decided to take her health seriously that summer of 2007.
Due to scar tissue from one of the stents, physicians discovered a buildup of plaque in her arteries that December. She had triple bypass surgery to reroute blood around her heart's damaged arteries.
Gaither is currently ten years into his retirement from his position as a school career counselor. She spends a lot of time painting abstract pieces. She is constructing a sizable ornamental panel for an Anchorage community recreation center.
Hutchison and she have kept in touch. She gives him credit for making it possible for her to celebrate her birthday every year around that time.
Hutchison has also recently retired. He now resides in Ogden, Utah, having flown for 42 years. He claimed that one of his professional high points was assisting Gaither.
Gaither uses blood thinners, as well as medication to lower her blood pressure and cholesterol. A cardiologist sees her every six months. She just found out that she is experiencing the beginnings of another obstruction.
She admits that it has been difficult for her to maintain the healthy lifestyle she started after her heart attack.
Gaither plans to visit more friends and relatives, especially Registe's grandson, whose family resides in Las Vegas, now that travel is once more picking up in the midst of the pandemic.
Gaither will stick to the strategy she's been using ever since her heart attack and cardiac arrest whenever she travels. She will stay away from Salt Lake City.