'Angels in the sky'
Bedford woman thanks fellow flyers who rushed to save her life
By KATHRYN MARCHOCKI
New Hampshire Union Leader | November 20. 2013 12:19AM
But the 74-year-old widow didn't expect to find them at cruising altitude more than 33,000 feet in the air on a flight home from Florida this month.
"I thank God for them for saving my days," Walwyn said Tuesday of the three women she says rendered life-saving medical care after she passed out in the aisle just outside the cockpit of the Boeing 737 on Nov. 3.
Already worried about their mother's weakened health — which had sidelined her through most of a family Disney World vacation — daughters Mia Dickson and Joya Shaheen, both of Bedford, didn't know what to do.
"Her blood pressure was dropping rapidly," Shaheen, 36, said.
Walwyn said she regained consciousness to the voices of what she would later call "my three angels" in the sky.
"The next thing I remember is being on the floor and seeing this angel. She said, 'Don't move her! Don't move her! We're a medical team,'" Walwyn recounted.
"They worked on me," added Walwyn, who had been released from an Orlando, Fla., hospital just hours before the flight departed. Her intention was to go immediately to Catholic Medical Center when she landed in Manchester.
Saving a life
Walwyn was unresponsive when two women sprung from their seats and rushed up the aisle, her daughters said. One was Wendy L. Wright, an adult and family nurse practitioner and owner of Wright & Associates Family Healthcare at Amherst and Concord. The other was Becky Dupont, her practice manager and medical assistant. They were returning from a training conference.
"Then we hear, 'I'm a doctor'," Dickson said, looking up to see Dr. Jennifer L. Steichen of Elliot Hospital Internal Medicine. Like them, Steichen was returning home with her family from a Disney World vacation.
The three checked Walwyn's vital signs and reviewed her medications. Wright started an IV while Dupont — whose voice Walwyn heard when she regained consciousness — held the IV bottle up during the remaining two hours of the flight. Wright and Steichen assessed Walwyn's condition, checked her glucose level and administered oxygen to stabilize her. The flight's captain set up a link to a Southwest Airlines medical team on the ground; Steichen kept the team apprised of Walwyn's condition.
"It was amazing the way all three worked together," Dickson said, who told them: "You have to open a practice together."
A frequent air traveler, Wright said this is not the first in-flight medical emergency in which she lent a hand.
"I have done it before, but I have not done it in the air to this extent in terms of starting an IV and keeping her stable through the whole flight," Wright explained. She suspects the plane would have had to make an emergency landing had they not been able to stabilize Walwyn.
"They just selflessly put themselves out there and basically saved my mom's life," Shaheen said.
"If God was not watching over my mom, I don't know who was. This can't be a coincidence. This has to be the work of something higher. Even my daughters were saying, 'How did the doctor get on the plane to take care of Mimi?' I said, 'God put them there'," Shaheen said
Kindness of strangers
People came out of their seats to help Dickson's and Shaheen's husbands calm and comfort their young children, who screamed in fright when they watched their grandmother collapse to the floor.
There was the young Nashua man who took off his coat and rolled it up for a makeshift pillow to place under Walwyn's head.
And then there was Joe, the 84-year-old newlywed on his way to visit his grandchildren in Exeter. His new bride gave up her seat so Walwyn could be lifted and laid across the front row, her head resting on Joe's lap.
Joe rubbed Walwyn's head and hand the rest of the flight to comfort and calm her, her daughters said.
"It was the cutest thing," Dickson said, adding the family wished they got his last name so they could personally thank him. Shaheen said they only remember he has an Irish surname. Wright said she believes Joe's last name is O'Reilly.
"It was totally a testament to the kindness of New Hampshire citizens," Wright said.
Saying thank you
Ever since, Walwyn and her two daughters can't thank the three women enough.
"Our flight home was in the hands of my three angels. I thank God everyday for this wonderful meeting with these three ladies," Walwyn wrote in a thank-you note.
Now back at her home, Walwyn said she can't stop thinking of what they did and contacted the New Hampshire Union Leaderand Bedford Bulletinto publicly acknowledge them.
"We do it because, if it were my family on that plane, or my mom or my husband or son, I would want someone to do the exact same thing for them," Wright said.