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Decatur doctor saves woman during flight

By Paul Huggins 340-2395

A Hollywood script appeared to take control of the airplane as Dr. George Faison returned from Hawaii on Sunday.

Near the end of the long flight aboard a Southwest jet, the Decatur resident heard an intercom request for a physician's help: A female passenger was unconscious and not breathing.

The call for help brought forth Faison, two nurses and a urologist. Faison, whose specialty is anesthesia, assumed command.

"It all happened pretty fast," he said. "When I got up there, the lady was just white as a sheet."

With the help of flight attendants and nurses, Faison got the woman to the front of the plane and tried to restore her heartbeat, first manually then with a defibrillator.

After one shock, her pulse returned.

He also gave her medicine to help raise her heart rate, gave her intravenous fluids and helped her breath with oxygen while the pilot made an emergency landing in Memphis.

"She was alive when she left, but I think she had a pretty bad brain injury," Faison said. "She wasn't really responsive and she was kind of posturing in a bad way and her pupils were kind of fixed and dilated."

Faison credited the flight attendants and nurses, particularly one who worked in an emergency room, for excellent assistance.

"We did save her life but I don't know her long-term prognosis," he said, noting he never learned the woman's name.

After about a two-hour delay, the plane returned to its destination in Nashville.

Faison gave a report of what happened to Southwest officials but he has not heard back from them since arriving home. The flight attendants and passengers thanked him at the end of the flight, he said.

Looking back, Faison said he wouldn't describe the mile-high rescue as the highlight of his career, but he would rank it as perhaps the most exciting and most unusual event.

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