The Layover

December 28, 2022

Ah, the layover: That span of time to which every air traveler has become accustomed as either too short—in which you have just a few minutes to sprint to your connecting flight—or too long, in which you have three or more hours to spare, often relegated to checking out the airport’s best stores, restaurants or Wi-Fi hotspots.

For Mark Ladd it was the latter scenario on a day in early December 2022. But instead of wasting time, his layover would be spent saving the life of a fellow passenger who suffered cardiac arrest near an airline gate.

It happened when Ladd, a registered nurse with GMR’s Mobile Integrated Health (MIH) program, was flying from Mississippi to Connecticut to provide medical care for a patient at home. Ladd had a layover in Atlanta; three and-a-half hours, to be exact. 

“The gate where I was waiting for my connecting flight was packed, so I decided to find a quieter location where I could also charge my phone,” he recalls.  That’s when the former Air Force Veteran decided to check out another gate that appeared to have less people. But as he started making his way to the area, he quickly turned around and noticed a person on the floor.

“I walked over to the area, asking what’s going on,” says Ladd. “I told the people around the fallen person that I’m a nurse, and that I can help.”

At that moment, Ladd went into full emergency mode. After making his professional assessments and seeing that the patient appeared pale and clammy, he began performing CPR on the individual. Someone nearby the incident also pulled the AED (automated external defibrillator) from the wall, which Ladd used to revive the patient. 

Then, when it looked like the patient was appearing to regain consciousness, the individual stopped breathing once again.

“So, it was back to performing CPR on the individual,” says Ladd. “By the second shock, the person came back around.”

By the time the Atlanta Fire and Rescue crew came to the scene, Ladd says the patient appeared to be “moving and stable.”

“I don’t consider myself a hero. I have training that has enabled me to do this kind of work,” says Ladd. “Of course, as an ER nurse, most of these types of situations happen in a hospital as opposed to an airport floor. So, yeah, it was a little different. Still, training is everything. That’s why I’m a strong supporter of CPR training for the everyday person.”

And while Ladd doesn’t consider himself a hero, the person he saved, does. A few days after his intervention at the airport, he received a phone call, a “holiday gift,” you could say, that informed him of the impact he made, not just for the person he saved, but also for the individual’s spouse.

“I got a call from the married partner of the person who fell down that day. The patient had to undergo surgery and have two stents placed in their heart. The individual is doing well, and the spouse just wanted to say, ‘thank you,’” he says. 

What’s more, the spouse informed Ladd that the couple had just gotten married, and that Ladd is the reason they have this coming holiday to share with each other.

“The spouse went on and on about how I saved their partner and that they want to take me out to dinner when I come through Knoxville, Tennessee,” he says. 

So, does Ladd still think he’s not a hero? 

“No, I was just doing my job. I would want someone to do the same thing I did or help out if it was my family member who was the one in need,” he says. “We could all use a little kindness these days because you never know how it can affect someone, even during a long break while you’re waiting to catch a flight, as it was in my case. It’s often those exact moments where you can say or do something that could have a lasting effect on someone’s life.”

Words of wisdom and time well spent and, to think, they all happened during a layover.

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