I had arrived at Dulles Airport in a rather unhappy mood on what was a mid-May 2014 morning. I had come home from school at Virginia Tech a few days earlier at what was the end of my sophomore year of college. I received my final grades the night before and was mentally consumed in thinking back to my final exams and what I could have done differently to get better then a C+ in my Philosophy class.
On this particular Saturday I was working alone. Typically I also volunteer with my grandfather, though he was ironically at Virginia Tech for my cousin Mandy's graduation. I wanted to include this detail because my grandfather and I have a running joke that there is always some sort of minor emergency at the airport when I volunteer without him.
As for any job, it is always more enjoyable volunteering when you have someone to work and talk with. When you're by yourself and it is a slow day at the airport, the minutes feel like hours. I recall this day being particularly slow. I remember thinking "Wow, it's only 12:30?"
About midway through my shift in the B Terminal, a man in his mid 40s in khakis and a polo shirt approached my podium with a look of distress on his what was now a red face. He almost seemed embarrassed to approach me, but walked up to me in a very panicked fashion.
"I am having short breath, my chest hurts, and my left arm is numb," the man said. "I think I might be having a heart attack."
Quickly my own heart rate shot up. My head filled with a thousand thoughts of what I may soon have to do if this man was indeed having a heart attack. My mind raced back to my days of learning CPR in Coach Rozzoni's high school gym class. I thought about where the nearest defibrillator in the Terminal was, recalling it was next to the men's restroom across from Chipotle.
I had always thought about what I would do if faced with this situation, never thinking it would happen to me. Here it was right in front of me.
I sat the man down at the Chipotle next to my podium and grabbed him cup of water while dialing 911.
The 911 dispatcher asked me a few questions about the man including his age and symptoms he was displaying. After hanging up, I kept turning my head to the man and to the outside door the paramedics crew would be coming up from.
"Why aren't they here yet," I asked myself.
To me, it felt like it was taking forever, but in reality it had only been a few minutes.
The man, whose name I never got, was still sitting on the black wooden Chipotle bench with a very worried look on his face. He mentioned he had a wife and child at home. What baffled me was how this man looked to be in relative good health, as he had a lot of muscle on his body and looked to be in good shape.
At no time did the man ever slump over or pass out, so I was relatively relieved with that. However, I kept thinking what I would do if something like that would happen and what my plan of action would be.
Finally, I saw the flashing lights approach the outside of the B Terminal. The paramedics arrived and performed a few tests on the man and wheeled him outside to the ambulance to be taken to nearby Reston hospital. I never heard what happened to the man, but I assume and like to think it all worked out.
A day that began with me perplexed about my grades ended with me realizing what other issues there are around in life and just how fragile life can sometime be. This series of events that day gave me some perspective and allowed me to appreciate what I do every week at Dulles Airport a little more.