The patient: “Huong”, a 7-month-old Vietnamese infant, traveling with her mom from Hong Kong to Vancouver, BC.
Why she came to see me: I actually came to see her when a flight attendant asked me if I could help determine if her fall from an airline seat, adjacent to her mom, had caused her injury and if local EMS needed to be brought on the aircraft and the flight delayed in departure.
How I evaluated her: I went forward in the wide-body jet to where little Huong and her mom were standing in the isle. After smiling and nodding and dropping my gaze slightly displaying acknowledgement and deference to the mother, I arranged for an additional flight attendant who spoke Vietnamese and Mandarin to help the initial flight attendant, who spoke Mandarin and English, to allow me to speak with the mother, albeit indirectly. I asked for and received permission to perform a cursory examination of Huang while her mother continued to hold her. The more secure that an infant this young feels, the more objective “signs” are displayed. After hearing of how the infant slipped off the seat, and commenting about how resonant aircraft floors are, I proceeded to assure mom that babies this age are quite resilient and by bending the top of my ear, equating that to her child’s structure.
How we addressed her problem: I then proceeded to examine Huong while smiling, squeezing mom’s head and then her head…twisting the ends of each of their noses, first mom’s, then baby’s…feeling the backs of each of their necks, squeezing their shoulders, etc.—all the while smiling and laughing as if we were all playing a game together. Since mom was giggling, Huong took all of this as great entertainment even though she was being manipulated by a suspiciously tall stranger.
The patient’s progress: Within a few minutes I was able to assure mom that little Huong had not suffered any injury from the fall and told her that I was honored to examine her baby and to have her confer her trust. With the two of them back in their seats, I spoke with the captain on the intercom, and advised him that I had medically cleared the baby and within a few minutes he had pushed back from the gate and we were airborne. I was glad to have been of service and to have “practiced” in Hong Kong!