Philly medic about to retire treats passenger who falls ill during flight

The sick man’s lips were turning blue; he kept him on oxygen for the remainder of the flight and asked the pilot to “punch it up”

PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia Fire paramedic set to retire treated a man who fell ill on a US Airways flight on Tuesday.

Capt. Richard Bratcher, who has been with the department for 25 years, answered the request for someone with medical training for a 57-year-old male passenger who fell ill about an hour into a flight from Orlando, Fla. to Philadelphia, NBC10 reports.

Bratcher, 50, hadn’t practiced as a paramedic for several years since becoming a supervisor, but said his training and experience kicked in as soon as he saw the man.

“All you had to do was look at this man and know he was very sick,” Bratcher said. “He was gray. His lips were blue. He was still conscious, so I kind of just put the flight crew to work. I said get me some oxygen, get some aspirin, get me some water.”

The man’s color soon returned, but Bratcher kept the passenger on oxygen for the remainder of the flight, and asked the pilot to “punch it up” and fly faster to Philadelphia. The plane arrived 45 minutes early, and the sick passenger seemed to be recovering.

"By the time we landed in Philly, we were laughing and joking with each other,” Bratcher said. “It was an experience. It was really an experience."

Emergency responders met the plane when it landed, and transported the ill passenger to the hospital.

Philadelphia Fire Department Deputy Commission for EMS Jeremiah Laster praised Bratcher.

"The bottom line is, one of the best skills of a paramedic with Capt. Bratcher's experience would be being able to look at a person and recognize they're in dire straits," Laster said. "He utilized those skills, making sure the person on the plane got 100 percent oxygen, and was able to secure aspirin to help the patient recover."

Bratcher said he also received praise from others on the flight, but feels he was just doing his job.

"When I got to baggage claim, all these young kids — I'm 50 years old, so I call them young kids, but they were in their 20s and 30s — they were like, 'Dude, you were amazing,'" Bratcher said. "I'm like, 'I'm not amazing. I didn't do anything. I just did what I do.'"

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