This doctor was the emergency room physician at Witham Memorial Hospital in Lebannon, Indiana...
On a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, on July 3, Ralph Hatcher was just beginning his vacation with his wife when his rest was disturbed by a flight attendant seeking help. "I was told there was a passenger in the back of the plane who was not feeling well," Hatcher, an emergency room physician at Witham Memorial Hospital, told The Lebanon Reporter.
When Hatcher reached the patient, he knew immediately that the man was having serious heart problems.
"It was a German gentleman, 76 years old," Hatcher said. "He was having trouble breathing, chest pain, he was ash in color, just gray ... cold sweat ... I believed he was having a heart attack."
Hatcher had seen this condition many times throughout his career.
With the assistance of a nurse who was also "off-duty," the man was moved to the first-class section where there was more room to attend to his medical concerns.
Hatcher said the airline provided medical equipment that, although was not ideal, was adequate to help treat the man.
"We attended to him, and his condition did improve," Hatcher said. "His vital signs did improve. ... When we got on the ground (about an hour after the situation began), we escorted the man to the door where they had a medical doctor and an ambulance waiting." Hatcher said the man was able to walk off the plane to the ambulance.
While Hatcher said this was his first experience of being called on away from work, his nurse assistant in the situation told him a similar situation happened to her two years earlier while on a flight to Europe.
"It was kind of exciting, and I was glad to help," Hatcher said. "I did get a nice thank you from Delta Airlines. With these long flights, (a medical emergency) is almost bound to happen. I wonder at what point the airlines will hire medical personnel (to attend flights)," he said.
Hatcher and his wife enjoyed the rest of their vacation, visiting with their daughter who is in college in Germany.
Back home now, Hatcher received recognition not only from the airline, but from his coworkers and friends.
"He's a kind and compassionate man," said Witham CEO Ray Ingham. "I think Dr. Hatcher is indicative of what we're trying to do here at Witham. He's actually one of the kindest, most compassionate men I've ever met," Ingham said.
Ingham said many of the medical personnel at Witham have used their experience to help others away from the hospital. He said it's because they care about others and about their profession.