Everyday Heroes: Saving a Life While Boarding a Plane

Wendy Kissinger

It was a regular day at the airport for Wendy Kissinger. As National Medical Director for DispatchHealth, she’s no stranger to the hustle and bustle that comes with frequent business travel. Walking up the airport ramp to wait for boarding, still in her DispatchHealth attire, Kissinger noticed a woman in a wheelchair who looked like she was visibly struggling. A look, Kissinger says, she has come to immediately recognize after spending 10 years practicing medicine in the emergency room.

She calmly approached the woman, asked if she was with anyone, and was told the woman’s daughter was waiting for her in baggage claim. Flagging down a police officer, Kissinger gave him the daughter’s name, and he proceeded on to baggage claim where he called for her over the intercom.

Moments later, the woman went into cardiac arrest.

With the help of the airport staff who had been assisting the woman off the plane, medics were promptly alerted. Right in the middle of the airport, Kissinger began chest compressions giving the first responders time to gather the AED. Once they took over, Wendy shifted gears and was able to comfort the woman’s daughter and talk her through the traumatic ordeal.

As the woman was transported to the hospital, Kissinger boarded her plane to fly back to Ohio, just as she had done many times before, but this time with a heavy heart.

Courageous Advocates for Patients and Each Other

Although far from a traditional patient visit, Kissinger did just what she normally would and contacted the woman’s daughter. Greeted by a cheerful voice on the other end of the phone, she was informed that the woman (Caroline) had survived and a few days after the incident, she had become a great grandmother for the first time.

Remembering the DispatchHealth shirt Kissinger had been wearing at the airport that day, the daughter also explained that she is the nurse manager of a Spokane home health facility that DispatchHealth partners with. She had even used  DispatchHealth to care for her mother before the airport incident. A rare twist of connectivity that had brought a random medical emergency in an airport, close to home for Kissinger, the patient, and her family.

Professing their appreciation, Caroline and her family feel lucky that she was there at the airport at that moment. But Kissinger assures that she, in fact, is the lucky one. She is constantly reminded of why she made the right decision in joining DispatchHealth.

“The defining moment for me is, and continues to be, the gratitude expressed by the patients,” says Kissinger. “Working in an ER for most of my career, you get used to patients coming in and out, whereas with DispatchHealth you get time to make a meaningful connection. Meeting the patients where they are — that means the world to them and they let you know.”

When asked what resonates most about her experience in the airport that day, she humbly attributes the life-saving moment to fate, practice and teamwork. She is quick to call out the community of people who came together that day, “From the airport staff to the police officers and the EMTs to the emergency room. It was a team effort to save her life.”

The Hero Behind the Cape

Kissinger, a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and Ohio resident, has been practicing emergency medicine since 2000. She remained in touch with colleagues over the years and in 2017, she received a call that would change the course of her career. It was a former co-worker, Andy Wagner, MD, MBA, who had taken a position with a Denver-based startup called DispatchHealth. He shared his newfound passion for transforming the healthcare industry by delivering care to the home. And with that, shared that he was looking for the right person to run medical operations in the Phoenix market. Andy knew she would be the perfect fit and after careful consideration, Kissinger accepted the position as Phoenix Medical Director.

Since Joining DispatchHealth in June of 2017, she has left her mark on clinical teams and patients around the country. Recently promoted to National Medical Director, Kissinger supports all the local medical directors on a national level.

“I’ve been with DispatchHealth long enough to really understand the vision to create the most advanced and complete in-home care model in the world. I wholeheartedly agree with our holistic approach and get to be a part of a company that is trailblazing a much-needed path in the healthcare space.”

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DispatchHealth Staff The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.