One of the patients of Dr. Nishant Patel is the product of what he called “a miracle after a miracle.”
Pilot Kenneth Allen, 64, was flying a couple passengers in a single-engine airplane when he lost consciousness due to a tear in his aorta, a medical emergency that kills nearly half of all patients before they make it to the hospital.
One of Allen’s passengers, 39-year-old Darren Harrison, was on the way home May 10 from a fishing trip in the Bahamas when the pilot complained about not feeling well.
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“He said, ‘I’ve got a headache and I’m fuzzy and I just don’t feel right,'” Harrison recalled during an interview with the Associated Press. “And I said, ‘What do we need to do?’ and at that point he didn’t respond at all.”
With that, the brave passenger climbed into the cockpit of the airplane, which was in a nosedive at that point.
“All I saw when I came up to the front was water out the right window and I knew it was coming quick,” he said. “At that point, I knew if I didn’t react, that we would die.”
Harrison — whose wife Britney is seven months pregnant with their first child — pushed back against his instinct to yank the plan back up, confident such a sudden move would cause the plane to stall out.
“I also knew that at the rate we were going, we were going way too fast, and it would probably rip the wings off of the airplane,” he added, calling that “the scariest part of the whole story.”
Harrison spoke about the harrowing ordeal on NBC’s “Today”:
Finally, he got in touch with an air traffic controller named Robert Morgan, who coached the passenger through flying the plane and ultimately landing it at the Palm Beach International Airport in Florida.
Harrison refused to give into his fear. By then, he was committed to landing the plane, literally.
“When I was flying and saw the state of Florida, at that second I knew I’m going to land there,” the heroic passenger said. “I don’t know what the outcome’s going to be, I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I knew I’m going to have to land this airplane because there’s no other option.”
“People said what if you had crashed and died?” he continued. “You could have at least called her, you could have reached out to her, you had time. In my mind I knew I wasn’t going to die, and the thought never crossed my mind to call and tell my wife ‘bye.’”
When they were about 200 feet from the runway, Morgan warned Harrison he needed to slow down. So Harrison told the other passenger, who was in the cockpit with him, to drop the throttle as low as it would go. The plane, thankfully, touched down safely.
It was in that moment — when the airplane finally came to a stop — that Harrison’s emotions rushed in and he said what he described as “the biggest prayer I’ve ever said in my life.” Looking back, he said the “hand of God” was with him.
“The last part of the prayer and the strongest part,” Harrison added, “was for the guy in the back, because I knew it was not a good situation.”
He was referring to Allen.
Patel told the Associated Press the pilot’s survival is nothing short of a miracle.
“I mean, the story is a miracle after a miracle, really,” said the doctor. “You know, for him to be able to survive the event, an acute type-A dissection is really acute, it is hyperacute, it happens suddenly.”
Thankfully, Allen is doing well and is expected to be released from the hospital next week.