After a relaxing nine-day vacation to Mexico with his wife, Aimee, Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow was looking forward to taking a nap on the plane flight home. Instead, he helped save a life.
About an hour after the Alaska Airlines flight took off from Cabo San Lucas on Feb. 18, Budrow became aware that something was happening in the seats behind him. A woman, 22, was attempting to wake her sleeping male companion, 25, but he was not responding.
“The young gal behind us was trying to wake him. She thought he was joking. After a couple of minutes, she started freaking out,” Budrow said in an interview last week, a few days after the event.
“A lady across the aisle from them realized he wasn’t joking. I turned around and saw that he was blue. His face and hands were completely blue. I thought for sure he was dead. He was that blue,” Budrow said.
In his 35 years in law enforcement, Budrow has seen people in similar conditions and knew he had to act quickly. He turned around in his seat, got onto his knees, and reached over the top of his seat to reach the man.
“I was kneeling in my seat and grabbed him by his collar, and pulled him forward and forced his head back to get his airway open,” Budrow said. He took the man’s wrist and felt for a pulse. “I could feel a faint pulse,” he said.
The tray tables were open and had food and drinks on them, and Budrow began trying to clear things out of the way to make room to lay the man down, said Aimee Budrow.
“Paul was keeping his airway open with one hand while throwing all the stuff at me with the other in order to get him in a position to lay down,” Aimee said. It took a couple of minutes before a flight attendant arrived to help, she said. “At first no one realized it was indeed an emergency — except Paul. We had no idea how long he was unconscious before the girlfriend noticed,” Aimee said.
Budrow said he suspected an overdose. “It was an assumption due to his age and knowing he was intoxicated prior to the flight. I had seen him in the boarding line and even mentioned to Aimee that he was intoxicated,” Budrow said.
“His problem was that he was in a seated position and … his head had fallen forward due to falling asleep, and between the alcohol and drugs, his body did not have the ability to wake himself up or cause him to want to breathe,” Budrow said.
Doctor on flight
A flight attendant asked over the plane’s intercom if there was a doctor on board. “It took about five minutes of Paul and me by ourselves before a doctor was found,” Aimee said. An anesthesiologist joined them, and a flight attendant brought an oxygen tank that was on board for medical emergencies and an oxygen mask was placed on the man’s face.
After the doctor arrived, Budrow continued monitoring the man’s pulse. “It would get really rapid and then almost lose it,” he said.
“Paul helped the doctor while I looked through his [the man’s] bag and wallet to find what he had taken and look for clues to his condition,” Aimee said.
The girlfriend said she knew he had taken oxycodone and Viagra, and a search of the man’s belongings showed he also had suboxone in his possession. It took about 20 minutes before the man regained consciousness, Aimee said. The plane, which was bound for Seattle, was almost diverted to Los Angeles, but continued on to Seattle after the man became conscious. “He became stable just in time to continue on,” Aimee said.
“He came up combative” and had to be restrained initially until he calmed down, Budrow said. The man was crying after the incident, and his girlfriend moved from the seat to sit next to Aimee for the remainder of the flight home, Budrow said. “Aimee was comforting her.”
Throughout the rest of the flight, Budrow kept an eye on the man to make sure he was alright. “I kept looking behind me. I like to sleep on flights, but I couldn’t take a nap,” he said.
The man “didn’t say a word to me,” but he was probably unaware of what had been done to assist him, Budrow said. When the plane landed in Seattle, the man “was escorted off the plane by customs,” Budrow said. He said he did not know of any charges in connection with the incident and was told the man refused medical attention after getting off the plane.
Budrow said the medical training he’s received through his law enforcement career helped him respond quickly. But he downplayed his actions, which gained media attention including a report on a Spokane television station. “To me, it’s no big deal,” he said.