Customer Reunites with his United Heroes - United Hub

Customer reunites with his United heroes

By The Hub team, May 04, 2016

At the end of her automated external defibrillator (AED) training, Melanie Molek, a customer service representative at Washington Dulles International Airport, asked instructor Bill Huston how often he'd needed to use these skills in the 40 years he's been certified.

"Never," replied Bill, who is a lead customer service representative at the airport.

Melanie assumed she never would, either.

The next day, customer Jim Bowles' plan was to connect to Orlando, Florida through Washington-Dulles, but the flight was canceled due to weather. Unsure of how far he'd have to walk to find assistance with rebooking, the 51-year-old man, who'd felt fatigued the night before, grabbed the luggage cart at the end of the jetbridge and put his bag on it.

Not since Harry Potter arrived at Platform 9 ¾ has a cart proven so magical.

"I was at C9 finishing work on a flight to Tampa, Florida, when a coworker asked me if I'd heard a noise," Melanie recalled. "I hadn't, but she said a man with a cart had fallen over by C11 not far from Chef Geoff's. She finished boarding the flight and I went to check out the situation."

Mr. Bowles had suffered a heart attack.

Richard Horil, the general manager of Chef Geoff's, a police officer and Melanie were the first to tend to Mr. Bowles. While Mr. Horil and the officer started CPR, Melanie sprinted to C20 to grab the AED. Since she'd finished training the day before, she was well aware of where she could find one.

"Without the cart falling," Melanie said, "we wouldn't have heard him and who knows how much longer it would've taken to get there?"

When Chris Woods, a supervisor at Washington-Dulles, got the call that a customer had suffered a heart attack, he instantly thought to find out if Customer Service Representative Ali Mahboubi was at work.

In his free time, Ali is a volunteer medic with a local fire department. Luckily, he was at work that morning and rushed to C11 after getting a call from Chris.

"When I saw Ali coming, I felt so relieved," Melanie said. "I thought to myself that this guy is going to make it."

Nine minutes after Mr. Bowles suffered the heart attack, paramedics arrived. He was airlifted to Reston Hospital and eventually transferred to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where his outlook swayed between hopeful and grim for about two weeks.

But Melanie's feeling was right – Mr. Bowles made it through.

If Washington-Dulles Customer Service Representative Abeer Husary hadn't suggested CPR training be made available, if Bill wasn't able to administer classes, and if Melanie hadn't decided, on a whim, to drive 90 minutes to the airport on her day off to take the class, Mr. Bowles might not be alive today. The same serendipity prevailed. He happened to pick up the cart, Ali was at work that day, and Inova Fairfax Hospital is one of America's best heart hospitals. The list of things Mr. Bowles needed to go right – that did go right – went on and on.

Last week, Mr. Bowles, well on his way to recovery, along with his wife, his sister and his two teenage daughters, drove from their New Jersey home and reunited with Melanie, Ali and Mr. Horil at the airport.

The group spent a few hours recollecting that day and the uncertainty that followed and getting to know each other's life stories. There were hugs, tears and laughs, but above all, there was gratefulness for how everyone reacted that February morning, for the moments they were sharing together and all of the moments Mr. Bowles and his family would still be able to have together in the future.

"I've cried so much thinking about this," Mr. Bowles said as the group stood at C11, exactly where he'd suffered the heart attack. "You don't get too many second chances in life, but these guys helped make sure I got one. It's surreal to be back here and meet with my heroes."

As they walked away from C11, before the Bowles family was off to the older daughter's college lacrosse game and college visits with their younger daughter, Mr. Bowles had one last message for Ali, Melanie and Mr. Horil: "It's so great to have you all in my life," he said, "and to have my life because of you guys."

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