HEATHER WHIRLED TOWARD the ear-piercing cry behind her. She released her seat belt and rushed back to the economy section. The overhead lights snapped on to reveal the middle-aged couple whom she'd seen at the gate. The panic-stricken woman beside him held a tissue to his nose. Blood dripped beneath her fingers and down her wrist.
Not a muscle moved on the man's face, and his eyes rolled back into their sockets. Heather approached him in the aisle seat. Before she could speak, the woman gasped, a mix of sobs and a struggle for composure. "Help me. I can't stop the bleeding."
Heather used tissues from the woman's lap to help block the blood flow. "Try to stay calm."
The woman nodded. "I shouldn't have let him talk me into this trip. He's been so weak."
From the front of the plane, the male flight attendant who'd greeted passengers earlier rushed their way. He carried two kits, one labeled first aid and the other biohazard. A female attendant trailed after him.
"Help is here," Heather said to the woman. She moved aside for the attendant to administer aid. She prayed the ill man was undergoing a minor problem—an easily resolved issue—and for the woman's comfort. But his lifeless face showed a grim reality.
"Sir, how do you feel?" Not a sound or movement came from the man. Blood flowed from Heather's mass of tissues.
The male attendant twisted off the seal of the biohazard kit and searched inside. He drew out a pair of nitrile gloves and wiggled them on. The female attendant opened the first aid kit, ripped into a gauze package, and handed it to the male attendant, who applied it to the man's nose. She opened the biohazard waste bag to dispose of the soiled materials.
The male attendant captured the woman's attention. "Ma'am, I'm Nathan. Is this your husband?"
"Yes. He's very hot."
Nathan touched the man's forehead. "How long has he been feverish?"
"He was fine when we boarded. Perhaps over an hour into the flight?"
Her sobs subsided to soft cries. "Do something. Blood's coming from his mouth."
Heather touched her shoulder with a clean hand. "Take a deep breath."
"How can I? Roy's not breathing."
"That's his name?" His gentle voice ushered in compassion.
"Yes. I'm Catherine."
He bent to speak to Roy. "I'm Nathan. Give me a few minutes to administer first aid." He replaced the gauze on Roy's nose for the second time and turned to the female flight attendant, who'd paled but didn't tremble. "Leave the kits. Call the flight deck and tell them what's happening."
She rushed to the front of the cabin.
"This is my fault." Catherine held Roy's hand. "He finished chemo and radiation for lung cancer, but his doctor hadn't cleared him for the trip."
"Catherine," Nathan said, "I know you're worried, but try to stay calm. Has he experienced these symptoms before?"
A voice spoke over the interphone. "If a licensed medical professional is on board, we have a medical issue. All other passengers, please remain in your seats."