NEWS

Woman having panic attack praises strangers for helping during WestJet flight

05/29/2015 04:31 EDT | Updated 05/29/2016 05:59 EDT
A Saskatchewan woman who suffered an anxiety attack on a West Jet flight wants to thank a Manitoba passenger and flight crew for helping her get through the flight.

Leah Dyck was on her way to Toronto from Saskatoon on May 16 when she started to feel nervous during a stopover in Winnipeg. She said she was pacing in the Winnipeg airport and felt a panic attack coming on.

"It was a bad one, I've had them for a few years." Dyck said, adding she was crying, and had trouble breathing. She was able to make it to the gate where West Jet agent Sonia Ouellette noticed something was wrong. Dyck said Ouellette offered to get her ice water and call paramedics, but she said it wasn't necessary.

"I just said to her I'm so sorry I'm so embarrassed, and she said it was okay, 'we can get you on to a different flight to Toronto if we need to.'"

The 35-year-old mother of five said all the WestJet agents in Winnipeg were so supportive, they upgraded her seat on the flight to an area with more space so she could relax.

"So right away they just made me feel better, and that helped me to immediately start feeling calm."

Brandon passenger reaches out

Nora Shepherd was a passenger from Brandon standing in line with Dyck waiting to board the flight, when she overheard the commotion.

"She was a little bit of a mess." Shepherd said. "I felt really bad so I turned around and said 'hi', and she mentioned something about having five children and she definitely didn't look old enough to have children, so I told her she needed a medal!"

Shepherd said they both laughed and that's when the flight attendants offered to put them in seats next to each other.

Shepherd said her sister has suffered from panic attacks in the past so she had some some experience of how to deal with it.

"Once she told me that she was having a anxiety attack, I was like 'oh I know how to handle this'" Shepherd said.

Dyck said Shepherd helped her get through the flight.

"She held my hand when I needed it, and when I started to feel nervous and anxious again, she would just be like 'you know what, you got this Leah!" Dyck said.

Act of human kindness

Dyck said Shepherd stayed by her side long after they arrived in the Toronto airport to make sure she was OK.

"It was a really an amazing act of human kindness, I think." Dyck said.

Dyck was so touched by the support that she posted her story on Facebook in hopes of tracking down her Good Samaritan on the flight so she could thank her.

Her story has received thousands of shares on social media, and she was finally able to connect with Shepherd on Facebook this week.

WestJet spokesperson Brie Ogle said the company is proud of how staff handled the situation.

"It's a great example of why we all work here." Ogle said. "They did the right thing, and we are all encouraged to do what we can to ensure the best flight experience for our customers."

Shepherd told CBC she's been getting a lot of messages of support from strangers online. But she's not sure why.

"I think it's a little strange getting a lot of attention just for being a nice person." said Shepherd.

"We're all human we all have struggles, we all have stuff going on in our lives, and just one nice deed that each person does can change the world."

Shepherd and Dyck say they are now both friends and plan to visit each other this summer.

MORE:cbcNews