What If I Was Right?

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What If I Was Right?

By Pat Schaumann, CMP, CSEP, DMCP, HMCC | Oct 29, 2018

This is not a good story. This is not a happy story. But it is a true story about a potential human trafficking incident that I experienced and, unfortunately, did not recognize until it was too late.

I want to preface my story with a serendipitous event that took place several hours before I left for the airport. Maritz has learning modules on various relevant topics that all employees are required to take. Some of these have deadlines, and as I was finishing some last-minute preparations, a reminder to take my learning module on human trafficking popped up.

On August 8 around 12 p.m., I was boarding an American Airlines flight from St. Louis to Dallas. I was traveling to MPI global headquarters to present a Healthcare Meeting Compliance Certificate (HMCC) class.

While waiting to board, I noticed a young girl in a wheelchair who appeared to be very ill. Her hair looked as if it had not been washed or combed in weeks and she was completely covered in a pink blanket. Her traveling companion was a woman who was dressed nicely. As the girl in the wheelchair was seated in the middle seat of my row, I was reminded of a line from the movie Casablanca: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

We were still in the pre-boarding stage when the girl in the middle seat slumped into my lap and began to convulse. I immediately noticed that her tongue was beginning to roll back so I grabbed the wrist of a flight attendant, who was several rows behind me, and told her that I thought the girl was having a seizure. The flight attendants reacted immediately, as well as two doctors who were on the flight. Fortunately for me, I was seated in the aisle seat, so I was able to get up and allow room for attendants, fire department and EMTs to work on her. Not so fortunate was the man seated in the window seat. He was unable to move and had to endure a lot of trauma. He was amazing throughout the ordeal and helped as much as he could.

Throughout the ordeal, the girl’s travel companion, who was seated directly behind her, kept telling everyone that she was fine, just dehydrated. She also said that the girl had taken an Advil before the flight. I looked directly at her and thought to myself, this girl is dying and her friend was trying to tell everyone to just leave her alone. Also odd, the healthcare workers were asking the friend questions about the girl (what drugs has she taken, does she have any pre-existing conditions, etc.), and the response from her “friend” was repeatedly, “I don’t know.”

Later, other facts stood out to me that I missed during the incident. The friend was neatly dressed and wore false eyelashes. I remember wondering how she had time to put eyelashes on, yet her friend was such a mess. Also, not once did the “friend” unbuckle her own seat belt and talk to or console the girl.

My story does not end well. I am not sure if the young girl lived or died. She had overdosed. And I am fairly certain that this was a human trafficking incident. All the signs that Maritz taught us were there. I simply missed it. I am not sure if being part of the trauma distracted me from obvious facts or if I was second guessing myself (“What if I’m wrong?”) The bigger question should have been, “What if I’m right?”

As we, within the hospitality industry, continue to be better educated on the topic of human trafficking, there will be more stories like mine. I only hope that my message is loud and clear: What if you are right?



Pat Schaumann, CMP, CSEP, DMCP, HMCC
Pat Schaumann, CMP, CSEP, DMCP, HMCC

Pat Schaumann, CMP, CSEP, DMCP, HMCC, is director, life science development for McVeigh Global Meetings and Events and manager of the MPI Healthcare Meeting Compliance Certificate.