Special Needs Teacher Meets Young Passenger Where He Is To Help Get Plane Landed

by Megan Zander
Image via Shutterstock

A special needs teacher helped a plane land when a sick young passenger refused to take his seat

When a young passenger on board a flight from Sydney to Melbourne fell ill, the flight attendants didn’t call for the aid of a doctor. They though the person best qualified to help would be a special needs teacher, and Sophie Murphy answered the call like a superhero, minus the cape.

Whenever a couple hundred people are jammed knee to knee on a plane for hours, there’s bound to be some tension, but the mood on Flight JQ527 was jumpy from the start. Passengers started squabbling over the overhead luggage compartment space before the flight even took off, prompting the flight attendants to have to admonish everyone to play nice over the cabin loudspeaker.

On board and fully aware of the negative vibes around her was Murphy, a teacher with over 20 years experience who is now a lecturer and PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne.”If it was a cartoon,” Murphy told The Sydney Morning Herald, “there would have been smoke coming out of people’s ears.”

Also on board the plane was Shamran, a young teenage boy with Down Syndrome from New Zealand. He was traveling with his elderly parents and adult siblings.

When the time finally came for the plane to make it’s final descent, again the flight attendants took to the loud speaker, this time to announce that they were unable to land the plane because Shamran was refusing to take his seat.

With the jet’s fuel running low and tensions running high, the flight attendants asked if anyone on board happened to be a special needs teacher and Murphy stepped up to help. She found the him sprawled on the cabin floor complaining that he felt ill. With his parents and siblings unable to persuade him to take his seat, Murphy joined him on the floor and held his hand while they made small talk about things like SpongeBob Square Pants and Winnie The Pooh.

As if plopping belly down on a airplane floor that’s covered in who knows how many germs to help a complete stranger wasn’t enough to qualify Murphy for the Best Teacher On The Planet Who’s Actually In The Atmosphere Award, the teenager started to vomit. Murphy held bag after airsickness bag for him, getting puked on in the process. “It’s OK,” she said. “I’m your friend. We’re OK. We’re going to do this together.”

Thanks to Murphy’s help, the boy took his seat and the plane was able to land to the cheers and applause of the rest of the passengers.

There just happened to be a plane full of witnesses around, but the fact is that teachers deal with situations like this (even the bodily fluids part) all the time. “Teachers get such a bad rap,” she said. “I was proud to go back there, knowing I could help. This is what every single teacher does, every single day.”

Teachers deserve so much more than dumb apples… in this case, maybe an inflight drink ticket or twelve.