Emergency! Nursing at 29,000 feet

I went on a family trip a week ago. We spent three days in NYC, then went on an 8 day Bahamas cruise.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Seal
Federal Bureau of Investigation Seal (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Other than a few snags, such as being delayed by the US Coast Guard in Port Canaveral due to a bomb scare… and another delay due to a FBI investigation on our morning arrival back in New York City due to the death of a 19 year old passenger, it was a very nice trip.

On our Westjet flight home, I was chatting with a fellow beside me. We had some common interests, including biking. A short time into our flight, the fellow beside me mentioned he wanted to go to the bathroom as he had a window seat. My wife and I stood up to let him through. Once the fellow stood up, I noticed he looked ashen.

I said “are you feeling ok?” In which he replied “I think I’m going to throw up”. Instantly I was looking for an airsickness bag, when the fellow lost consciousness, fell face down right beside me in the isle, and hit his head on a seat arm on the way down.

English: Westjet 737-700 landing at Montréal-P...
English: Westjet 737-700 landing at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport on a sunny Saturday afternoon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My wife was quick to announce to the Westjet staff that I was an RN and did they need my help. They let me take control of the situation. I quickly checked his Airway (unobstructed), his breathing (shallow) and pulse (thready)… he was diaphoretic but non responsive to stimuli. I put him in a recovery position (as I feared he might aspirate). He woke up shortly afterwards, and eventually we helped him into the back isle seat (he swapped with my son). There was a BP Cuff and Stethoscope on the plane, so I was able to take his vitals, and collect some medical information, and relayed this information to the Doctor on Satellite phone.

The fellow was stable throughout the rest of the flight other than a sore head. He was quickly whisked away by the paramedics upon arrival. He did thank me for my assistance, and I was glad to be there to help. I was surprised to find out Vito Culmone, the Westjet Executive Vice-President, Finance, CFO who came and thank me also for my assistance. He even offered to help us with our carry-on luggage at the end of the flight!

I’ve done many firsts in my lifetime, but nursing at 29,000 feet is a new one for me! The reaction from my kids was priceless, as they have never seen me do what I do best. Makes me proud of being a nurse.

Al Perreault RN
UNA Local 115

4 thoughts on “Emergency! Nursing at 29,000 feet

    1. Thanks Susan! I didn’t think it was a big deal until I saw the looks from my kids! Best wishes to you and your family! Al

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