This couple was in the right airspace at the right time.
A Baltimore nurse on her way home from a tropical vacation with her boyfriend sprang into action to save the life of a fellow passenger whose heart suddenly stopped mid-flight, according to reports.
Emily Raines, 31, and Daniel Shifflett, 28, were on Southwest Flight 553 on May 1 when a flight attendant asked over the loudspeaker if any flyers have medical experience to assist a passenger having an emergency.
“I could hear the panic in the flight attendant’s voice,” Raines, an acute care nurse at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, told the Washington Post of the urgent call to arms halfway through the flight.
She added that she immediately knew “this is going to be serious.”
She and Shifflett, a former nurse who now works in finance, jumped up and were led to a passenger who was unconscious in his seat and without a pulse.
The ailing man’s face had turned purple.
“It was quite alarming, obviously, seeing his face look that way,” Raines told CBS News, which first reported the couple’s in-air heroics.
Shifflett told the Washington Post that a crew member was performing chest compressions on the man while he was still slumped over in his seat, but “you need to be on a flat surface. Otherwise, the compressions aren’t going to do anything.”
He and Raines laid the man, who they did not identify but said was middle-aged, on the floor in the tight confines of the aisle to do several more rounds of compressions, eventually reviving him minutes before the flight made an emergency landing in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“I would say about seven minutes before we landed is when we got him back to life,” Raines told the outlet, adding that when she had given him a rescue breath, “I could see his chest wasn’t rising.”
“It was very overwhelming,” the 10-year-nursing veteran said of the scary ordeal, but added it “was amazing” to watch his eyes open.
Emergency responders took the passenger to a local hospital.
“Not a lot of times when you give CPR or have situations like this do patients truly make it,” Rains told the Washington Post.
The couple has stayed in contact with the man and his family, who is home and “doing remarkably well,” according to a text from his wife that they shared with the outlet.
“We are still not completely sure what happened,” his wife wrote.
She said that her husband did not have a heart attack and that his emergency was likely “due to low oxygen levels” but doctors think “multiple factors played a role.”
Raines and Shifflett, who met in 2018 while nurses at a Maryland psychiatric hospital, said they had tried changing their flight home from their four-day Bahamas cruise twice that day, but ended up keeping their original itinerary.
“I’m not sure what would have happened,” she said.
“I’m really glad we were able to be there to help.”
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