June 6th started off as any other day would when a man named Henry and his wife, along with several other strangers, boarded a plane traveling from Philadelphia to Atlanta. No one on that plane could have envisioned the events that awaited them.
After being in the air for over 30 minutes, an American Red Cross employee, Kim Dunham -seated in the same row as Henry- began to notice that he was showing signs of discomfort and that he kept pacing up and down the aisle. All of the sudden Henry collapsed.
One of the flight attendants immediately made an announcement over the intercom asking if there were any emergency personnel on the flight. Everyone was in shock. No one moved. The second announcement was made and his wife got up and ran to the back. That is when angles began doing their work and a string of lifesaving events occurred thanks to complete strangers.
The flight attendants pulled out the plane’s automated external defibrillator (AED) machine. This is when Kim knew she needed to jump in and use her emergency response skills. She immediately asked her Red Cross colleague, Karen Nazaire-Renaud for help.
“I jumped over the lady next to me and ran down the aisle,” said Karen. “He was seated in the last row, face was blue and tongue was protruding. The AED was lying on the seat in front of him. I told the flight attendants that we needed to get him on the floor as soon as possible and remove his shirt. He was a big guy so a few people helped get him in the floor, including Kim. In the meantime, I turned the AED on attached the pads to the machine and then attached them to the Henry’s chest.”
Another passenger named Kathy volunteered to help move Henry into a safe position. After waiting for the AED to analyze, Kathy began performing rescue breaths while Karen and Kim rotated performing chest compressions. They ran into obstacles because of the limited space on the plane and had to reposition Henry several times before finding a spot that would allow for continuous rescue breath and compressions.
After several minutes of doing CPR, the flight attendants told everyone that there was going to be an emergency landing and to brace themselves because it was going to be very rough. The plane started to shake and water began spilling out of the toilet and sink near Kim and Kathy causing them to get wet. While doing compressions Kim said that she heard something pop. Although Kim’s wrist popped, and bones began to break in Henry’s chest, they all knew that they had to stay strong and continue to fight for his life.
Once they landed in Raleigh, NC, the flight attendants said that they had to move him to get the back door open for EMS. Kim jumped over the seat to make room. They moved his body down the aisle and Karen jumped on his left side to continue CPR.
Blood began to foam out of his mouth, and Kathy used paper towels to wipe it away. Karen continued to do compressions until EMS was in place. Kathy had wiped down his face, one last time before he was taken away. Once EMS placed him on the stretcher, they continued compressions until making it to the hospital.
Thankfully, Henry was able to make it to the hospital in time and survived. If it were not for the brave individuals trained by the Red Cross, Henry might not be here today. The heroism taken in the air prevented a family from saying goodbye and burying a loved one.
Although no one could have predicted the events that happen that day – one thing is for sure, there were angels in the air and the power of the American Red Cross saved a life.
For more information about how you can get trained in lifesaving skills visit RedCross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS.