Speed Reads

It wasn't all bad

New nurse saves life of fellow passenger on airplane

Courtney Donlon was sleeping on her flight home to New Jersey on Monday when an announcement woke her up — over the loudspeaker, a crew member was asking if any medical professionals were on board.

Donlon, 22, started as a nurse in the respiratory care unit at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick in September, and she quickly volunteered to help. A 57-year-old woman was experiencing the classic symptoms of a heart attack, and working with just a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, small tank of oxygen, aspirin, and defibrillator, Donlon got to work. "I was trying to think a step ahead — if she loses consciousness or a pulse and I have to give CPR," she told MyCentralJersey.com. "I was thinking, how do I make what I do have here work."

As she assisted the woman, Donlon also made sure to calm her down, as stress causes heart and breathing rates to become elevated. Fearing it was a "dire situation," Donlon asked the pilot to make an emergency landing, and Donlon waited with the woman on the tarmac in Charleston, South Carolina, holding her hand, until paramedics arrived. Donlon, whose mother and sister are both nurses at her hospital, said she does not know the status of the woman, but hopes to hear from her when she can. "I can't lie, I was nervous at first being on a plane with limited supplies, but once I realized I was the most qualified person on the plane and someone had to be the confident one, then I could take to the role pretty easily," Donlon told MyCentralJersey.com. Catherine Garcia