Friday, July 2, 2010

When Moments Count

While at Long Island's MacArthur Airport in Islip, New York, moments before boarding began on a Southwest flight, an elderly female passenger in a wheelchair lost consciousness. Her head slumped back. A man noticed and began shouting at her "Ma'am, what's your name?" to see if she would wake up. His repeated questions went unanswered. He wasted no time and others came to his aid. They lifted her up out of her wheelchair and placed her on the ground and checked for breathing and a pulse. The man began CPR. The airport personnel called for help, someone obtained a defibrillator, an off-duty nurse ran over to the woman, someone asked the people who were waiting to board to move back. An airport worker obtained a privacy screen. I was impressed by the group effort of total strangers and the professionalism of the airport personnel in an emergency situation.

My daughter and I realized we had just seen the woman in the ladies' room just moments earlier; she was pushing her wheelchair, walking slowly towards the gate. She seemed okay at the time. We learned she was traveling alone. They were checking her purse for ID and information on next of kin.

The boarding was delayed by about twenty minutes. Before we boarded, we could see that she was breathing, so hopefully she continued to improve.

When we found our seats on the plane, my kids and I held hands and said a prayer for the lady. We hope she is okay.

It was a harrowing start to our trip, but it reminds me how every moment counts in a situation like this, and how important it is to have identification and information on next of kin in your purse or wallet if you are traveling alone. Paramedics will usually check cell phones for an "ICE" listing (In Case of Emergency). Think about adding an ICE listing on your cell phone and the cell phones of your loved ones, especially children and teens who carry cell phones.

I found a great site that gives CPR instructions and includes mobile training apps for the iPhone and Android phones. The American Heart Association also offers Pocket First Aid and CPR Guide for the iPhone. They also offer information on where to find local CPR classes in your area by entering your zip code.


  1. This is a sad reminder of what can happen in a blink of an eye. Hopeful the fast work of everyone there saved her and she is doing well. In this day and age it's comforting to heard when strangers come together in an emergency like that. I'll be keeping her and you and your family in my thoughts and prayers (hoping you have a safe and happy trip).
    Have a great holiday.

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. I remember being at a gym one time when the guy next to me suddenly collapsed off his stationary bike. People rushed to help but when the paramedics got there he wasn't breating. I'm glad the woman was. As you say, I hope she is going to be alright.

  3. Hi Mason,
    The timing was unbelievable...they were just about to board the passengers on wheelchairs when it happened! I can't imagine the panic it would have caused if it happened on the plane. I give a lot of credit to the male passenger who noticed right away & tried to "wake" her up. He was loud enough that it caught everyone's attention, and it sparked everyone into action. Thank you so much for all of your kind thoughts and prayers ~ you're a sweetheart! Enjoy your holiday weekend, too!

    Hi Charles,
    It is frightening when something like this occurs. It can happen in the blink of an eye, and so quietly. I really thought she had died. We couldn't see what was going on once they put up a privacy screen (which I thought was a great move, knowing they were probably going to use the defib), and it seemed to take so long. When we boarded, I looked past the screen and could see she was breathing ~ a wonderful relief.
    Happy Fourth of July, Charles!

  4. Kathleen - Thanks for sharing this story: how frightening for everyone, and I am so happy to hear that the woman seemed as though she was going to be OK. You're absolutely right that it's a good idea to carry information about next of kin and other vitals. For instance, people who are violently allergic should always have a card saying what they're allergic to, and an auto-injector with them

    It's so easy to forget those things, but as you say, when seconds matter, those things can become crucial. Thank you for making your blog such an important source of useful information. Happy Fourth!

  5. Hi Margot,
    You make an excellent point about allergy info ~ you're absolutely right! That is so important to wear bracelets that identify that kind of vital info, or have it next to your ID in your wallet.

    Happy Fourth to you & yours! Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Kathleen,
    What a way to start a trip!
    I hope the woman is ok.
    A good reminder about the bracelets too.
    Diane N

  7. Thanks for visiting, Diane. I hope that lady is ok, too. I'll probably ask when I return to LI MacArthur & see if anyone knows her status.

  8. While I was in high school CPR, one of my classmates had to use it on a guy in a parking lot outside a laundry. Thankfully, we'd gotten far enough in the semester that she saved him : )

  9. That's an amazing story, Clare! Wow...looks like she had learned it just in time ~ that was no coincidence!