22-Year Old Nurse Saves Life On Plane

News stories that take place on airplanes have been overwhelmingly negative the past couple of months, from people being dragged off flights, to men fighting in the aisles. But this is a story that is far from negative, and one of the main reasons is because it involves a nurse.

According to a recent story in USA Today, Nurse Courtney Donlon was mid-flight from Texas to New Jersey (following a vacation in Vegas) when she woke up to the sounds of flight attendants asking for medical help. A 57-year old woman in another section of the plane had begun showing signs of medical distress, including symptoms of a heart attack.

“I stood up and went over to the flight attendant. As soon as I identified myself as a nurse, they let me start assessing the woman in distress,” Nurse Donlon recounts. “I introduced myself – told her I was Courtney and I worked at Robert Wood Johnson and what kind of floor I worked on so she would start to trust me a little bit. I told her she was in good hands. From there, I assessed her pain.”

While Courtney (22) only earned her nursing license recently, she reacted like a seasoned professional, quickly gathering information on her patient and gathering any and all medical supplies the flight attendants could find. There wasn’t much to work with… the plane’s defibrillator, a blood pressure cuff, a small tank of oxygen, and a bottle of Aspirin. But it was enough for Courtney to do what she needed to do.

“I think even with the adrenaline going through me, I have seen this and heard about this my whole life,” Donlon said. “I have seen my mom take control before and my sister take charge in the field. If you don’t step up, it’s kind of a bystander thing and in my family, they have always been the ones to step up and try to give care, so I felt it was natural for me to do so. … 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.”

After her initial treatment, Courtney went a step further, personally convincing the plane’s pilots to find the nearest place to land and get the woman to a hospital. Eventually, they were able to touch down in South Carolina, where Courtney transferred her patient (and a full medical report) to the waiting medics. The woman arrived safely at a nearby hospital, and Courtney was able to finish her journey home.

It may not have been the way Courtney expected to end her vacation, but it’s one that neither she nor her emergency patient will ever forget.

If you’re interested in beginning your own career as a nurse, Unitek College has several programs that can help get you on your way. Contact us here for more information.