Fellow Passengers Bring Man 'Back to Life'

Emily Raines and Daniel Shifflett, both nurses, save a man with no pulse aboard plane
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 2, 2023 1:02 PM CDT
Fellow Passengers Bring Man 'Back to Life'
A Southwest Airlines jetliner approaches at Denver International Airport on May 26, 2023.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

After a four-day cruise in the Bahamas, Baltimore couple Emily Raines and Daniel Shifflett were eager to get home. So eager, in fact, that they twice tried to switch to an earlier flight out of Fort Lauderdale, where their cruise ship docked around 9am on May 1. Ultimately, they stuck with their 4:20pm flight as the cost to change was too expensive. And boy are they glad they did. As the Washington Post reports, the couple are now credited with saving the life of a Southwest Airlines passenger who turned purple, wasn't breathing, and had no pulse. When a flight attendant made an urgent call for medical professionals on board to step up, the two licensed nurses jumped from their seats.

They saw that a flight attendant trying to give the man chest compressions while he was slumped in his seat. But "you need to be on a flat surface," Shifflett, who now works in finance, tells the Post. "Otherwise, the compressions aren't going to do anything." The pair moved the man into an aisle and restarted CPR. "When I gave him a rescue breath, I could see that his chest wasn’t rising," which meant his airway was blocked, says Raines, an acute care nurse at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. With the help of other passengers who sorted through available medical equipment, the couple used a device that prevents the tongue from blocking the airway in combination with a manual resuscitator to get the man breathing again.

It took 15 agonizing minutes. But "we got him back to life" about seven minutes before the plane made an emergency landing, Raines tells CBS News. The man was rushed to a hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, but is "home now and he's doing well," Raines tells the Post. The couple—applauded and high-fived by their fellow passengers, per the Guardian—have been in touch with the man's wife, who was told he suffered a medical emergency as a result of low oxygen levels. "I cannot possibly thank you enough for saving [his] life," the woman told the couple in a text. Had they changed their flight, "I'm not sure what would have happened," Raines tells the Post. "I'm really glad we were able to be there to help." (More uplifting news stories.)

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