Baltimore nurse Emily Raines unplugged from work when she recently went on a Caribbean cruise with her boyfriend, Daniel Shifflett. But Raines’s break ended dramatically on the flight home, when she and Shifflett teamed up to save the life of a man whose heart stopped beating in his airplane seat.
Raines and Shifflett were taking a Southwest flight home from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on 1 May after going on a weekend cruise vacation to the Bahamas when they heard a flight attendant ask whether anyone onboard with medical experience could help a passenger with an emergency.
As CBS News and Baltimore’s ABC affiliate first reported earlier this week, Raines is an acute care nurse at Greater Baltimore medical center. And Shifflett used to work as a nurse before pursuing a career in the finance industry. So they both got up and headed to the passenger as others tried to gather any medical equipment that they could, Raines told the Guardian on Thursday.
According to Raines, she realized that she and Shifflett might need to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation – or CPR – on the passenger having the emergency when she heard someone say that he didn’t have a pulse.
“On our way up there I was trying to pregame [plan], like, ‘Hey, if we have to do [chest] compressions, I need you to do compressions – I’ll take care of everything else,” Raines told CBS of her conversation with Shifflett as they headed up the aisle.
An alarming scene greeted the couple. The man in need of help was slumped over, and his face had turned completely purple, indicating that he probably was not breathing.
Raines said she used a small plastic device to hold the man’s tongue down to ensure it wasn’t blocking his airway. Meanwhile, Shifflett began performing chest compressions.
The pair spent about 20 minutes working on the stricken passenger. About seven minutes before landing, the couple managed to resuscitate him.
First responders took the passenger to the hospital after the flight landed. Meanwhile, Raines and Shifflett’s efforts earned them applause and high-fives from their fellow passengers before they deplaned, and their story has since gone viral during a news cycle that has been mostly dominated by the federal government’s debt ceiling debate.
Raines later received a text message from the ill passenger’s wife. In the message, the woman said her husband was “home and doing remarkably well” while explaining that multiple factors had caused his heart to stop and his oxygen levels to plummet.
She also promised to ship Raines and Shifflett some high-quality, home-baked cookies if they wouldn’t accept any other form of gratitude. Raines said on Thursday that the passenger’s wife days earlier had told her she was about to send the treats off.
“I cannot possibly thank you enough for saving [his] life,” said the message to Raines. “There are no words.”
Raines said that the quarterly CPR training offered through her employer deserved at least some of the credit for the man’s resuscitation. The hospital was the first in Maryland to earn classification as a Resuscitation Quality Improvement Lighthouse Organization, which recognizes the adoption and consistent use of a certain CPR training program.
She also said partnering with Shifflett to stave off someone’s unexpected death had deepened the couple’s bond.
“Both of us have that [medical] experience and that deeper understanding of exactly what we were doing,” Raines said. “We have these skills together as a couple and we were able to save somebody’s life.
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