Source: Courier-Post Online
A nurse on the job for only nine months, Courtney Donlon sprang into action aboard a JetBlue connecting flight home from Fort Lauderdale on Monday. Around 7:30 a.m., over the airplane’s loudspeaker came a crew member asking if any medical professionals were aboard.
Though sleeping, Donlon, 22, was awaken by the announcement. She stood up and began putting her newly acquired RN license to good use. A nurse in the Respiratory Care Unit at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) in New Brunswick since September, Donlon helped save the life of a fellow passenger experiencing a cardiac event on the flight.
“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,” she said. “I introduced myself — told her I worked at Robert Wood Johnson. I told her she was in good hands. From there, I assessed her pain.”
Donlon, who graduated from East Brunswick High School in 2013, knew her resources aboard the plane were limited. She had only a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, oxygen, defibrillator and aspirin to begin treating the 57-year-old woman.
“For a heart attack, there is a common acronym called MONA and it stands for Morphine, Oxygen, Nitroglycerine and Aspirin. What they had available to me was a small tank of oxygen with a mask and I was pretty sure I could get aspirin from someone on the plane.”
The woman, like Donlon, had fallen asleep on the 6:30 a.m. flight but woke up in pain and short of breath. “She didn’t have any prior heart conditions, but it turns out the pain actually had started the day before, but she thought it was discomfort like maybe she slept wrong on her neck or maybe she pulled it in the garden or from or from carrying a heavy purse,” she said.
“When I needed aspirin, the flight attendants checked with the captain but quickly approved asking the passengers for it.” Donlon convinced the pilot that the plane needed to make an emergency landing so the woman could be brought to a hospital. She woke up one of her friends, also a nurse, to keep monitoring the woman while she spoke with the captain in the cockpit.
After hearing from Donlon that it was “a dire situation,” he obliged, landing the plane within 20 minutes in Charleston, South Carolina, where the woman was given assistance at a nearby medical facility.
Though Donlon does not know her patient’s status, she is hoping to be in contact with her.
“Maybe she will reach out to me,” she said. “I’m going to give it some time before I reach out because her condition was very serious and I want to make sure she can rest comfortably.”