ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A nurse terrified of flying helped save a fellow passenger on a plane to Salt Lake City earlier this month — and got a chance to work with her mom.
Morgan Anderson, 26, of Asheville even forgot for a bit that she was flying. Instead starting at 8:30 a.m. ET Dec. 13, she and her mom, nurse Rose Anderson, 57, of Asheville, worked to save an unresponsive man who appeared to be in his 60s, was slouched over in his seat and had a shirt covered in vomit.
"I didn't feel like I was in the air thousands of feet above the world. I just got tunnel vision and focused on him and my mom," Morgan Anderson said.
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Her mom determined that the man was in hypovolemic shock, likely because of extreme dehydration, and he needed fluid.
"If somebody hadn't done something to correct that, he probably would've gone into cardiac arrest and died," Rose Anderson said.
The medical kit on board had a needle, a catheter, four 250-milliliter bags of saline solution, intravenous tubing and the blood-pressure cuff that Rose Anderson used to determine what was wrong.
Typically, a man would need 2 to 3 liters of saline to get proper care, they said.
"It was like walking a tight rope, keeping him all right with what we had," Rose Anderson said.
As the mother and daughter duo worked to save their patient, they relayed his vital information to a physician on the ground.
Many commercial airlines have ground-based medical-consulting hubs, where physicians can walk plane staff through in-air medical emergencies. These physicians ultimately decide whether to reroute planes for emergency landings.
In this case, the physician in Pittsburgh, decided that the ill man was in stable enough condition to avoid a costly diversion.
After several minutes on the IV, the man regained consciousness and was able to speak and drink water on his own. He told the Andersons, who continued to care for him until the plane landed, that he was on his way to visit his mother.
The man was in stable condition when paramedics took over after they landed.
The pilot thanked the Andersons. The flight attendant gave them a bottle of wine and vouchers for a discount off their next flight. And the company itself gave a shoutout to the women.
"Delta sincerely appreciates the efforts of these medical professionals who came to the aid of one of our customers who fell ill on a recent flight," Michael Thomas, a Delta spokesman, said in email.
Morgan Anderson also treasured the chance to work with her mom, something she's been wanting to do ever since she decided to become a nurse just like her mother.
"It's always good to have a happy ending," Rose Anderson said.
The flight had another happy ending for Morgan Anderson, too: She didn't have to stay in the air too long afterward to think about her fears.
Because of the emergency, the pilot put the pedal to the metal and completed the plane's scheduled 4½-hour flight from Asheville to Salt Lake City in a little more than three hours.
Follow Sam DeGrave on Twitter: @sgdegrave