Belfast Telegraph

Monday 31 August 2015

Ulster students help save woman on plane

By Ashleigh Wallace

Published 05/07/2007

QUB medical students Aisling Murray (left) and Donna McClelland were praised for their actions by the captain of the Miami-bound plane
QUB medical students Aisling Murray (left) and Donna McClelland were praised for their actions by the captain of the Miami-bound plane

Two intrepid Queen's University medical students have told how they helped save the life of a woman on board an internal flight in America.

Donna McClelland (23) from Ballycastle and Aisling Murray (20) from Newtownbreda were in the US for a holiday to celebrate passing their first-year exams - part of which included diagnosing the signs and symptoms of heart attacks.

Just two weeks after passing the exam, they put theory into practice as they cruised at 30,000ft on board a flight from Chicago to Miami.

Speaking from America last night, Donna said passengers, cabin crew and the flight's captain thanked them for their life-saving actions.

The Co Antrim woman said: "We were flying back from Hawaii on Sunday and we were on our third flight in a row. We'd been travelling for around 40 hours and were both wrecked.

"About half way through the flight, an announcement was made over the intercom asking if there was anyone with medical knowledge on board.

"Aisling was asleep so I woke her up. It was quite a small plane and no-one else on the flight had any medical experience, so I realised we had to do something.

"We called the air hostess down and she took us to a Cuban lady in her mid-60s who couldn't breathe."

"She was panicking and hyperventilating and she felt she was having a heart attack.

"Aisling and I had studied how to look for signs and symptoms of someone having a heart attack for our exams."

Donna revealed the woman was displaying blue lips which they knew was a sign of a lack of oxygen.

Despite a language barrier, the students asked the woman a series of questions.

They also checked her pulse, blood pressure, gave her ice and wet cloths for her face as she was overheating, as well as establishing what drugs she was on.

Donna added: "The air hostess asked if we thought the flight needed to be diverted but when we gave the lady oxygen it seemed to help her so it wasn't necessary to divert it.

"We were in contact with medical staff at ground control and we were able to relay to them what drugs she was on and what condition she was in.

"When we got off the flight there were paramedics waiting to take her to hospital.

"As the passengers were getting off the plane, they thanked us for what we did. The air hostesses were also really grateful and the captain even came out to thank us for our assistance.

"We just got on with helping her and we're just glad we were able to help out."

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