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Saving a Life on an Airplane: Hear One Nurse’s Incredible Story


Hannah Donaldson wasn’t expecting to save a life when she boarded a Delta flight going from Florida to Los Angeles earlier this week. But she was ready to spring into action when a medical emergency occurred 30,000 feet in the air. Rushing to the scene, Donaldson helped keep the patient stable until they could land the plane at a nearby airport. The entire scene ended with a viral photo on social media, thanks to none other than Terrell Owens, the former NFL wide receiver.

Learn more about this shocking story and what it was like to care for a patient on an airplane.

A Nurse Goes Above and Beyond for Her Fellow Passenger

Hannah Donaldson, a cardiac registered nurse at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, was sitting next to the window when she heard the flight attendant make an overhead announcement, asking all nurses and doctors on board to come up front and deal with an “unknown” situation. Donaldson wasted no time getting to the front of the plane. While the nature of this medical emergency remains unclear, Donaldson, along with two other medical professionals, did everything they could to keep the patient stable using only what they had on board, including a medical bag with a blood pressure monitor, stethoscope, medical oxygen and IV fluids.

Donaldson gave an interview after the incident, saying, “The Delta staff were awesome in providing us with everything they had available.” While she couldn’t name the other two medical professionals that helped her save the patient, she said they were some of the best people she’s ever met.

The pilot then landed the plane in Albuquerque, NM, so the patient could receive immediate medical attention. Thanks to Donaldson and the other medical professionals on board, the patient remained stable until they reached the airport. Paramedics were waiting to take over as soon as the plane landed in New Mexico.

Going Viral, Thanks to Terrell Owens

As the incident came to an end and the passengers waited for their next flight in Albuquerque, Donaldson was in for another surprise. Former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens, who played for 16 seasons, was also on the plane. Unbeknownst to Donaldson, Owens snapped a photo of her and the other medical professionals caring for the patient up in the air. He then posted the photo on Instagram where it quickly went viral. Almost immediately, the post received over 25,000 likes and over 500 comments, mostly messages of gratitude for Donaldson and the other women helping the patient.

Donaldson was unaware of this new development as she waited in the Albuquerque airport. They couldn’t depart for Los Angeles until the plane had been restocked with medical supplies. But Donaldson’s brother-in-law noticed that Owens was on the plane. As an excited fan, he asked to take a photo with Owens. Donaldson didn’t know who he was, so she decided to Google him. But when she pulled up the results, his viral Instagram photo was the first thing she saw.

Donaldson was caught completely off-guard when she saw herself going viral on Instagram. It’s all thanks to her bravery and willingness to help a patient in need. Her coworkers at Sarasota Memorial Hospital were quick to send her messages of love after the incident, saying how grateful they were to have one of their own on board.

If Donaldson and the other medical professionals weren’t on board, there’s a chance the patient wouldn’t have made it to New Mexico. Nurses are always going above and beyond for their patients and Donaldson was ready to go the distance for someone in need.

We proudly salute Donaldson and the other medical professionals involved. Whenever you fly, it always helps to have a registered nurse on board.


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