Nurse Saves Pilot's Life After Suffering Heart Attack During Flight

Monday, 13 Jan 2014 10:46 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A nurse saved a pilot's life in late December. During a flight home to Southern California, Linda Alweiss responded to the crew's request for a healthcare professional after the pilot had a heart attack.

"He was clearly suffering from a possibly fatal arrhythmia,” Alweiss told NBC News.

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"He was kind of slumped in his seat, his head down, kind of mumbling incoherently," Alweiss said. "At that point I asked the copilot, 'You know how to land the airplane, right?' And she said 'Yes.'"

The pilot's heart attack reportedly occurred within 30 minutes of when the flight took off.

Alweiss, a registered nurse who spent years in pediatric intensive care, was recently recertified for advanced cardiac life support.

Alweiss reportedly kept calm. Along with her husband and another passenger, she relocated the captain to a galley floor, where the three administered a diagnostic defibrillator and started an IV, NBC News reported.

The other passenger was a 24-year-old registered nurse from Wyoming named Amy Sorensen.

The plane, which was flying out of Des Moines, IA., made an emergency landing in Omaha, where paramedics met the crew on the tarmac.

"United flight 1637, a Boeing 737 operating between Des Moines and Denver. . . Landed safely in Omaha after the captain became ill," the airline said in a statement. "United accommodated the customers overnight, and they continued to Denver the next day."

"Her actions were heroic," Alweiss's husband Alan told NBC News. "She didn't hesitate for a second."

The following day, Alweiss, along with her husband and daughter, resumed their trip to California on another United Airlines flight where they were seated next to the copilot from the previous night.

During the California-bound flight, the copilot told Alweiss that the paramedics "were able to get [the pilot] into a cardiac unit," and that "he had survived."

Neither Alweiss nor Sorenson said they considered themselves heroes for their actions.

"I really don't see myself as a hero," Sorenson told KABC-TV. "I did what I know for a patient that needed it."

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