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Cardiac Arrest Rescue on a Plane

Cardiac Arrest Rescue on a Plane

April 01, 2021 | Last Updated: July 16, 2021

Dr. Allison Dupont, an interventional cardiologist, reflects on her experience responding to a cardiac emergency during a plane flight. Dr. Dupont was traveling with her husband for a vacation when she noticed mid-flight that a man seated in front of her on the plane was in trouble. Watch as Dr. Dupont shares her story of noticing a fellow passenger was in distress and responding to out-of-hospital cardiac arrest on an airplane with CPR and an AED. 

Note: Automated External Defibrillators (AED) are designed so that they can be used by people without extensive medical training. So, even though Dr. Dupont is a physician, you do not need to be a doctor to save a life with an AED! AEDs have step-by-step voice instructions that tell you what to do and will only shock a person if their heart is suffering from a lethal arrhythmia. 


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Full Transcript

(00:05) I’m Allison Dupont. I’m an interventional cardiologist. I’ve been in practice now in North Georgia for about 10 years. In 2019, my husband and I were flying to Mexico for a vacation. We were about halfway from Atlanta to Cabo when a flight attendant in front of us started panicking while she was serving a drink to the man that was sitting in front of me. She had taken his drink order and made his drink and then turned to give it to him. And he was not responding to her. I was listening to some music, but I saw the look on her face and I took my headphones off and she was saying, “Sir!, Sir!, Sir!” over and over again. So I knew something was wrong. And I stood up and looked over the seat and I could tell he was, he had suffered a cardiac arrest.

(00:53) He was already ashen in the face. He was having agonal respirations. My husband was seated next to me in the middle seat. He got out and was able to somehow get this man out of the window seat and onto the floor in the aisle. So I started CPR. There was another physician on the flight that came over and alternated chest compressions with me on him. We asked the flight attendant immediately to get the AED. As soon as we got the AED, we put that on him and delivered a shock immediately. He did not have return of a pulse. And so we continued CPR. I can’t recall exactly how many shocks he got, multiple shocks, before we finally got him back. In the midst of this, I had asked the flight attendant to tell the pilot to land the plane.

(01:44) So we ended up landing in Houston. By that point we had gotten a return of spontaneous circulation on the patient, and he actually immediately was coherent. So despite the 15 minutes of CPR, because it was immediate, we started immediately, he was very coherent. He was able to give me his name, his daughter’s contact number, all of his medical history, medications, all of that. He laid on the floor in the aisle while we were landing and I kind of just held onto him. EMS came onto the plane and put him on a stretcher and took him out. After I had given him all the history that I had, he was taken to a hospital in Houston and had angioplasty done on multiple vessels in his heart and recovered from that. So I knew it would happen to me eventually that I would witness a cardiac arrest in public. And I’m glad I was there. I think I was there for a reason that day. The fact that he was sitting right in front of me, I think made all the difference.