MATTHEW HEALEY THE BOSTON GLOBE
All was calm on flight 670 on Friday night. The stewardess was rolling the drink cart down the aisle on the United Airlines Flight when Jane Palermo, a nurse onboard witnessed a woman shaking her husband and noticed he was unresponsive.
The flight had just taken off and was en route to Boston from Chicago when the incident occurred. The man was in cardiac arrest when the nurse from UMass Memorial Medical Center jumped up to help.
Palermo has been a nurse for 35 years and knows exactly how to handle critical situations. She knew it was a serious situation, because of her nurse training and also because her husband's heart stopped when there was no one home to render help. and sadly, he passed away.
“I didn’t really think about it. I just responded because he needed someone,I thought about it after.”
A paramedic also helped Palermo drag the man to the front of the plane and when she checked for a pulse it was absent. She initiated CPR. The paramedic performed chest compressions while she did mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
“He seemed to kind of respond a little bit,” said Palermo, “but not enough.”
With 35 years of experience as a nurse, Palermo was no stranger to administering CPR, but she had never performed this procedure at such high altitudes and close quarters.
A flight attendant gave the nurse defibrillator paddles and once shocked the man's pulse began again as did his breathing.
The flight was diverted to Cleveland where there was an emergency landing. When the man was transported off the plane he was breathing without assistance.
There were medical personnel at the gate awaiting their arrival and the plane departed for Boston once the man and his wife were escorted off. The nurse could not remember the paramedic's name and no additional information about the status of the patient has been released.
Officials at UMass said, “We applaud Jane for taking quick action and coming to the aid of a fellow passenger who was experiencing a life-threatening event,” Patrick Muldoon, president of UMass Memorial Medical Center, said in a statement. “Her actions 30,000 feet above the ground comes as no surprise to the people working with her on a daily basis.”
Palermo was returning from a vacation in Mexico and had given assistance to another patient a few days prior to this incident. A woman on the flight had an allergic reaction and while the situation wasn't serious, she assisted the woman with her medication and provided comfort to her.
When Palermo returned home she called her daughter, “I said to my daughter, ‘At least I didn’t have to do CPR,’” she said, “not knowing I’d have to do it on the way back.”
“It is important to have CPR training,” she said. “You never know when you need to aid someone.”