Off duty Flight Nurse saves life on commercial flight

Date published

03 May 2019

After visiting family in Perth on his days off, Flight Nurse Ben never expected to help save a life on his commercial flight home to Port Hedland.

Ben joined RFDS in late 2018, still in the process of moving his family from Perth to Port Hedland where he is based, he often travels to Perth on his days off.

After a recent visit with his family, Ben was boarding his commercial flight back to Port Hedland. Already seated, he was watching the final passenger board and airline staff completing their final checks, when he noticed something odd about the final passenger.

“It’s funny how as a healthcare worker, you tend to notice things that don’t look right with people, and this passenger, looked a little odd - perhaps just a little stressed.”

A few minutes later Ben noticed the passenger seated a few rows in front, head shaking, and the passengers next to him moving out of their seats.

Immediately he went to help. The passenger was having a seizure.

After getting assistance to lay him on his side and supporting his airway the patient settled, then after a minute he stopped breathing and was unresponsive. Ben immediately positioned the passenger on his back and commenced CPR. Whilst performing CPR, other passengers offered to help, Ben guided and assisted the helpers on how to perform effective CPR.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services arrived with a defibrillator and airway equipment. Defibrillator pads were applied and Ben inserted an oropharyngeal airway and provided airway support with a BVM. After the first shock was delivered, the passenger remained unresponsive and without a pulse, CPR continued.

After a number of rounds of CPR and four shocks later, St John Ambulance arrived and the passenger had a pulse, was conscious and talking. Ben assisted St John Ambulance in transferring the passenger off the aircraft to a stretcher and transferred to Royal Perth Hospital.

Ben returned to work in Port Hedland and started his shift that night. Reflecting on this experience Ben said:

“I’m so grateful for the skills I have developed over the many years I have been nursing. To remain cool, calm and have direction is something that comes with time in the workplace, but to have that happen in the community, without hospital resources at your fingertips, certainly can make things challenging.

The patient is recovering well.

Our Flight Nurses are essential and vital in providing medical care to the furthest corners of Western Australia, retrieving sick and injured patients who require medical assistance.

Royal Flying Doctor Service Western Australia employs over 50 Flight Nurses in part time and full time roles, located at our facilities in Broome, Port Hedland, Meekatharra, Kalgoorlie and Jandakot.