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Nurse helps perform CPR on passenger having medical emergency on plane

Katie Stencel said a story like this shows why it’s so important for as many people as possible to be CPR certified.

COLORADO, USA — A flight en route to Denver from Cancun last Friday was diverted to Oklahoma City after a passenger on board had a medical emergency. What came next was a lesson in how people coming together to help can save lives.

"Even when I was a young kid, I always knew that I would be in some type of profession that helped people," said Katie Stencel, a nurse in northern Colorado. "Nursing does train you to be proactive, especially ICU nursing. You kind of always have to be on your toes."

Stencel has treated hundreds of COVID patients over the course of the pandemic. She wasn’t expecting to use her skills when she boarded her flight home from vacation last week.

The pilot of the United flight got on the intercom asking if there were any medical professionals on board who could help a passenger struggling to breathe.

"At work, there’s always the potential that this could happen. When you’re on a plane, you’re not expecting it," Stencel said. 

Stencel and an off-duty firefighter joined a flight attendant. 

"They were professionals. They were amazing. They did exactly what they needed to do," Stencel said of the flight attendant and flight crew. "Him and one of the male flight attendants were doing CPR as we landed."

They did CPR for an hour before the plane could land. 

She wanted to share a story of people helping one another at a time when there’s so much division.

"It was exactly like what you see in a movie. It felt like a movie. It was them calling and you could just see the concern on their face. It was exactly like you see in a movie," Stencel said. "I immediately got up and I immediately went over there. I did not hesitate to do that. But as soon as I saw what was going on, that’s when I was like, this can’t be real. This isn’t really happening."

Stencel doesn’t know what happened to the person she was helping after the flight was diverted to Oklahoma City and the passenger was taken off the plane. 

She said a story like this shows why it’s so important for as many people as possible to be CPR certified. 

"I don’t even know the person’s name. I don’t know where they lived. I don’t know the situation. All I knew is that if we didn’t do something now, she had no chance. So we jumped in and did everything that we could," Stencel said. "I wanted to give kudos to the people who stepped up and helped. Just because someone is a medical professional, it doesn’t mean that they’re willing to admit that and jump into a situation where they have to do CPR."

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