Doctor Michael Nirenberg, a podiatrist from Indiana, was flying home from a medical conference, leaving the event early so he could see his 18-year-old son off to college.
Nirenberg’s decision to book an early flight proved to be life-saving for a passenger in his 60s, who suddenly became unconscious while the plane was in midair.
Nirenberg told The Times of Northwest Indiana that he and a retired nurse had the highest medical training of anyone on board, and the pair quickly leapt into action when the flight crew asked for help.
Quickly assessing the man, who had no pulse and was barely breathing, Nirenberg turned to the flight crew with urgent instructions:
“You need to land the plane,” Nirenberg said.
The doctor and the nurse, strangers who had never worked together before, suddenly became a unified team, giving the man CPR and monitoring his vitals while the crew called an American Airlines doctor.
According to the Good News Network, the doctor on the ground instructed Nirenberg not to insert an IV into the patient.
But Nirenberg and the nurse were baffled by the medical instructions and chose to ignore the doctor’s order.
“I and the nurse knew an IV needed to be put in and when the crew member said the doctor on the phone didn’t want an IV put in, we just looked at each other like ‘that makes no sense’ and I said to her, ‘he needs an IV’ and she agreed and we kept going,” Nirenberg said.
“I knew if the man’s condition worsened, the EMTs would need an IV and we could have this ready for them. That time could mean the difference between life and death.”
Nirenberg managed to rummage through the man’s carry on bag and found an emergency medical card in the man’s wallet. He used the prescription medication information provided on the card to confirm his hunch that he should proceed with starting an IV on the ailing passenger.
Nirenberg was glad to report that the IV fluids helped bring the man’s dangerously low blood pressure back up and told the Good News Network that he felt it was more important to rely on his instinct than trust the advice of a doctor who was not present.
“Frankly, the doctor on the phone was not there,” Nirenberg said. “The man’s life was all on me. I had to go with my instincts.”
The plane landed in Denver and the passenger was quickly transferred to EMT care.
The other passengers on board applauded the doctor and nurse for their heroic actions.
“It was a team effort,” Nirenberg said. “The nurse and the crew should be recognized for their amazing work, assistance and everyone staying calm and focused.”
Nirenberg told the Times that he was thankful to be on the flight that day and is glad the story is bringing uplifting news to readers.
“I really feel like it’s some good news, when there’s so much bad news in the world,” he said. “It’s great to do something good for a stranger, and to fight all that bad news out there.”
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