For Fanwood Rescue Squad EMT Ian Lewis, flying cross country will never be the same. While flying to Santa Ana California, this local volunteer jumped into action to help save an unresponsive passenger, administering lifesaving CPR while the Flight Captain flew the plane towards an emergency landing in Kanasas City.
Lewis, a senior project manager for Sena Systems, a technology consulting firm, was flying from Newark to Santa Ana, CA, on February 26 in a seat towards the rear of the United Airlines plane. While flying over Missouri, Lewis heard a commotion coming from the area outside the rear restrooms. It was then that the flight attendant discovered an unresponsive passenger inside the lavatory.
The passenger, an 82-year old woman, was moved onto the galley floor where Lewis began CPR. The flight crew brought out an automated external defibrillator (AED) and a first aid kit that contained some equipment and medications to treat cardiac arrest.
“Fortunately, there was a CCU [cardiac care unit] nurse on the plane who was able to start an IV and administer lidocaine and epinephrine to the passenger,” said Lewis, referring to medications typically used to help jumpstart the heart. “The woman had no pulse and wasn't breathing.”
Lewis advised the flight crew to land the plane as soon as possible and began to administer CPR. The AED, which gives automated voice prompts to rescuers, did not administer any shocks, but the woman remained unresponsive.
Lewis continued CPR for about 45 minutes - the time it took to land the plane in Kansas City and get local EMS on board to transport the woman to the hospital.
Because of patient confidentiality rules, little information was available on the victim. However, Kansas City police and fire officials confirmed the patient had regained a pulse and respiration during transport to the hospital.
Lewis, a Fanwood resident, was honored as the chosen Outstanding EMT of the Year at the Overlook last May EMS Dinner at Overlook Hospital. This is not the first time that Lewis has acted immediately in hopes of saving a life. After watching a plane fly into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, Lewis rushed to lower Manhattan to respond as a volunteer.
“It was all about being in the right place at the right time,” said Lewis as he recalled the plane rescue. “Having a CCU nurse on board to administer the meds and another nurse helping out made it a team effort.”