Vacationing Ranson woman jumps to aid of passenger on jet

May 24, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

RANSON, W.Va. - As Connie Whittington sat on a passenger jet 30,000 feet in the air and read a Danielle Steele novel, the last thing on her mind was her work as an emergency room nurse at Jefferson Memorial Hospital.

But when a fellow passenger suffered a heart attack, her 19 years of nursing experience were called into service.

"When the flight attendants first asked over the intercom if there was a physician on board, I wasn't sure I heard correctly," said Whittington, a registered nurse.

"But then, I saw the gentleman collapse into the arms of the flight attendant and I stepped forward and told them I was an emergency department nurse," Whittington said.

Whittington was on the March 19 flight to Dallas with her husband, who had a convention to attend there. Whittington, a devoted Dallas Cowboys fan, wanted to buy football gear with her team's logo on it.


Whittington put an oxygen mask on the stricken man and monitored his vital signs.

Flight attendants brought her the first aid kit but she did not see much in it that would help.

The man, G.F. Rowan, of Fairfax, Va., a retired Army colonel in his late 60s, revived some, but his face remained extremely pale and his vital signs were poor.

She learned from him that he had a history of heart trouble and was on medication.

Whittington pulled the flight attendant aside and told her that she thought it was best if the plane landed as soon as possible.

"I told them to the best of my medical knowledge, I thought there was a 50-50 chance that he could code before we got to Dallas," Whittington said.

Within 10 minutes, the jet landed at the airport in Nashville, Tenn., where medics were waiting to take the sick man off the plane.

As the plane refueled, the pilot came back and spoke to her. The flight attendants gave her a bottle of wine as a gift. She also received a check for $100 from the airline and additional frequent-flier miles for free air travel.

She also received a letter of thanks from Rowan.

"Words cannot express my appreciation for your singularly personal attention and care. Your calm approach and guidance to the flight attendants ... assured me that I was in good hands," he wrote.

Said Whittington, "Nursing is not a glamour job and you'll probably never be a millionaire being a nurse, but it's probably one of the most rewarding jobs out there."

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