Pax health clinic nurse saves life on Southwest flight

Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River infection prevention nurse Yulissa Brown performed lifesaving CPR on an unconscious woman aboard a commercial airline flight bound for Orlando, July 2.

Pax health clinic nurse saves life on Southwest flight

When Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River nurse Yulissa Brown participated in the clinic’s code blue drill on June 30, she had no idea how soon she would need her refreshed CPR skills.

In fact, in her eight years as a nurse and five years as a Navy corpsman, she never had to perform CPR on a patient.

That changed just two days later, on July 2, when she and her 11-year-old son boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to Orlando. As the plane began its descent into Florida, a woman went unconscious. Brown sprang into action, assisted by a physician and two other nurses on board.

“The young woman had no pulse and wasn’t breathing,” Brown said when she retold the story a few days later. “Her fingers and lips were blue.”

Brown immediately began CPR and, after 20 minutes and two AED shocks, the woman began breathing on her own again. When the plane landed, she was able to stand up and walk to the ambulance that was waiting for her.

Everyone on the aircraft broke out in applause.

Brown said it was a harrowing experience to provide emergency medical care within the narrow confines of an airplane. Her arms and legs got tired after several rounds of CPR, but there was no room to switch with one of the other nurses.

“Just keep doing it,” she recalled telling herself. “Keep doing it right.”

Brown, the clinic’s infection prevention nurse, stated that the incident was divine providence. Not only had she participated in the health clinic’s code blue drill just two days prior, she had also unsuccessfully attempted to book a different flight when her original trip was delayed one and a half days.

Brown hopes what happened will inspire others to become CPR certified and to take their CPR training seriously.

“I was just doing what I do,” she said. “You never know when you’re going to be placed in a position where you’re going to maybe be the only person that can help somebody else live.”

To find a CPR class near you, visit redcross.org.