Saving a Life at 30,000 Feet

Paul Stephan was presented with an American Red Cross Lifesaving Award during the 2020 Volunteer Excellence Awards. In recognition of National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week, which began on May 17, we are resharing his story of quick action and heroism. Thank you, Paul, and all EMS practitioners who save lives daily. 

On Nov. 13, 2019, Paul Stephan, trained in American Red Cross Emergency Medical Response, Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers, Administering Emergency Oxygen, and Bloodborne Pathogens, helped to save the life of a woman who experienced a cardiac emergency while aboard a flight bound for Denver 

An hour into the flight, the airline staff asked over the PA system if any medical personal aboard could make themselves known. Paul responded. He promptly conducted an assessment and made it known that he was Red Cross-trained EMS and received consent to proceed. Realizing the woman was experiencing a cardiac emergency, Paul asked the flight crew for oxygen and placed the mask on her face. Paul also asked for the automated external defibrillator (AED) on board.    

The pilot began the process of diverting the flight to Denver, and Paul asked to speak with MedLinkmedical advisory service, which provides access to an emergency department doctor for advice and assistance when a medical situation arises during a flight. The doctor over the phone advised administering aspirin tablets. Paul checked the woman’s vitals; however, the woman started to close her eyesPaul initiated a pain response on her arm, and the woman went from unresponsive to verbal for 30 seconds. During the flights decent, the woman became unresponsive to verbal commands for another 10 seconds. Paul was able to continue to get her respond to pain and exclaim out loud. The woman started to become uneasy and continued to exclaim into her mask. Paul was able to keep the woman calm until the flight had landed and was stationary on the ground. EMS arrived and continued to provide care. Without a doubt, the skills learned in the Red Cross Training Services course helped to save the life of this woman.   

For this act, Paul was awarded the Red Cross Certificate of Merit, the highest award given by the Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in a Red Cross Training Services course. The certificate bears the signature of the President of the United States, who is the honorary chairperson of the Red Cross, and the signature of the chairperson of the Red Cross.  

This action exemplifies the highest degree of concern of one human being for another who is in distress. And this is what EMS practitioners do on a daily basis, and the Red Cross is honored to be one part of the process. 

Learn more about the Lifesaving Award and the recipients who use their Red Cross training to save a life. 

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