Albuquerque medical professionals save man’s life at Austin airport

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Holiday travel can be stressful, but few people go through a flight like the one some Albuquerque medical professionals experienced.

After they took their seats, they heard a message over the intercom:

“Is there a doctor on board”? 

This particular situation was deadly serious. Turns out, this particular medical emergency happens a lot more this time of year. 

“My ears perk up as an emergency physician,” said Dr. Mark Epstein.  

“They wanted medical personnel to raise their hands and go to the back of the plane,” said Gabrielle Pulido, an Albuquerque nurse. 

“The flight attendant got on the overhead and said, ‘Is there a doctor? We need you urgently,’” Epstein said.  

After Thanksgiving, the Albuquerque doctor and nurse took charge.

“Me and this other nurse started CPR right away,” said Pulido. 

“It gelled together immediately as a team,” said Epstein. 

They were among six medical professionals that went to work on a man having a heart attack on a Southwest airplane — still on the tarmac — about to take off from Austin to Albuquerque.

It turns out, the holidays can be brutal for heart health.

“More cardiac deaths occur on December 25,” said Sherri Wells with the American Heart Association of New Mexico. “We do know that holidays, of course, they’re busy stressful times. Research does show that chronic stress can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease over time, and the release of stress hormones can lead to an increase in high blood pressure and cardiac events.”

Wells says heart disease still kills more New Mexicans than any other disease, and it’s important to listen to your body, monitor your stress, and eat healthy. 

But for the man in the back of flight 2135, there was another savior.

“The machine that shocks someone’s heart,” said Wells. 

The flight crew, doctors, and nurses worked to attach an automated external defibrillator to the man who had no pulse.

“It looked very dire, from the get go,” Epstein said. 

Paramedics got his heart going and he’s expected to make a full recovery.

“It was great to see that – to be able to work together with strangers like that,” said Pulido. 

Duke City strangers, saving a life.

“It’s a moment of joy and a moment of excitement that we could be there to be a part of this,” said Epstein. 

Epstein says there’s a study that shows you are three times more likely to survive a heart attack at the airport than other public places