Elderly Woman Stops Breathing On Flight So Doctors Spend 45 Minutes Pushing Air Into Her Lungs

by Caralynn Lippo
Caralynn is a writer, native New Yorker, TV enthusiast, and dog mom to Hobbes.

When medical students officially become doctors, they take an oath promising, in part, that they will “do no harm.” But some medical professionals go above and beyond to actively help others, even when they are off the clock.

Matthew Stevenson and John Flanagan are two perfect examples of everyday heroes. They employed quick-thinking, innovativeness, and medical expertise to save the life of a total stranger — all while they were tens of thousands of feet in the air.

The two doctors were on a flight to Jamaica for a vacation with their wives when an elderly passenger on board stopped breathing.

After a nurse was unable to help her, Matthew and John jumped into action. Later, John’s proud wife Xenia took to Facebook to share the incredible story.

Scroll through to learn all about these amazing heroes.

Photos: Facebook 1, 2 / Xenia Flanagan

[H/T: Daily Mail]

On January 8, 2018, Xenia wrote on Facebook:

Here is something you won’t see on the news.

On January 6, 2018, about 20 minutes into JetBlue flight 1721 to Jamaica, an elderly woman began to struggle to breath. A near-by nurse jumped into action and tried to no avail to help her when Matthew (one of John’s partners) noticed the seriousness of the situation and intervened.

He flagged John down for help as the lady went into complete respiratory arrest. These two men used the oxygen tanks on board along with airbags to create the tools they needed to save her.

They pushed oxygen into her lungs for 45 minutes in the middle of the aisle as the plane made an emergency landing in Fort Lauderdale (as Matthew and John advised).

It was both amazing and terrifying at the same time to witness my husband and his friend do something they do everyday: save someone’s life. It was beautiful to witness so many Good Samaritans praying and holding them up during the entire ordeal.

I’m so thankful God placed them there at the right time. I know I can speak for [Matthew’s wife] Jessica Nauman Stevenson when I say how proud we are to be married to such great men.

John explained to the Mirror that he’d later learned the woman had a lung disease. When the plane reached high altitude, she just couldn’t breathe.

While John tried to help the unconscious woman breathe on her own, Matthew assembled the few materials available on the plane to create a makeshift respiratory machine, cutting tubing from one of the oxygen masks in the ceiling and attaching it to one of the oxygen tanks aboard the plane. They were able to manually push oxygen into the woman’s lungs until the plane began to descend and she began to be able to breathe again on her own.

Xenia was also awed by the other passengers, pictured in her photos, who physically supported her husband and his partner as they worked together to save the stranger while the plane landed.

“I was so touched to see so many kind people on board support my husband and his friend as they were helping that lady,” she told the Mirror. “You couldn’t really tell by the pictures, but there were people holding my husband and Matthew up so they wouldn’t slide down the aisle when [the plane was] landing.”

People took to Xenia’s Facebook post to share their appreciation for the heroic actions of the two doctors.

A few of Matthew and John’s coworkers even chimed in.

“So glad you shared this heroic story. I work with these great guys and am thankful for their skills and compassion for all the lives they touch. So glad they were in the right place at the right time,” one wrote.

Another commenter chimed in to say that she had once been John’s patient.

“John Flanagan also helped to save my life,” she wrote. “I had to have emergency surgery on a Sunday night and he was on call. He was so calm!! He put in an epidural was there for my entire case and the PACU nurses said he didn’t leave the hospital till I was safe in ICU. I’m forever indebted to this man!!”

Matthew replied to Xenia’s post to thank everyone for their kind words of appreciation and encouragement.

The woman who collapsed was stabilized and taken to the hospital after the plane made its emergency landing.

Xenia told the Mirror that when the flight resumed its journey to Jamaica, the doctors “got a big round of applause and [were offered] a free drink” for their efforts.

If you’re in awe of these everyday heroes, don’t forget to SHARE this story on Facebook!