Nurses save unconscious man on flight to Gran Canaria

The quick thinking of Zoe Dale and Bert Roman saved Nigel Wood

The quick thinking of Zoe Dale and Bert Roman saved Nigel Wood - Credit: Pictures submitted

A Finsbury Park nurse and her colleague were in the right place at the right time when their fellow passenger on a flight to Gran Canaria fell unconscious.

Zoe Dale, 26, and her colleague Bert Roman, 41, work in the Intensive Care Unit at University College Hospital in Fitzrovia and were looking forward to a well-deserved holiday when they noticed that Nigel Wood, the man sat directly in front of them, was in difficulty.

“He went deathly yellow and incoherent, and I couldn’t get him to respond," said Linda, Nigel’s wife, “I really thought I’d lost him, but then a voice said, ‘I’m a nurse, can I help?’ and it was Bert.”

Bert and Zoe were not travelling together but just so happened to be on the same flight.

“Bert went over and I thought it would be something minor but then he turned to me and told me that he had gone cold, his heartbeat was irregular and he could have been going into cardiac-arrest,” said Zoe.

“You just automatically go into emergency mode in these situations, you don’t even think about it because we’re used to dealing with things like this every day and your instincts just take over.”

Nigel was falling in and out of consciousness and was violently shivering.

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“Bert was leaping over chairs to get his feet in the air to help his circulation,” said Linda “I have to admit that I have never felt so scared and alone at the same time, thank god for the kindness of strangers.”

In a hospital context this would have been relatively easy to deal with, but all the nurses had access to at the time was a blood-pressure, an oxygen tank and a broken thermometer.

Zoe Dale and Bert Roman

Zoe Dale and Bert Roman - Credit: Zoe Dale and Bert Roman

“His temperature was coming in at 32 degrees,” said Zoe “if that was true he would have been dead, so the priority became just keeping him as warm as possible.”

“We had to move some people around so we could lay him down across three seats,” said Zoe, “They had no blankets on the plane so we had to ask the cabin crew to turn up the heating as much as they could and use passengers coats and jumpers – at one point a woman gave us her cashmere sweater to wrap around him.”

“We gave him oxygen and kept monitoring his heart and blood-pressure and did our best to keep him hydrated but we really needed an intravenous drip.”

“We were asked if the plane needed to be landed but he regained consciousness and seemed stable enough to continue.”

“We were lucky to have been there otherwise things could have been a lot worse," she added.

Mr and Mrs Wood still don’t know for certain what caused the incident but Mrs Wood informed the nurses that her husband is known to have an irregular heart rate and was currently taking new medication for high blood pressure which could have caused a reaction that was made worse by the change in air pressure.

The event happened about 45 minutes into the 4.5 hour flight between London Gatwick and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Nigel was handed over to a Spanish medical team upon landing but his troubles weren’t over yet, as the paramedics failed to strap him into the stretcher they were using, causing him to fall and giving him a black eye and a large cut on his head.

Nigel Wood

Nigel Wood - Credit: Nigel Wood

Nigel has now made a full recovery and has since contacted Zoe and Bert to express his thanks.

He has said that the “thought of death did cross my mind” but was “happy to have conquered the grim reaper and rendered Linda’s funeral places redundant.”

In-flight medical emergencies are not uncommon, with one in every 604 flights.

Despite this, cabin crews are only trained in first-aid and are limited in terms of what medical equipment they are able to carry onboard.