Bon Secours Physical Therapist Saves Life of Fellow Airline Passenger

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Trudy Messer, Bon Secours physical therapist, with a plane in the background performed CPR on fellow Delta passenger

Emergencies usually happen at the most inopportune times and in the most unexpected of places, for instance – on a plane that’s thousands of feet in the air. Fortunately for one airline passenger, her emergency happened only a few feet away from Bon Secours St. Francis Health System physical therapist Trudy Messer.

It was Thursday, April 4, 2019. Heading out-of-state to teach a class, Messer was just settling into her second flight of the day when a women two rows in front of her had a seizure and became completely non-responsive. Not waiting for the request to help, Messer rushed to the woman who she realized no longer had a pulse. So with the help of a flight attendant, Messer began CPR. 

“Some people think you only need to know CPR if you’re in acute care, but that’s just not true. An emergency can happen anywhere, and being trained in this can make all the difference,” she said.

Two other flight attendants were able to retrieve an AED and oxygen that were stored on board. Messer said after four rounds, the passenger took a really big gasp of air and began breathing again. 

“The really sad part is the flight attendants put the call out for medical assistance and not a single person helped,” said Messer, who recalls they were traveling in one of Delta’s MD-88 aircrafts, which typically holds around 150 people. 

“We were only halfway through the flight, so thank goodness there was an AED on board. If I’d had to go for 40 minutes, which would’ve been the alternative, I couldn’t have done it for that long myself.”

The passenger never regained full alertness, so Messer and the flight staff kept her in the recovery position on the plane floor until they landed safely in Memphis. EMS then responded and took over medical care from there.

Delta Airlines sent Messer a gift certificate out of appreciation for her heroics. Though, Messer wouldn’t call it that. She says it’s a life-saving skill anyone and everyone should be able to perform.

“It’s not like I’m using it every year, but it’s such an important skill to have. If you’re the person choosing not to learn it because you’re afraid you won’t remember all the specifics, just learn how to put your hands on somebody’s chest and pound. You could save a life.”

Messer has only had to use her CPR training three times over the course of her 22-year career but says those three times have proven to her just how crucial it is to take the time to learn.