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Nurses with IU Health jump into action on flight

Data pix.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – During National Nurses Week, two nurses with IU Health are being praised for their quick thinking after calling for an emergency landing of a plane.

As a clinical manager at Riley Hospital for Children, Jen Engelmann has to be ready for it all, even when she’s not at work.

Last month, Engelmann was flying to a nursing conference in San Diego. Shortly after takeoff, a call was put out for medical help after another passenger had trouble breathing.

“I will say I hesitated briefly," Engelmann said about her reaction to hearing the announcement. "I thought 'surely someone else besides a peds (pediatric) nurse manager will stand up.'”

Engelmann rushed over to help the woman, and little did she know another nurse from IU Health was also onboard.

“When you hear them say, 'is there anyone on board?' You say to yourself 'well I have some ability… but is it enough?'" Said nurse Julie Ruschhaupt about her reaction to the announcement.

Now working as the Assistant Director for Patient Experience at IU Health, Ruschhaupt no longer provides care to patients. It had also been years since Engelmann had done the same. However in that moment, they knew exactly what to do.

"To us it's second nature," Ruschhaupt said. "We’re not thinking too much, we’re just doing it."

"It is just like riding a bike," Engelmann said. "It all comes back. It's like you're hard wired I think.”

The next thing they knew, the flight attendants were asking them if the plane needed to land.

“I first turned around like 'who are they talking to?'" Engelmann said with a shocked look on her face. "It’s not me!”

The nurses told the flight attendants the situation was serious and they needed to land the plane. The woman was still talking and breathing, but any longer and it could’ve been dire.

“We could've been doing CPR on her," Ruschhaupt said of what couldn't happened if they didn't land the plane.

The plane made an emergency landing in St. Louis and the woman was rushed off to the hospital.

Some of the passangers, including Engelmann, missed their connecting flights. However, the nurses knew that landing was the right call.

“I really appreciated the fact that they trusted us and didn’t question us beyond what they did," Engelmann said of the flight staff. "I'm thinking cost, I’m thinking inconvenience, and we’re praying that we made the right decision. But in our heart of hearts I knew we made the right decision.”

The two nurses, now friends, have kept in touch. They're happy they were in the right place at the right time, using skills that last for life, and can be used to save one too.

“I do believe you’re given skills and gifts and influence that we just can't explain sometimes,” Ruschhaupt said. "We just didn’t hesitate, we just did it.”

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