Cath Lab Nurse Helps to Save Fellow Plane Passenger’s Life

When Katie Yombik, RN, McLaren Flint Cath Lab, set out on vacation this past March she was expecting it to create memories for a lifetime, just not before she had even left the runway. Katie, her three-year-old son, mother, and niece were headed to Orlando, Florida, and Disney World for four days. They were on a Spirit Airline flight out of Detroit Metro, preparing for takeoff when Katie heard someone shout out, “call 911”.

“My mom nudged me and said ‘you had better go see what’s going on’”, states Katie. “About five rows behind me was an older gentleman slumped in his chair. It was apparent to me he was not breathing. I asked the other two people who were also standing there checking on him to help me get him to the floor. I checked for a pulse and there was not one. I ripped his shirt open and started CPR. Another nurse on board started helping with CPR too, and we asked for someone to get the AED. He was given one shock, more CPR was done, and his pulse came back. By that time an EMS crew was on board to take over. The entire incident was probably only five or six minutes, everything happened very quickly.”

In all there were six people on board that helped to save the man’s life that day. During the incident Katie remembers it being so quiet you could hear a pin drop. After the man was taken off of the plane, the crew gave an overhead thank you to all who helped and Katie recalls everyone cheering. Within an hour of the incident the flight left for Orlando, and Katie and her family went on to make vacation memories.

Eight weeks would go by before Katie would find out what happened to her fellow passenger. It turns out his name is Jerry Drouillard and that March day he ended up having a quintuple bypass surgery. Finally recovered from his health emergency, Jerry reached out to Spirit Airline and asked if he could be reunited with his lifesavers. He wanted very much to thank them in person. His wish was granted, and the reunion took place on Tuesday, May 15.

“I went into nursing to help people whether I am on the clock or not,” Katie adds. “I think it was divine intervention that we were all there that day to help him. What happened is also a reminder of how important it is for everyone to learn CPR, you just never know if you might be able to save someone. I work in a hospital but was on a plane when I used my CPR training.”