Saturday, July 09, 2005

Magician Performs Death-Defying Act at 31,000 Feet

Powell performs death-defying act at 31,000 feet

Surgeon, amateur magician assists man aboard plane

With nothing up his sleeves but a dozen years' experience, cardiac surgeon and amateur magician Dr. John Powell saved his best trick for last on a return flight Sunday from a magicians conference. He helped revive a fellow Southwest Airlines passenger whose heart nearly stopped.

The elderly man had cold skin, shallow breathing and almost no pulse when Powell responded to a flight attendant's call for a nurse or doctor, Powell said.

"When I first looked at him, I thought he had already passed away," said Powell, who was returning from the International Brotherhood of Magicians convention in Reno, Nevada. Powell and an emergency room nurse on the flight treated the man with an IV bag, needles and medication in the plane's advanced first-aid kit.

The man revived enough to talk, said Powell, who later learned the man's name was Albert, and that he was 82 years old and lived in New Hampshire.

Southwest Flight 842 from Las Vegas to Nashville made an emergency landing at the Albuquerque International Sunport at 1:33 p.m. CDT, said Mike Rice, the city's director of aviation. Albert Eramian of Derry, N.H., was on the flight and taken to a hospital, Rice said.

A spokeswoman with the Heart Hospital of New Mexico in Albuquerque said Eramian was discharged Monday. Eramian's phone number is unlisted, and he could not be reached for comment. Powell was napping when the call for a doctor was first announced.

He helped lay Eramian down on the seat with his feet up, cut his shirt open in order to listen to his heart with the first-aid kit's stethoscope and put an oxygen mask on him, Powell said. That helped raise Eramian's blood pressure, which had dropped to 50 over some number too low to detect over the jet engine's roar, Powell said.

The man was able to talk and had some color in his face about 15 minutes later once that was done and the IV was in place, he said. Powell then told a flight attendant, "I don't know what you're policy is, but you need to land soon," he said.

The pilot did just that, going from about 31,000 feet to the tarmac in about 20 minutes. Southwest did a great job. I'm going to write them a letter and tell them what a great job (the attendants and pilot) did," Powell said.

Powell was lauded after he helped load Eramian on the ambulance and the plane prepared to take off again about an hour later. "When I got back on the plane, it was kind of cool: The whole plane gave me a round of applause," he said.

Reviving the man would have been very difficult for the nurse, even if a doctor on the ground had been relaying instructions, Powell said. "It was pretty tough for me up there. I'm used to dealing with that all the time, but usually with monitors and other equipment to help," he said. "I was just thankful I was there."

He almost wasn't. Powell, 43, who began practicing magic at age 9, didn't make plans to attend the convention until the week before. "I think I was on that plane for a reason."




Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to comment on this story. Albert was my father-in-law, and the assistance of Dr. Powell was greatly appreciated. My wife and I never received complete details about what happened on the plane, and it was nice to read this story. Albert passed away late in May 2006, after a battle with an infection.
I would like to extend my wife and my gratitude and thanks to Dr. Powell, as well as southwest airlines for taking quick and decisive action to assist Al and insure he could complete his last trip to Las Vegas, as well as spend more time with his family.

Thank you.

11:25 AM  

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