Quick-Thinking Nurse Rescues Man From Heart Attack At Airport

A nurse’s quick actions saved the life of Ken Jeffries, 57, who suffered a heart attack at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina. On June 7, Claire Cerbie, a registered nurse, noticed Jeffries in distress while they both waited to board a flight to Knoxville, Tennessee.

Recognizing the signs of a heart attack from Jeffries’ breathing and snoring, Cerbie immediately intervened. “Just the way that you were snoring and breathing sounded like you were having a heart attack based on what I’ve seen before,” she explained during a reunion call with Jeffries.

Cerbie promptly began performing CPR and instructed a bystander to retrieve a defibrillator. “We put the pads on him,” Cerbie said. “It indicated a shockable rhythm, and it shocked him in between while we were doing compressions.” Her efforts successfully revived Jeffries, restoring his pulse within 10 minutes.

Jeffries was rushed to Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center for emergency surgery. Dr. William Downey, the cardiologist who operated on Jeffries, confirmed that Cerbie’s timely actions were life-saving. “If she had not performed chest compressions and used the defibrillator, Jeffries would have died,” Downey noted.

Expressing his gratitude, Jeffries thanked Cerbie for her lifesaving intervention. “A ‘thank you’ is not enough, Claire. Thank you for what you did, I am so appreciative and indebted to you,” he said. Cerbie, who previously worked at Atrium Health’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, responded modestly, “I’m very glad that I was there that day to help you out. I’d obviously do it again in a heartbeat.”

In appreciation of her heroic actions, American Airlines upgraded Cerbie to first class on her flight to Knoxville. Jeffries, who experienced no prior symptoms, is now recovering and grateful for the nurse’s intervention.

Heart attacks are critical emergencies caused by blocked blood flow to the heart muscle. The CDC reports that one person suffers a heart attack every 40 seconds in the United States. Preventive measures such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, quitting smoking, and managing stress can significantly reduce heart attack risk.


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