SHU School of Nursing Alumnae Save a Life at 600 MPH

News Story: January 1, 2009

Lori Broadbent, left, and Patty Sheehan

For Lori Broadbent of Shelton and Patty Sheehan of Trumbull, their recent trip to attend a medical conference in Salt Lake City turned into something of a busman’s holiday. The two are veteran nurses at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport; Lori completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at Sacred Heart University in December of 2008, and Patty is a BSN grad from the Class of 1987. Thanks to their expertise and quick thinking, a likely catastrophe was averted and a fellow passenger‘s life was saved.

The two medical practitioners were en route to a “magnet” conference in Utah designed to ensure that hospitals will draw patients and a first-rate staff because of the quality of their programs. Little did they realize that their actions would go a long way toward proving their own skills and confirming their professional judgment.

So many health care providers were on their way west that one of them joked to a flight attendant that if any passengers were to be sick, this would be the flight to be sick on since there would be plenty of medical professionals on board. Within a short while, the two nurses from “St. V’s” were asked to check on a passenger who was looking rather peaked. The two determined that he was suffering from no more than an upset stomach, and they returned to their seats.

Not long afterward, Broadbent recalls, a passenger from the front of the plane got up to use the lavatory. As he left the rest room, he became faint.  A stewardess assisted him to a seat near the cockpit used by the crew and asked for medical help. In an instant, Broadbent and Sheehan were on their feet again, joined by a nurse from Long Island Jewish Medical Center. The impromptu triage unit found that he had no pulse and was not breathing. While their colleague from New York opened his airway and began chest compressions, Broadbent inserted an IV and Sheehan monitored his vital signs and responses.

While assisting the patient, Lori Broadbent received a surprising telephone call – from the captain! He asked her to assess the situation and advise what the next steps should be. The three nurses agreed that the situation was serious enough to warrant further examination on the ground. Although the passenger was now breathing on his own, they advised landing in St. Louis, which they had recently passed, to assure a more complete evaluation. The plane was diverted to St. Louis – and a waiting medical team at the airport.

Lori Broadbent, who has practiced nursing for three decades, approached their life-saving mission with great modesty. “What was most impressive to me,” she asserts, “is that the three of us could work so well together – without a minute’s notice. Each did just what was necessary to assess the medical emergency and help the patient. Although Patty and I have worked in the same hospital for many years, we had not worked together before, and neither of us had met the nurse from Long Island, Yet, we went right into gear and did what was needed.”