New Mexico sky
By Eleanor Hasenbeck

Providing Aid at 30,000 Feet

UNM College of Nursing Faculty Member Sara Daykin Stepped Up to Help an Airline Passenger in Distress

A University of New Mexico College of Nursing faculty member was in the right place at the right time to care for a passenger in distress on a recent flight to Albuquerque.

On Feb. 6, Sara Daykin, DNP, RN, a lecturer in the College’s bachelor of science in nursing program, assisted a fellow passenger who was experiencing chest pains until the plane landed and the woman could receive medical attention from emergency services.

Daykin’s flight to Albuquerque was somewhere over the scrublands near the Texas-New Mexico border when she and her traveling companion noticed the passenger in front of them seemed distressed.

Flight attendants had brought her oxygen and had moved another passenger to create more space to care for her. Daykin’s companion let them know that she was a nurse and willing to help. The flight attendants took up Daykin’s offer and asked her to aid the woman, who was clammy and experiencing chest pains and a racing heart.

They also brought a blood pressure cuff and an oxygen saturation monitor. Daykin took the woman’s vitals, checked her blood pressure and asked about her medical history.

After the initial assessment, much of Daykin’s care consisted of being there for the passenger. Daykin sat with the oxygen tank in her lap and talked with the woman, who was visiting New Mexico. She was traveling alone and feeling stressed about the plane ride and the trip as a whole.


Sara Daykin, DNP, RN
It was just nice to be able to help, even if all I did really was check her blood pressure and sit and talk to her
Sara Daykin, DNP, RN

“It was just nice to be able to help, even if all I did really was check her blood pressure and sit and talk to her,” Daykin said. “I think that helped defuse some of her anxiety.”

Once the plane landed in Albuquerque, emergency medical services met the flight at the gate. Airline staff asked everybody to remain seated as they helped the passenger off the plane.

Daykin gave the woman her business card and gathered her bags to make sure she had everything as she disembarked. The woman was in the care of the paramedics when Daykin left the airport.

Since then, the passenger emailed Daykin to let her know that she did not need to be hospitalized. She had returned home and was doing well. 

After the trip, American Airlines formally thanked Daykin for helping out and recognized her for going out of her way to help another passenger.

“We are all grateful that you were on board and freely offered your medical expertise when it was needed most. Ms. Daykin, without a doubt, you greatly improved a difficult situation,” the company wrote in an email signed by American Airlines corporate medical director Natasha Narayan, MD, MPH. 

In appreciation, the company also gave Daykin a number of bonus miles. She plans to travel to the United Kingdom to visit her mother, who she hasn’t seen since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

While it might have been an out-of-the-ordinary setting, Daykin has been providing care to people who need it for her entire career.

“As a health care provider, I have done this before, and I will continue to do it, because it’s the right thing to do, to help people in need,” she said.

And, she says, if you’re ever experiencing medical difficulties in public and need help, ask for it. “You never know who’s around you!” she said.

Categories: College of Nursing, Community Engagement, News You Can Use, Top Stories