On a recent flight from Houston to New York, a Western Connecticut State University nursing student put what she has learned to the test after several airline passengers were injured in severe turbulence.
Olivia D'Avanzo, 23, of New Fairfield, said she was onboard United Airlines Flight 1632, which was delayed for several hours because of severe weather.
Once they were airborne, D'Avanzo said, the flight became "very rocky."
She said about a half hour into the flight it felt like there was an explosion on the plane and felt like the aircraft dropped about 100 feet.
She said everyone on the plane flew up into the air and several people hit their heads on the ceiling before everyone was slammed back to the floor of the plane.
She said the cabin was in a panic as loose items on the plane were launched into the air like missiles and began to injure passengers.
D'Avanzo said when the flight attendant asked over the intercom if there was a doctor on board and no one answered, she sprang into action.
"A paramedic from New York City and I got up, and I said 'I'm a nursing student,'" said D'Avanzo, who was then directed to a passenger towards the rear of the plane.
"She was complaining of pain in her ribs, back and neck, and she couldn't move her legs because of the pain," she said. "I made sure her neck was immobilized and aligned and checked her vital signs. I put a pillow under her neck and got oxygen. She was having trouble breathing because of the injury to her ribs and couldn't breathe in deep."
D'Avanzo said she credited her courses at WCSU with preparing for such an event.
She said this past semester she focused her studies on trauma and even trained in the Danbury Hospital intensive care unit and emergency room.
The flight eventually made an emergency landing in Louisiana.
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