Saving lives after work: U-M nurse helps fellow traveler during miscarriage on plane

June 11, 2015  //  FOUND IN: Announcements, Our Employees, ,

U-M Health System employees make a positive impact on the lives of our patients and families every day. Whether it’s through literally saving a life, providing clean and quiet accommodations, or offering a kind word of support, the Michigan Difference can be seen in each of our team members, sometimes even after their shift has ended.

Earlier this year, Rosemarie McDonald, Vascular Access Team registered nurse at U-M, boarded a flight with her husband to San Diego. She planned to visit their son, followed by a short vacation. Little did she know she would be putting her 35 years of nursing practice into action just minutes after leaving the ground.

A passenger carrying twins as a surrogate mother began experiencing a miscarriage just 45 minutes after takeoff. When inflight staff asked if any medical professionals were on the plane, Rosemarie sprang into action, selflessly displaying her willingness to help others at all times.

“I never had a second thought that I needed to assist this woman,” she remembers. “As soon as they made the announcement I went to the back of the plane and saw her near the bathroom, obviously in distress and white as a ghost.”

Rosemarie put her nursing skills to work, starting a saline IV for the woman while another nurse aboard the plane watched over vital signs. The two nurses took turns holding the woman’s hand while the other monitored her vitals.

“Once we were able to get her to lie down and be comfortable, her color totally changed and she began looking better,” says Rosemarie. The whole time, Rosemarie explained everything she and the other nurse were doing to help. Her goal was to make sure the woman was as comfortable and safe as possible.

“I continued to offer reassuring and comforting words as we watched over her,” Rosemarie says. “I tried putting myself in her position. She had to be so frightened for herself and her two small children who were also on the plane. This is the same kind of thing we practice every day at UMHS, always making sure our patients are comfortable and relaxed while receiving the care they need.”

The pilot landed the flight in Phoenix where paramedics were standing by, ready to take the passenger to the hospital. Rosemarie said her goodbyes, just happy she could help.

Weeks later, the woman who miscarried on the plane, Rebecca Sutcliffe, was interviewed by a San Diego news station. She expressed how grateful she was to have assistance from Rosemarie and the other nurse on the plane. She wished she could meet the heroes who helped save her life that day.

Watch the clip here.

Rosemarie heard about the news clip and contacted Sutcliffe through social media. The two connected and spoke for nearly two hours over the phone.

“It was like we had always known each other,” Rosemarie says. “It’s hard when you are a nurse because you often take care of people and don’t always know what happens to them when they leave the hospital. This has been a great outcome to something that was so terrible. I’m so grateful that everything turned out OK for my new found friend. We plan on meeting up in December when she’s back in town.”

Rosemarie has gone above and beyond her work duties by exercising clinical skills and a caring attitude outside of UMHS. Still she remains humble and doesn’t want to take all the credit. She’s searching for the other nurse on the flight so she can thank her for helping to save a life.

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