A pilot’s quick thinking has helped save a woman who was suffering a stroke on a flight from Brisbane to Hawaii.
Maree Heenan told Sunrise she was returning from Hawaii with her two friends, Sally Blackaby and Debbie Dermody, after a holiday in the US to celebrate her 77th birthday.
But on the flight home, Ms Heenan began to feel unwell. Her friends noticed she seemed confused as she tried to open the bathroom door.
Ms Blackaby realised Ms Heenan had had a stroke. She couldn’t speak. They asked crew on board the Jetstar flight if there was a doctor on board. Ms Blackaby is a nurse and a second one was on board.
Ms Dermody said the nurse “must have contacted the pilot”.
“And they asked us what we wanted to do,” she said.
Jetstar pilot Peter Clements said he “had a quick yarn in the cockpit” with the other pilots.
“We started to set up for a diversion to Sydney because I knew just from my own experience that time is critical with a stroke victim,” he said.
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Mr Clements said “there is no question” it was a big decision he and the crew on board the Jetstar flight had to make with “330 odd” passengers.
He added the plane had travelled about 10 hours and there would be a big monetary cost, but all of that was “just in the background”.
“It was quite obvious to me and I started a diversion straight away,” he said.
Paramedics met Ms Heenan on the ground in Sydney and rushed her to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
Once she was examined, it was determined the 77-year-old had suffered a massive stroke on the left-side of her brain.
RPA Neuroradiologist David Brunacci said the longer a stroke victim prolongs getting to hospital after suffering one the patient “often doesn’t do as well”.
He added it was “unbelievable” what crew on board the flight did for Ms Heenan along with the speed of paramedics responding.
“It was just fantastic,” Dr Brunacci said.
Ms Blackaby said Ms Heenan went from 43,000ft to the RPA hospital in within an hour and 35 minutes.
“That was truly amazing,” she said.
Ms Heenan said the compassion of those who helped her wasn’t lost.
“There’s no words that can describe,” she said through tears.
“All I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
She’s since been reunited with the pilot who made the decision to change course and thanked him for helping to save her life.
Mr Clements said he was “so pleased” to see she was OK.
“You’re looking marvellous,” he said.
“100 per cent. This is amazing.”
He also jokingly asked if the 77-year-old enjoyed the flight before the stroke.
“I did,” she said.
“I was watching a film.”
Ms Heenan said she still planned on flying despite her ordeal. Next on the agenda: Phuket in Thailand.