A grandmother who nearly died after suffering a heart attack on a Perth-bound flight is alive to tell the story thanks to the help of quick-thinking airline crew – as the pilot detailed the make-or-break decision they made not to turn back to Sydney.
Jennifer Holm, 73, and her partner John Muller were flying home on Virgin Australia from Sydney to Perth on July 1 after holidaying in Fiji when her health took a drastic turn.
Ms Holm was awoken from her sleep mid-flight with pins and needles.
Mr Muller noticed she had turned ‘grey’ – and she then started to shake.
He called for a flight attendant to bring her some water but the cabin manager Sarina Bedwell quickly realised Ms Holm was in fact suffering from a major medical episode.
Jennifer Holm, 73, is seen in hospital in Adelaide after suffering a heart attack while on board a Virgin Australia flight
Ms Holm, 73, and her partner John Muller (pictured in Fiji) were flying home from Sydney to Perth on July 1 after holidaying in Fiji when things took a drastic turn
Virgin cabin manager Sarina Bedwell and pilot Craig Lehmann are seen speaking with Ms Holm after they were able to land the plane safely and get her to urgent medical treatment
‘We were half an hour into the flight and I all of a sudden started to feel really weird- just terrible,’ Ms Holm said.
‘I felt nauseous and short of breath, and then I said to John that I felt terrible and he looked at me and said I was grey.’
Virgin pilot Craig Lehmann said when he was alerted to Ms Holm’s deteriorating condition, the plane was close to approaching a point in the trip that meant they would not be able to turn back.
‘When you get someone as sick as Jenny, you think of her as if she was your mum or your grandma and you just think every minute counts, we need to get her on the ground,’ Mr Lehmann told Daily Mail Australia.
Every airline has access to an online medical service called MedLink, that crew can dial in to get assistance.
But the Virgin crew were unable to connect to the line during the flight.
Ms Bedwell and her team immediately put their medical training to action, bringing Ms Holm to the front of the plane.
They asked any medical professionals onboard to come forward, and fortunately two doctors and two nurses were on the flight.
The doctors were able to administer oxygen and give Ms Holm a saline solution but they couldn’t find her pulse or a heartbeat.
Ms Holm was drifting in and out of consciousness while on the flight and doctors onboard struggled to find her pulse
‘They put me on the ground up near the entrance to the plane and I lay on the floor for the next one-and-a-half hours trying to stay alive,’ she said.
‘I thought I wasn’t going to make this. I was going in and out of consciousness.’
The crew eventually made a decision to divert the aircraft to Adelaide where Ms Holm was rushed to hospital in a waiting ambulance.
She was then placed in the emergency unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital for ten hours.
Doctors discovered blood clots on the arteries near her heart but were thankfully able to disperse them and she was let out of hospital on Tuesday.
But in another cruel twist of fate, Ms Holm and Mr Muller have since tested positive to Covid and are now isolating in a hotel in Adelaide.
The 73-year-old said she can’t wait to be reunited with her family.
‘I just need to give them a hug because at one stage there I didn’t ever think I would get home,’ a teary Ms Holm said.
The grandmother said she was looking forward to giving her family a hug, saying she wasn’t sure she would ever see them again
Her partner praised the cabin crew for acting calm while under pressure, adding they ‘don’t just push trolleys around’.
‘There wasn’t a moment of panic and if it wasn’t for the doctors or the flight attendant Jenny wouldn’t be here,’ he said.
‘I don’t think they realise they saved her life.’
Thankfully Ms Holm is now recovering well and will be able to return home to Perth in a week.
She said she couldn’t thank the airline crew and volunteer doctors enough.
‘We were so lucky we had those doctors on board, if they weren’t we as the crew would have relied on our first aid training,’ Ms Bedwell said, adding crew are given medical training every year.
The cabin manager said she’d seen minor medical situations onboard but not to the severity of Ms Holm’s case.
‘To divert is a huge deal,’ she said.
‘But we had 170 other guests and everyone was compliant and complicit and understood the severity of the situation.’