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Xavier professor saves life of man on airplane suffering cardiac arrest using hands-only CPR

“This man had turned blue.”

Dr. Edmond Hooker immediately knew the gravity of the situation unfolding during a March 5 flight to West Palm Beach, Florida, a situation that nearly turned fatal for one of his fellow passengers.

The flight began typically enough for Hooker, an emergency physician and longtime Xavier professor, when he and his wife heard frantic calls coming from behind them — a man was having a heart attack.

Hooker said he rushed back and saw the victim was cyanotic — a condition describing someone whose skin appears blue due to a lack of oxygen in the blood — while as others looked on in shock.

Dr. Edmond Hooker

“In this situation, there is no time to think; you just have to act,” said Hooker, director of Xavier’s Master of Health Services Administration (MHSA) program.

Hooker said he dragged the pulseless man to the floor and worked with another physician to give hands-only CPR, a type of CPR that relies solely on chest compressions, for about two minutes.

As they prepared to apply a defibrillator, the man regained his pulse and began to breathe, Hooker said.

By the time pilots performed an emergency landing in Jacksonville, the man was awake and talking when we arrived at the gate.

Hooker said on Tuesday he received an email from the man — who requested anonymity for this story — expressing thanks and letting Hooker know that he is doing well.

While Hooker has plenty of experience resuscitating individuals in a clinical setting, the flight marked the first time he’d ever performed CPR out in public.

“This type of instance is why everyone needs to know hands-only CPR,” said Hooker. “If no one starts CPR until EMS arrival, the patient has less than a 5% chance of survival.”

On the other hand, if CPR is administered immediately, the chances of survival are drastically higher, Hooker said.

Hooker’s efforts to teach people CPR date back many years. About a decade ago, Hooker said he donated so the HSA department could purchase 90 manikins for training. He continues to train all of his students — both undergraduate and graduate — in hands-only CPR and applying AEDs. He then has them borrow a manikin and train at least 10 additional friends or family members.

Coming up on two decades at Xavier, Hooker has trained thousands of his students in CPR. One of them, 2012 Xavier MHSA graduate Jason Bruns, had his own life-saving experience.

On Jan. 23, 2022, Bruns and fellow Xavier alumnus Dr. David Beck (’93) assisted an older woman experiencing cardiac arrest during a service at St. Francis Catholic Church in Over-The-Rhine. After performing CPR for a few minutes — though Bruns said it “felt like forever” — the pair successfully resuscitated the woman.

“I never imagined I would be in that situation,“ said Bruns, who added that he continues to see the woman in church.

Bruns said he is grateful for his CPR training at Xavier and has received additional training several times since then, encouraging others to do the same.

Hooker emphasized the importance of using the hands-only method of CPR and to avoid using mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, which is no longer recommended because it interrupts the flow of chest compressions that are essential in restoring a heartbeat.

After saving a life himself, Hooker said he hopes others will take the 10 minutes necessary to learn how they can do the same.

Dr. Edmond Hooker demonstrates how to perform hands-only CPR

From Xavier University

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