Passengers on flight to Austin help save man’s life

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A man was found unconscious on an American Airlines flight from Cancún to Austin on Sunday when a group of strangers on board worked together to help save him.

Megan Sconzert, an ICU nurse at Seton Medical Center in Austin, was coming back home from a bachelorette party in Tulum. She heard a passenger near her say “he has a pulse” and went to assist.

The patient was experiencing hypoxia, an absence of oxygen to the tissues to sustain bodily functions. His pupils were pinpoint and fixed; it was determined he could likely be suffering a possible overdose or a pulmonary embolism, but it was unclear to those helping.

On board the flight was not only Sconzert, but also a pediatric ICU nurse practitioner, a surgical oncologist, an ER/prison nurse and a trained first responder. They all worked together to help the patient.

They looked through the patient’s belongings to try to determine how to best treat him. He had different medications as well as what was described as unknown white pills at the bottom of his bags.

They treated him with two doses of naloxone, a medicine often known by the brand name Narcan, that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. The trained first responder gave him rescue breathing, and Sconzert administered an IV.

Others passengers also helped, including 23-year-old Samuel Coon, who was in the middle seat between his father and the victim. Coon held a flashlight while they assisted with starting an IV.

“He held so many random objects that I handed him and stayed calm and collected the whole time,” Sconzert said.

Samuel Coon, 23, holding a phone with a flashlight while Megan Sconzert and other medical personnel passengers assist the unconscious man. (Photo: Jonathan Coon)

The patient was eventually stabilized, and the flight made an emergency landing in New Orleans. A spokesperson from American Airlines confirmed in a statement first responders met the aircraft in New Orleans, and the flight re-departed.

“We wouldn’t have been successful in stabilizing this patient without the teamwork,” Sconzert said. “I am eternally grateful that so many medical [personnel] were on this flight and sitting in such close proximity.”

Sconzert told KXAN on the way to the airport, she upgraded her seat, moving her up from row 24 to 18, a seat that ended up being directly behind the passenger experiencing the problem.

It is not confirmed it was indeed an overdose. However, we’re told a first responder did tell a passenger the patient admitted to taking some type of drug afterward.

A series of overdoses in Austin occurred last weekend, killing two and sending a dozens to the hospital. Last week, the director of Recovery Unplugged recommended people carry Narcan ahead of large events coming to Austin and as an overall best practice.

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