EWU soccer player keeps cool during mid-air emergency

Freshman defender Ashley Valdivieso performs CPR on man during flight to conference tournament

Freshman defender Ashley Valdivieso

EWU Athletics

Freshman defender Ashley Valdivieso

By Taylor Newquist, Sports Editor

Freshman Ashley Valdivieso boarded a Southwest Airlines Co. flight to Ogden, Utah for the Big Sky soccer tournament after most of her teammates, and sat in an exit row in the middle of the plane, with all of the other players in the back.

She awoke from a nap to find the woman across the aisle from her in panic. The woman’s husband was pale and without a pulse. The flight attendants called out to see if anyone knew CPR and Valdivieso didn’t hesitate.

“I got down next to him and applied two compressions before he took a breath and came back to life,” Valdivieso said. “Normally when you do CPR they don’t just come back that easily.”

Valdivieso has been CPR certified for about five years. She became certified to take a nannying job in high school. She said she has renewed her certification every two years since.

There were two doctors on board the plane who were able to take over for Valdivieso after the man regained consciousness.

Valdivieso said she was surprised that the flight attendants on board didn’t know what to do. Southwest Airlines’ website does say that flight attendants need to know CPR.

“Everyone was frantic,” Valdivieso said. “The wife was freaking people out because she was screaming, which is definitely not what you’re supposed to do, but I was pretty calm.”

After the plane landed the man was able to walk off without needing paramedics to come help him. Valdivieso said it took a little while for what happened to sink in.

“I was trained to be in those kinds of situations,” Valdivieso said. “I was pretty relaxed, but then afterward I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I just did that.’”

A 2013 study from the New England Journal of Medicine totalled 11,920 in-flight medical emergencies from Jan. 1, 2008 through Oct. 31, 2010. One in 604 flights will have a medical emergency, with syncope—a temporary loss of consciousness caused by a fall in blood pressure—being the most common cause. Valdivieso doesn’t know what was wrong with the man on her flight.

“I’m proud of myself for stepping up when no one else was,” Valdivieso said.

The Eagles went on to lose in the first round of the BSC tournament. Valdivieso did not see any game time.