Savannah firefighter saves woman’s life with emergency CPR on airplane

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A Savannah firefighter is being called a hero after jumping into action to save a woman’s life.

Trevor Jaha was flying to Los Angeles for vacation when a young woman on his flight began suffering from sudden cardiac death. She had no pulse and was not breathing.

That’s when Jaha stepped in. Having been a trained firefighter for five years, he performed CPR on the 28-year-old for 30 minutes straight during an emergency landing.

After a fifth AED shock, Chelsea regained a faint pulse. She is now recovering and doctors say because of Jaha’s rescue, she won’t suffer from any brain damage.

“So when I learned Chelsea’s name, I started to speak to her,” Jaha said. “I started to tell her she was doing a good job and to hang in there and how we’re getting her on the ground. And no lie, about 10 minutes after that is when she started breathing and we got her heart rate back.” 

Chelsea’s brother Josh wrote a heartfelt letter thanking Jaha for saving his sister’s life:

“He is the hero who saved my sister and I can’t thank him enough. He saved her, not while he was working (as admirable as his line of work already is), but just as another passenger in a situation he didn’t have to be involved in. He saved her even though over those 30 mins, the odds were getting worse and worse that she would recover, regardless of what they did.

But he never stopped and because of his unfailing and efficient efforts, my sister is home with just some bruising and a new device in her chest, but other than that happy and healthy. I would love for as many people as possible to know the hero that he is.

On 09/14/2019, in the middle of a flight from Michigan to California, my sister, Chelsea, went into what the doctors called Sudden Cardiac Death. Her heart stopped and she slumped over in her chair. The flight crew started trying to attend to her and asked if anybody on the plane had medical training. Two people responded: a nurse and Mr. Jaha.

The nurse confirmed that she had no pulse and the flight crew put an AED on her, which shocked her 5 times. Mr. Jaha started to perform CPR. My sister had turned blue, she had relieved herself and was foaming at the mouth.

The plane diverted to the nearest airport, which happened to be in Kansas City, MO. While they were making the emergency landing, Mr. Jaha continued to give CPR continuously for the full 30 minutes that it took them to land and get an ambulance on the scene.

In the words of one of the flight attendants ‘Trevor never stopped doing CPR. He was absolutely incredible and we all knew that if it was cardiac arrest CPR was the most vital act for Chelsea.

When she got to the hospital, she was unresponsive. As her emergency contact, I got a call from the ER and me, my mom and my dad took the next flight from Jacksonville (where we live) to Kansas City. When we first got there, the doctors explained what happened and said it was very uncertain whether she would make it.

She was on a ventilator, her blood pressure was really low and she was basically being kept alive by machines. They explained that if she did wake up, she would almost definitely have brain damage and that we also needed to prepare ourselves for the very likely scenario that she would be completely brain dead. They explained that coding for 30 minutes was something that was basically impossible to come out of without any serious consequences.

I will try to cut down the next week into a brief summary: despite the projections, she woke up the next day incoherent and only for a minute, but she did wake up. Then over time, she was able to breathe on her own, then eventually talk, then her memory started to come back and a few days later she was talking and walking and joking with the nurses and doctors.

My sister is a wonderful and positive person. She is a happy person who spreads joy wherever she goes. I’m sure in your line of work you save people and see people saved all the time, but Chelsea is a kind and generous person and Mr. Jaha saved her.

I am overwhelmed by the heroic actions of Mr. Jaha. Not only to answer the call for help but to continue performing CPR for 30 minutes straight, diligently and efficiently. I didn’t know much about any of this kind of stuff before this event, but the doctors made it clear how she was saved.

At one point, a doctor was examining her bruised chest and he asked one of the residents ‘how long did she receive CPR?’ and when they said 30 minutes, he did a double-take and said, ‘Wow, that guy deserves a medal’. At another point, Chelsea was thanking one of the doctors that had been there the first night and he knelt down and said, ‘I did my best and I’m so thankful that you’re better, but it wasn’t me: your life was saved on that plane.

The neurologist also made it very clear that Chelsea’s level of brain damage would depend heavily on what occurred on the plane and how long the brain went without oxygen. Even after she woke up, they said they would expect moderate brain damage.

Right now, my sister is back in Jacksonville. She is happy and she is healthy. She has a new defibrillator device implanted in her chest, but she is fully functional and just as important: she is herself. On her last day in the hospital, the neurologist did one final test and said that she ‘sees no sign of brain damage’.

Chelsea has always been a clever and witty person. She is kind and funny. I am, of course, grateful that she made a physical recovery, but what I can’t emphasize enough: I am so grateful that she is herself. Maybe with the oxygen on the plane and getting to the ER, she would have made it physically, but they were so doubtful she would be fine mentally.

My whole life was collapsing around me when the doctors were preparing me for the idea of a girl waking up that was not the clever, funny, generous, wonderful person she was before. I am so thankful for the flight crew and the doctors for saving her life, but I am especially thankful for everybody (and according to the professionals, it was largely Mr. Jaha) who saved her mind; who gave me back the sister that I know and love.

She is my sister and he saved her. I can’t thank him enough and I just wanted to make people aware he’s a hero.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.