Linda Alweiss was relaxing with a Sudoku puzzle on a flight home to Southern California from Iowa for the holidays Dec. 30 when the flight crew asked if any passengers could provide medical help.
The registered nurse from Camarillo quickly volunteered. The flight attendant took her to the cockpit for the medical emergency.
The pilot was slumped in his seat.
After years in pediatric intensive care, Alweiss was thankful she had recently recertified her advanced cardiac life support.
"He was clearly suffering from a possibly fatal arrhythmia,” Alweiss said.
Her husband, Alan, and another passenger helped move the captain from the cramped cockpit to the galley floor. Alweiss and another registered nurse, Amy Sorenson, of Wyoming, went to work, hooking up a diagnostic defibrillator and starting an IV.
And they stayed with their patient right through the emergency landing in Omaha.
"We couldn't leave his side, fortunately smooth landing.”
Paramedics met the United jetliner on the tarmac -- with the pilot still alive, to sighs of relief from the nurses and the co-pilot.
"Her actions were heroic,” Alan Alweiss said. “She didn't hesitate for a second."
When the interrupted flight resumed the next day, Linda Alweiss found herself seated next to the copilot from the night before, and she got brought up to date on the captain.
"They were able to get him into a cardiac unit,” she said. “He had survived."