Vandalia nurse honored for life-saving efforts on board flight

VANDALIA — Andrea Pierron had just closed her eyes. Flying from Orlando to Chicago, en route to Dayton from a week away with her children, she became startled when a flight attendant made an announcement over the United Airlines aircraft’s public address system.

The crew wanted to know if there was someone on board with medical training.

“It startled me,” Pierron, a Vandalia-based hospice nurse, said. “I had my tray table down so I kind of just jumped.”

She rushed to the front of the plane to discover a man in the plane’s lavatory who was not breathing. Pierron and another passenger realized he was choking, but even after clearing the blockage from his airway, she said he did not regain a pulse.

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Pierron knew it was time to start CPR The pressure was mounting.

“When you have 187 other passengers observing you, your children observing you, the patient’s wife was actually behind me with their children,” she explained. “I have all these thoughts going through my head, my adrenaline’s going, and I was just trying to focus on doing what needed to be done.”

For about 15 minutes, Pierron and her fellow passenger performed CPR on the man, with no signs of improvement.

Then, right as the plane landed at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, they felt a pulse.

Pierron, who did not speak the same language as the man’s wife, said she made eye contact, pointed to her own chest, and nodded.

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“You could just see the relief just completely lifted, and she gave me a hug,” Pierron said

Moments later, Chicago first responders arrived on board to take the man to the hospital. Pierron said she did not fully digest what all had just happened until she was off the plane and in the terminal, soaked in sweat and exhausted…but relieved she helped the patient.

More than week later, once back in the Miami Valley, city council in Pierron’s hometown of Vandalia honored her. Mayor Richard Herbst declared Monday, July 19 “Andrea Pierron Day” in the city, presenting a proclamation in front of applause in the city council chamber.

Pierron said she was “humbled” by the gesture, but admitted recognition is not why she stepped in to help.

“I just did it because it was the right thing to do,” she said.