Brian Delaney remembers nothing of the eight minutes that cabin crew and passengers spent trying to revive him after a heart attack, but he believes Zoe Moran saved his life.
On the tarmac at Wellington Airport, the 26-year-old flight attendant used a defibrillator to resuscitate Mr Delaney when his heart stopped just before takeoff.
Mr Delaney, 73, is recovering at Wellington Hospital, his journey from his Gisborne home to visit family in Dunedin on Thursday interrupted by his second heart attack in eight years.
He had been talking to the passenger next to him when his head started spinning – and after that he remembers nothing of the commotion on the 50-seater Air Nelson Bombadier Q300 until he came around.
“I looked up at five faces and thought, where the hell am I? It could be hospital, or in an an ambulance.”
Miss Moran said a passenger had run up to her to tell her a man was having a seizure, so she dashed to Mr Delaney.
“He was sitting in his chair, his eyes were rolling back in his head and his teeth were moving. I said he’s not having a seizure, he’s having a heart attack.”
She ran to get a defibrillator. Although one is carried on every Air Nelson plane, it was the first time one had been used. She gave Mr Delaney a shock with the defibrillator, and another passenger started chest compressions.
Miss Moran, who has worked for Air Nelson for 16 months, said her training kicked in and she went through the procedures she had learnt but never imagined she would use, while anxiously hoping the medics stationed at the airport would turn up.
“It felt like a long time … I was relieved when they got there, I had been starting to shake.”
Mr Delaney’s daughter, Kaaren Dooher, had been waiting for him at Dunedin Airport.
“When I saw the plane was delayed, I thought that better not be Dad. Then they paged me.”
Doctors will carry out further tests today to try to determine what caused Mr Delaney’s attack.
Yesterday, he had nothing but praise for the airport and hospital staff. And he was relieved his heart attack had not occurred minutes later. “If we had been in the air, I would not be here.”