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Report: Widow says flight attendant nixed use of defibrillator due to husband’s hairy chest

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A man died on a flight from Los Angeles to Albuquerque after he suffered a heart attack, and his wife said she believes a flight attendant’s reaction to her husband’s hairy chest contributed to a delay that may have cost her husband his life.

KOAT in Albuquerque reports that Caroline and Jack Jordan were on a Southwest Airlines flight when Jack suffered a heart attack.

Passengers reportedly attempted to perform CPR, but Caroline Jordan tells KOAT that a flight attendant said chest hair meant they couldn’t use the defibrillator aboard the aircraft on her husband.

“The flight attendant that had been right up there with us said because his chest is too hairy,” she told KOAT.

Jack Jordan died as a result of the heart attack.

A doctor who spoke with KOAT said chest hair is rarely a factor in whether or not a defibrillator works, and other medical personnel said razors and scissors are included with defibrillators in case there is a need to shave hair or cut clothing or jewelry.

A spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines tells KOAT the airline is looking into the incident. See the video above for an interview with Caroline Jordan and others regarding the death.

Click here for more on this story from KOAT.

7 comments

  • Bob

    Federal law on use of defibrillators by flight attendants states that:
    (b) Liability of Individuals.–An individual shall not be liable for
    damages in any action brought in a Federal or State court arising out of
    the acts or omissions of the individual in providing or attempting to
    provide assistance in the case of an in-flight medical emergency unless
    the individual, while rendering such assistance, is guilty of gross
    negligence or willful misconduct.

  • Bob

    She’s a flight attendant Caroline, and not a heart specialist. It is unfortunate that your husband died, but if the flight attendant had in fact used the defibrillator and had failed you’d still be blaming the airline.

  • Sassy6

    Bob, I’m sure Flight attendants are trained in Basic Life Support. Using a defibrillator is part of that training. If she/he has a BLS certification card then it very well could be proven as gross negligence. Body hair is no excuse to not use a defibrillator.

    • Bob

      The federal law clearly states that flight attendants are not liable for damages arising out of
      the acts or OMISSIONS (omissions SASSY6) of the individual in providing or attempting to
      provide assistance in the case of an in-flight medical emergency.

      Read it and weep.

  • Jubee

    Chest hair can absolutely play a factor in whether or not an AED can be used. I’ve stuck pads on pleanty of patients and had the pads hover an inch or more above the skin because of hair. If the AED can’t get an ECG tracing (prevented without direct contact to the skin), then it cannot give instructions as to whether a shock is advised. It may very well have a fail-safe that doesn’t administer shocks if no shock is advised. The flight attendant may have only been relaying that it wouldn’t/wasn’t working, not that she was refusing to use it. Also, just because an AED is present doesn’t mean that it would ever be appropriate to use. Defibrillation is only used for v-fib and pulseless v-tach, if the patient was in asystole (flat line) the whole time then even if the AED was working at full capacity without hair it would have never advised a shock. But, if the AED had a razor, then there was no excuse not to shave the chest and go from there.

    And to the comment above that suggests having a CPR card suddenly classifies you as, at least, a first responder and qualifies you for gross negligence that’s absurd. If that’s what you believe, then every high school student who has taken the AHA healthcare Provider CPR course should stay away from any person in distress for fear of retribution . Taking one class to learn what an AED looks like and how to be familiar with following it’s instructions does not make you a professional. It gives you the opportunity to maybe offer a little help where none may have been otherwise available.

    Signed,
    Your friendly paramedic.

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