EMT who gave CPR to man on United Airlines flight says he has COVID-19 symptoms

EMT who gave CPR to man on United Airlines flight says he has COVID-19 symptoms
Tony Aldapa, who helped give CPR to a man on a United Airlines flight, said he is awaiting COVID-19 test results after feeling symptoms. (Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

A 69-year-old man who fell ill on a United Airlines cross-country flight and later died succumbed to COVID-19 complications, a Louisiana coroner said. Meanwhile, the man who helped administer CPR to the stricken passenger said he is now feeling symptoms of the coronavirus.

Isaias Hernandez, of Los Angeles, died Dec. 15 in Kenner, Louisiana, NOLA.com reported. According to the report, by Jefferson Parish coroner Gerry Cvitanovich, Hernandez died from “acute respiratory failure” and “COVID-19,” NBC News reported.

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Hernandez was traveling on United Airlines Flight 591 from Orlando to Los Angeles on Dec. 14. When he became ill, two travelers -- a nurse and an emergency medical technician -- performed CPR on him. The flight was diverted to New Orleans, and Hernandez died at Ochsner Medical Center-Kenner, The Washington Post reported.

Tony Aldapa, the EMT who helped administer CPR to Hernandez during the flight, said he started feeling symptoms of COVID-19, NOLA.com reported.

Aldapa told KNBC that he was supposed to get the COVID-19 vaccine Friday because he is a licensed EMT and an emergency room health care worker. Instead, he’s home quarantining and awaiting results of a COVID-19 test, the television station reported.

Aldapa, who works at a Veterans Administration medical center in West Los Angeles, said he had no regrets.

“Ten times out of 10, I would still get up and help,” Aldapa told KNBC.

During an interview on KABC radio in Los Angeles Monday afternoon, Aldapa said he noticed other passengers giving Hernandez CPR and offered to step in if one of them needed a break, NOLA.com reported. He and two other passengers took turns for 40 minutes until the flight landed, he said.

The CPR did not include mouth-to-mouth, Aldapa said.

“My whole mind-set that whole time was that this individual needed CPR … regardless of anything else he could have had,” Aldapa told CNN on Monday night. “It’s kind of become second nature. You see something, you’ve got to do something.”

Hernandez’s wife later revealed that her husband had symptoms of coronavirus before getting on the flight and was heading home to get tested, KCBS reported.

“She told me he had symptoms, he was short of breath and she just wanted to get him home and they plan on getting tested this week,” Aldapa told the television station.

Aldapa said he began experiencing symptoms once he arrived in California.

“Essentially I just feel like I got hit by a train,” Aldapa told KCBS. “I had a cough, my whole body still hurt, I had a headache.”

In a statement, United Airlines said they were initially informed that the passenger suffered cardiac arrest, but did not know of his possible coronavirus symptoms.

“We are sharing requested information with the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the CDC believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection,” airline officials said.

Airline passengers are required to fill out a form acknowledging they have not tested positive or had symptoms in the last 14 days, KCBS reported. However, proof is not required.

Aldapa said the CDC has not contacted him yet.

In a statement to KCBS, the agency said it was “in the process of collecting information and proceeding according to our standard operating procedures to determine if further public health action is appropriate. To protect the privacy of the individual, we aren’t providing this information to the public.”

“Fortunately, if the symptoms I have are from covid, I’ve gotten lucky,” Aldapa told CNN. “They’ve been very mild.”

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