Galaxy medical trainers help revive unconscious woman on team flight to New York

Galaxy trainers Ivan Pierra and Cesar Roldan may have helped save a life during the team's commercial flight from Los Angeles to New York on Friday when they assisted in reviving a young pregnant woman who had no pulse.

The American Airlines flight was diverted to Las Vegas where the woman, who had regained consciousness by that time, was met by paramedics and transported to a hospital. There were no further details on her condition.


The Airbus 321, which took off from L.A. International Airport at 9 a.m., was over Utah about an hour into its journey when Oka Nikolov, a Galaxy coach, noticed the woman was unconscious and unresponsive. When the flight attendant who came to check on the woman yelled out, "Code red," signifying a medical emergency, Pierra, the Galaxy's director of sports science, came to her aid.

He and Roldan, the brother of Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan, laid the woman out in the aisle and worked to revive her. Jennifer Ashton, a physician and the chief medical correspondent for ABC News who was also on the plane, also helped treat the woman as the flight was rerouted to Las Vegas.

"It was crazy," said Pierra, who joined the Galaxy in their inaugural season in 1996.

But it wasn't the first time he has put his medical training to use on something other than strained hamstrings and twisted ankles. Pierra said he has assisted distressed airline passengers at least five other times, but Friday's patient "was definitely the youngest one."

Pierra, who was sitting behind the woman in coach, said he had no idea what caused the woman to black out.

"She didn't have a pulse when we first started," he said. Once Ashton arrived, Pierra said he kept the woman's airway open while the doctor performed chest compressions until she could detect a heartbeat. It took the woman about 30 minutes to regain consciousness and the doctor told her daughter, who was also on the flight, that she couldn't have revived the woman without Pierra's help.

"She left responsive with a decent heartbeat," Pierra said.

Vicky Mercado, the Galaxy's communications manager, was sitting in an aisle seat about six rows behind the woman.

"I never prayed so much in my life," Mercado said. "All I could see was Ivan and the doctor on their knees helping the woman. And the flight attendants going around getting respiratory masks and anything they could use to help."

After refueling in Las Vegas, the plane resumed its trip to New York's Kennedy Airport after a 90-minute delay. It landed at 8 p.m. Eastern time, 2 hours 16 minutes later than its scheduled arrival.

The Galaxy play New York City FC on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium in their second game of the season.

Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11