An emergency medical technician who performed CPR on a man in cardiac arrest during a United Airlines flight said he is now showing signs of COVID-19.

Tony Aldapa said he was supposed to get the COVID-19 vaccine Friday because not only is he a licensed EMT but also an emergency room health care worker. But instead, he’s home quarantining awaiting the latest results of a COVID-19 test.

“Ten times out of ten, I would still get up and help,” said Aldapa.

His training kicked in to help a man suffering from cardiac arrest on a flight from Orlando to LAX. The U.S. Navy veteran says he knew the risks when he performed CPR on the man, whose wife said he had coronavirus-like symptoms.

“That was the last thing I was thinking about,” said Aldapa. “I was just thinking there’s a guy that needs CPR.”

But since Monday’s flight, he’s sick with coronavirus symptoms.

“I’m still feeling a headache, cough, body aches,” he said.

He, along with another EMT and ICU nurse, took turns doing CPR on the man. The man’s wife was overheard saying he had lost his sense of taste and smell and told Aldapa he was feeling sick before the flight.

“She told me he had been short of breath and on the way back home he was going to get tested for COVID,” said Aldapa.

Aldapa says he never did mouth to mouth but while doing chest compressions in the tight aisle for 45 minutes, had rotated a resuscitator and oxygen mask to help the man breathe.

After an emergency landing to take the man to a hospital, where he later died, the flight continued on to LAX.

United Airlines said all passengers are required to fill out a ready-to-fly questionnaire to acknowledge they don’t have COVID-19 or symptoms. While several passengers say the man Aldapa helped showed symptoms, it’s unclear if he had coronavirus.

Aldapa says we all need to hold ourselves accountable.

“If you know you’re sick, look out for yourself but also look out for people you’re going to be around…make the right choices,” he said.

The airline reached out to Aldapa to thank him and said that it sent the flight manifest to the CDC.

Aldapa says the CDC has not yet contacted him.

The CDC told NBC4 that they’re working with local health authorities to reach out to those who may be at risk for infection.


By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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