Officer puts training to good use in off-duty rescue

Grafton policeman draws on his EMT background in helping save life of woman having seizures on flight

Andrew Mammen
Ozaukee Press Staff

An officer is never off duty, even when he’s flying home from vacation.

Grafton Police Officer Andrew Mammen gained firsthand knowledge of that fact when a passenger on his flight had a medical emergency.

“He was heroic in his actions. He stepped in immediately to use his emergency medical training,” Grafton Police Capt. Joseph Gabrish said of Mammen.

“It was a matter of life or death on the plane. I guess you never know when something is going to happen.”

Mammen was on a flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Dec. 17 after seeing friends in south Florida and visiting Walt Disney World. 

He thought it would be an ordinary trip until a young woman seated about 10 rows in front of him began having seizures.

Mammen was unaware of the situation until a flight attendant asked passengers on Spirit Airlines Flight 464 if anyone had medical training.

The 35-year-old Grafton officer and another passenger who was a nurse sitting in the row directly in front of him quickly stepped in.

“Things got worse quickly,” Mammen said. “She went from seizures to having an asthma attack, and she couldn’t breathe between all of the seizures.”

Mammen joined the Grafton Police Department last year and has been an officer for 14 years, most recently in Slinger. He was also an emergency medical technician for the Grafton Fire Department for six years.

“It’s has been awhile since I experienced someone having seizures but all the training came back to me,” he said. “It’s one of those things that kicks in.” 

Mammen and the nurse laid the ailing woman on the floor, protecting her head and limbs. 

“We started by watching her to make sure her airways were open,” he said. “Eventually she couldn’t breathe, so we asked the staff onboard for an oxygen mask because I could see she was starting to go downhill.”

The woman’s mother said her daughter had a history of seizures and tried using a rescue inhaler to help her breathe but it didn’t help. 

Mammen said the woman was disoriented and unconscious after having approximately 17 seizures on the plane.

“Her breathing got pretty labored to the point where I had to start giving her rescue breaths for the last portion of the flight,” Mammen said.

“She was pretty disoriented and unable to recover because of the lack of breathing. At the end, it seemed like this was it because she was running out of steam.”

The plane made a medical-emergency landing in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and EMTs quickly took the woman to the hospital. 

Mammen said the incident lasted about 45 minutes.

Mammen said he heard other passengers give a round of applause when he returned to his seat, but the officer wasn’t seeking a hero’s recognition.

“I wasn’t looking for anything. Just trying to help someone and make sure they’re safe,” he said.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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