Navy nurse midwife honored for saving passenger's life aboard ferry

Navy nurse Erika Schilling was honored Thursday, Jan. 17, 2018, for efforts to save a man's life on the MV Spokane. She performed CPR for 14 minutes on a man whose heart had stopped. (Photo: KOMO News)

EDMONDS, Wash. -- A U.S. Navy nurse midwife is being called a life saver for performing CPR on a man for 14 minutes when he went into cardiac arrest on a Washington State ferry.

Of all the trips she's made from Kingston to Edmonds and back, none will compare to LCDR Erika Schilling's voyage across Puget Sound on Dec. 2.

"Everything aligned that day," said Schilling.

Schilling was aboard the MV Spokane with her two young sons when a woman in a nearby seat caught her attention, Schilling said.

"I heard her on the phone saying 'This is an emergency. And my ears kinda went up.'" Schilling said.

A man’s heart had just stopped.

Schilling quickly pulled him to the floor and told another passenger to alert the crew. Crew members showed up with an automatic external defibrillator (AED).

Schilling spent the next 14 minutes performing CPR. Another person helped her for part of time, she said.

"First responder. I’ve been in the Navy for almost 21 years and I respond to emergencies. It’s what I do," Schilling said.

Schilling was honored Thursday for her heroic efforts aboard the very same vessel that, coincidentally, bares the home town of the man she saved.

The Life Ring Award is normally reserved for special actions performed by ferry employees, but Washington State Ferries felt Schilling’s work deserved an exception.

"In this case, it was a happy ending. And it was very, very phenomenal," said Doug Stough, interim port captain for Washington State Ferries.

"I would expect nothing less. I mean, she delivers babies for a living and I would say has saved lives before with mothers and babies. So, I would expect anyone in her position to do the same. I’m glad she got to be there to be the one to do it," said Kevin Schilling, Erika's husband. "She did it because she was there and she was glad to have done it. At the same time, it’s nice to recognize her for that."

Schilling hopes her actions that day served as a teachable moment for her two sons about helping those in need and doing what is right.

The man she helped save lived to see another day because of her.

"It was really, really nice success story," Schilling said.

The man she helped save now has a pacemaker and is doing well, Schilling said.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off