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Hero Nurse Puts Training To The Test With Emergency In The Sky

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- She's only been on the job for nine months, but one New Jersey nurse put all her training to the test recently.

The only thing is -- it didn't happen in a hospital. It was aboard a plane, where she had only seconds to help save a woman's life. Now, the young woman says she's prepared to handle anything.

"I was in the right place at the right time," nurse Courtney Donlon tells CBS2's Jessica Borg. The place was a plane flying home to New Jersey from Las Vegas after a trip with two of her friends. The time -- never more urgent -- was when a Jet Blue flight attendant asked the 180 passengers if there were any medical professionals on board.

Donlon -- a nurse at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey -- stood up.

"She looked at me and looked away," she said of the flight attendant, who thought the 22-year-old looked far too young to be a nurse. But it was quickly obvious that Donlon could help.

She was told a 57-year-old passenger had serious symptoms.

"They told me she was feeling pain up her left arm, all in the back and that they weren't sure what that meant," Donlon said, immediately diagnosing the problem as a likely heart attack.

She knew there wasn't a moment to spare and gave the woman  two aspirin, knowing their blood-thinning properties were crucial. Additionally, she also gave her oxygen from a tank -- helping to stabilize her.

"I myself felt confident in what I was doing," Donlon said. "I mean, there was full trust in me."

So much so, she convinced the captain they needed to make an emergency landing in Charleston.

The woman was rushed to the hospital and is recovering.

Donlon isn't alone with her life-saving skills -- her mom and sister are also nurses at the same hospital.

"It's a blessing that she was able to keep someone safe and essentially save their life," Courtney's mom Renee said.

A lesson learned for the newly minted nurse; that you're never really off-duty.

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