A routine ferry trip across Washington state’s Puget Sound turned into an emergency medical response mission for a Navy nurse who stepped up to aid a fellow passenger.

Lt. Holly Sapien, assigned to Naval Hospital Bremerton, took the lead stabilizing a man experiencing an epileptic seizure as the boat unexpectedly went off course, the Navy said in a statement.

“I had to get him out of the seat he was in,” Sapien said in a release. “I had to get him on his side to protect his airway and prevent aspiration.”

On the afternoon of April 15, while on its standard route from Bremerton to Seattle, the Walla Walla ferry ran aground from a loss of power with roughly 600 passengers and crew on board, the Navy said. There were no reported injuries as a result of the grounding.

Sapien, an El Paso, Texas, native with nearly 10 years of experience in the sea service, used her prior training to render support to the individual until fire and rescue personnel arrived and transported the patient to a local medical facility.

The Coast Guard also responded to the scene.

The agency that operates the ferry service said on social media that initial signs suggest the vessel suffered a “generator failure” and that an official investigation is forthcoming.

This is not the first time a service member saved someone aboard a Washington state ferry. In 2018, a Navy nurse rescued a man using CPR after his heart stopped, Navy Times previously reported.

“It’s nice to be there when needed and be able to jump in and help out to give peace of mind to another when there’s no hospital nearby,” Sapien said.

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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