Courtesy Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center
It was a reunion that almost didn't happen.
With one of his former passengers by his side, pilot Kenneth Allen spoke to reporters during a media conference on Thursday, 16 days after he lost consciousness while flying his single-engine Cessna 208 plane.
"A lot of thank yous have to go out," the 64-year-old, who is also a grandfather of 6, said during the gathering, which took place at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center in Florida.
Allen was flying passengers Russ Franck and Darren Harrison on May 10 when he fell unresponsive behind the plane's controls.
"My head was pounding and I was seeing little blue lights," Allen recalled of the symptoms he felt before blacking out.
Springing to action, Harrison, 39, sat behind the controls and communicated with air traffic controller Robert Morgan in order to land the aircraft at Palm Beach International Airport — despite having no previous flight experience.
"He had such a calm, collected [demeanor]," Franck, 69, said of Harrison, who was not in attendance.
"It seems absurd to say this, but it felt like a normal landing," Franck added.
According to the medical center, Allen suffered an aortic dissection during the flight, a condition caused by a tear in the inner layer of the body's primary artery. The hospital said aortic dissections have a high mortality rate and typically require surgical treatment.
Dr. Nishant Patel — a cardiothoracic surgeon at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center — helped save Allen's life after Harrison safely landed the plane.
"He had left side and facial droop or weakness," Patel said during the conference. "He wasn't moving one side of his body. He seemed to be neglecting one side of his entire visual field."
"About 50 percent of patients who have [an aortic dissection] diagnosis won't even make it to the hospital," he added.
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Harrison made a recovery at the medical center and was released on May 16, less than a week after the medical episode that nearly claimed his life.
"I don't even know what to say," Allen while turning to Dr. Patel during the conference. "You're my hero."