Columbus Crew SC fan Kristina Balevska

The return policy on is very clear: No returns on items that aren’t in their original, undamaged condition. But for one Columbus Crew SC fan and her blood-soaked team jacket, the club made an exception.

Kristina Balevska and her friend were flying back to Columbus from Portland after attending their team’s season opener against the Timbers this past Mar. 6. Disappointed by Crew SC’s 2-1 opening day loss, Balevska, a surgical assistant at Columbus hospital Mount Carmel East, just wanted to get home.

Still proudly sporting a Crew SC jacket, she boarded the flight and anticipated a normal trip home. But a few moments after takeoff, she realized she wasn’t going to get that.

“There was this huge commotion four rows in front of me,” she says. “My friend was like, ‘Hey, something is going on over there. You should probably check it out.’ I said, ‘No, it’s probably nothing.’”

But then a moment most only see in movies happened. A flight attendant rushed down the aisle uttering those famous lines: “‘Is there a doctor on board? Is there a nurse on board?’”

Balevska tentatively raised her hand, letting the flight attendants know she could help. When she approached the hectic scene, she saw a woman lying on the ground and bleeding from her forehead.

Balevska quickly applied pressure to the wound and, with another passenger, transported the woman to the back of the plane. The woman was bleeding but conscious, and our hero didn’t expect a serious injury.

“Everyone was freaking out,” she said. “The whole flight crew was freaking out. They were like, ‘Do we need to divert? Do we need to divert?’ Because this girl was covered in blood,” she recalls.

Despite the woman’s “pale as snow” face, Balevska stayed calm. She kept telling onlookers, in her words, “It’s not that big of a deal.”

Before long, the plane’s crew was asking her to decide whether to continue to Oakland or divert for Reno. And in a perfect situation, the 40 minutes to Oakland could have been possible. But in the next few moments, Balevska said she discovered another gash in the woman’s head and that the plane’s first aid kits didn’t have anything she could use.

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” she says she told the crew, “but we have to land as soon as we can.” As she prepared to land in Reno, Balevska’s friend glanced over at her.

“Hey, uh, you have blood all over your jacket,” he told her.

Never mind the jacket, though—the plane safely diverted, and in the end, the bleeding woman was fine, needing only some stitches.

Day saved, Balevska turned back to the jacket, attempting to clean the blood with club soda, alcohol, and other substances. Nothing worked. But two Crew SC front office employees happened to be on the plane, and word traveled quickly.

Later that week, several members of the Crew SC staff–including head coach and technical director Gregg Berhalter, as well as and director of soccer operations Asher Mendelsohn–approached Balevska at a fan event in Columbus to thank her for the work she did on the plane. And at the club’s first home game the following Saturday, a box at guest services held a new jacket for her.

Balevska appreciates the gesture, and the new jacket. But she still doesn’t see the ordeal as a big deal. “That’s what I do on an everyday life basis,” she says. “A little bit of blood isn’t going to freak me out.”

Her jacket is close to clean at this point (after Southwest Airlines offered to pay for dry cleaning) but with multiple new pieces of Crew SC garb and a bloody memory, Balevska might not be donning her old jacket again.

“I’m a little superstitious,” she says.