Alternative MethodsConventional Methods

September 21

Medical emergencies in flight: Inspiring Stories

Reading time 4 min.

For most passengers, flying an airplane is an important part of the journey. Sometimes in flight, not everything goes according to plan because of the confined space, prolonged sitting, and other factors. Most often, medical help is not required - the ailment goes away by itself or disappears after landing. However, there are situations in which you cannot do without help - flight attendants begin to look for doctors among passengers flying on the same board. We have compiled a selection of impressive stories in which doctors had to assist right in an airplane.

  • Place of birth: somewhere over the Atlantic

In December 2017, an unusual situation occurred on board an aircraft en route from New Delhi to New York with a stopover in Paris. The crew commander asked if there was a doctor among the passengers - urologist Sij Hemal and pediatrician Susan Shepherd responded to the call.
The doctors were told that Toyin Ogundipe, who was suddenly in labor, needed help. An emergency landing was possible no earlier than two hours later, and therefore the doctors, together with the flight attendants, began to prepare for the fact that, most likely, the child would be born on board the plane.
The contractions were already every 10 minutes and gradually became more frequent. Toyin was transferred to business class, which had more space and fewer passengers. The woman flew with her four-year-old daughter, and one of the flight attendants remained to look after her.
Using medical equipment on board, doctors monitored the woman's blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen levels. Within an hour, the contractions went every two minutes, and after another half an hour a boy was born. Dr. Hemal cut the umbilical cord, and Dr. Shepherd examined the baby and helped the mother attach it to her breast.
After landing in New York, the newborn baby was taken to the hospital with his mother and older sister. A day later, the family went home, no violations in the condition of the boy and his mother were found.

  • The orange that nearly became a killer

In November 2004, Yuri Iosifovich Bravve, Doctor of Medical Sciences, now head of the City Clinical Hospital No. 1 of Novosibirsk, Russia, together with his friends flew Novosibirsk - Beijing.
“We flew for two hours already and flight attendants started serving dinner, including fruits - oranges. A woman who ate an orange developed an immediate allergic reaction that triggered subsequent cardiac arrest, says Yuri Bravve. - The crew asked the passengers if there were doctors on board, so we volunteered to help. The passenger was moved to the first cabin, where very few people were flying. The woman had very low blood pressure, and in general her condition was close to the terminal. "

A medical team led by Bravve carried out resuscitation measures: artificial heart massage in a closed manner, mouth-to-mouth breathing with simultaneous pressure control. After the cardiac arrest was recorded, it was decided to inject the adrenaline available in the medical kit directly into the heart muscle.
“My main specialty is a healthcare organization, but I also had a certificate in thoracic (pulmonary) surgery. Through the chest, I injected adrenaline directly into the heart. The first aid kit on board was surprisingly well-stocked. To bring the woman to consciousness, it took us about 40 minutes. Later she told us that she had never encountered such a food allergy before. I do not know the last name of this woman, but on the return flight the crew said that they were aware of the incident, and also said that everything was in order with her health”.
An emergency landing was avoided. Bravve considered that the patient's condition had been stabilized, and therefore the plane flew to Beijing, where an ambulance team met the passenger at the ramp.
“This case is not an isolated one, I have repeatedly assisted passengers on board - there were pain syndromes, status epilepticus, loss of consciousness. However, this situation, when there was a threat to the life of a passenger, is still unique. I always carry documents with me confirming my medical license, as well as a fairly serious first-aid kit that allows me to assist if necessary. "

  • Obstruction of the urinary tract

A passenger on a flight from Guangzhou, China to New York, became ill: a prostate gland has blocked the ureter, making it impossible to urinate. Almost 1000 ml of urine has accumulated in the bladder, which is why there was a real danger of its rupture.
The man was in severe pain and needed medical attention. About six hours remained until the destination, the crew turned to the passengers for help, among whom was the surgeon Zhang Hong.
The doctor assessed the situation and concluded that there was a danger to the patient's life - action should be taken immediately.
Together with another doctor, who also flew on the same plane, he built a catheter to drain urine - for this, he needed a tube from an oxygen mask, tubes from milk that was served to passengers, scotch tape, and a syringe, which was available in the onboard first-aid kit.
However, it soon became clear that the syringe needle was too small and not suitable for removing accumulated urine.
Zhang Hong decided to draw out the urine with his mouth: in 37 minutes, he extracted about 800 ml of urine in this way. The patient's condition improved and the risk of bladder rupture was minimized.
The surgeon explained that there was no other way to help a man suffering from severe pain, which is why he had to act in this way in a critical situation.

  • Asthma attack and self-made inhaler

A transatlantic flight nearly became fatal for a two-year-old boy with asthma. On the board, he began a severe attack: the child was choking, he needed inhalations, and his parents found that they had put the nebulizer in their luggage in one of the suitcases.
Dr. Khurshid Guru, head of the robotic surgery department at one of the US oncological institutes came to the aid of the little patient. The doctor measured the oxygen level in the blood - the readings were very low. An emergency landing was not possible.
There was an adult inhaler on board that was not suitable for use by a child.
Dr. Guru designed a baby nebulizer that provided access to both the necessary medicine and oxygen to the baby's lungs.
By the time of landing, everything was fine - the attack did not recur, hospitalization was not required. Dr. Guru said that he made a transatlantic flight three times - during each of them he had to assist passengers on board.


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