Team of 4 docs save passenger after heart attack mid-air

PATNA: Four doctors on board an IndiGo flight from New Delhi to Patna, saved the life of a middle-aged woman, who collapsed mid-air following a heart attack, with the aircraft nearly 35 minutes away from the destination on Saturday evening, said an IndiGo official, adding that the passenger was rushed to the nearest private hospital, where she was stabilised.

Pramod Agarwal, husband of ailing Suman Agarwal(59), said that she has a history of hypertension. “She developed chest pain and collapsed on her seat around 35 minutes after take-off from Delhi airport at 6 pm,” said Pramod, a businessman, who was returning with her from Nagpur.

“The crew immediately made an announcement calling out doctors or nurses on board the aircraft. In quick time, four of them — three men and a female, all of them doctors, three in government service — took control of the situation,” said Pramod.

“The passenger was unconscious and in a state of shock, having almost collapsed. Her blood pressure was not recordable. The peripheral pulse (on the wrist) was not palpable. However, the carotid pulse (on the neck to the side of one’s windpipe) was there. Since we did not have any medical history of the passenger, in order to rule out hypoglycaemia (abnormally low glucose or sugar level), I asked an air hostess to give her water, dissolved with sugar,” said Dr. Abhishek Kumar Sinha, an MD in community medicine, and a State Programme Officer, looking after health systems strengthening in the government of Bihar.

The “crash cart” in the flight had all the essential drugs, cannula (a thin tube inserted into a vein to administer medication), and an oxygen cylinder. Those came in handy, said, Dr. Sinha.

“I put her on external oxygen and was able to put a cannula, which is very difficult to do even in a hospital in such cases when the veins begin to collapse fast. Doing it mid-air was even more challenging. Immediately, thereafter, I pushed adrenaline, a lifesaving drug, Dexona and Deriphyllin, through IV (intravenous), normally given to revive a patient who is sinking,” said Dr. Nikita Shrivastava, a DNB in anaesthesiology, who manages critical care patients, and is presently a senior resident doctor at the Chhindwara Institute of Medical Sciences, a government medical college in Madhya Pradesh.

“The woman soon regained consciousness and told us she was having chest pain. Working as a close-knit team, we gave her cardiac massage and four tablets of aspirin (an anti-inflammatory drug used to reduce pain, fever, and/or inflammation, and as an antithrombotic) while getting an in-flight announcement made for atorvastatin (used to prevent cardiovascular disease and to treat abnormal lipid levels). The passengers were cooperative and we got the required drugs soon and were able to stabilise the patient before we landed,” said Dr Shrivastava.

Dr. Mallikarjun from New Delhi and Dr. Atish, a paediatrician from the army hospital, were the other two doctors who contributed to saving Agarwal’s life, said Dr Abhishek.

“We got a priority landing for the aircraft because of a medical emergency after the pilots informed the Patna air traffic control (ATC). As such, the aircraft landed almost 25 minutes before the scheduled arrival of 7:45 pm. There was an ambulance and a team of doctors waiting on the tarmac and we rushed the patient to the Paras-HMRI hospital,” said an IndiGo official who did not wish to be identified.

“We have shifted her to Patna’s Medanta hospital and she is stable,” the husband said on Sunday.