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Medical emergency on flight - discussion and experiences

Medical emergency on flight - discussion and experiences

Old Mar 28, 11, 6:14 pm
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Medical emergency on flight - discussion and experiences

Have had many unscheduled landings.. but this was my first medical. Flight 2411 out of DFW to LAX today. @ 35 minutes into the flight a pax suffered some type of major issue. Kudos to both the PAX and FA's for the way everything was handled.

After the ill pax has been taken off by the medics we were informed by the pilot that we had landed heavy due to all the excess fuel and our plane would need to be pulled for an inspection and new hardware would be assigned to us.

Few hours late.. but we made it just fine. I don't know if I was more impressed with the overall demeanor of the pax or what.. but no one was .....ing.. which was nice for a change.

I wonder if I can get a segment out of this?

Last edited by JY1024; Apr 20, 11 at 6:34 pm
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Old Mar 28, 11, 6:20 pm
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Happened to me only once

I was flying from Detroit to Dallas, and someone on the plane fell down and cut their head. First they asked if a doctor could volunteer his/her assistance, then they said we were being 'expedited' into DFW. Two things I remember about this: heading straight into DFW cut 30 minutes off of a two hour flight, and I was AMAZED at how fast an MD-80 could corner on the ground. Passenger looked dinged but okay (and embarrased) when they wheeled him off.
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Old Mar 28, 11, 6:25 pm
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One time I was on a flight with some type of serious medical emergency. The problem was that we were halfway from HNL to LAX -- with no place to land. The pilot declared a medical emergency and got clearance to go straight into LAX, shaving one hour off the flight time.
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Old Mar 28, 11, 6:31 pm
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I've witnessed one medical emergency as well (also on DFW-LAX). Just climbing out of DFW, and the elderly man in front of me loses consciousness. His wife is hysterical slapping his forehard to try to regain consciousness. FA's were still seated, and people were ringing the call button like crazy. The FA finally came to see what the problem was, made a page for a physician, one came forward. One FA attended to the pax, got out the AED, and was calming the wife. The other FA documented every single aspect in a notebook, and wouldn't even let the physician and nurse near the pax until she confirmed their credientials. That impressed me. The pax eventually regained consciousness and seemed fine, stayed in his seat, and we continued to LAX.

It was fascinating to watch the FAs manage the situation with perfect precision and professionalism. Unfortunately, the distraction delayed the hot towel service, so I was forced to send a complaint to AA and demand compensation.
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Old Mar 28, 11, 7:05 pm
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We were on a AA DC-10 SJU-DFW once when a passenger had an emergency, and we did a very quick spiral into MIA. The crew handled it very professionally.

(For me, these are the times I discount those who say the FAs are merely glorified servers and anyone could handle an emergency - I have been trained as an emergency responder and have participated several rescues, when most folks who were not trained either gawked or freaked.)
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Old Mar 28, 11, 7:13 pm
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As an air traffic controller here in chicago I can tell you for medical emergencies everyone cooperates and expediates the movement to the place the pilot decides to head to to. I have seen us stop arrivals to runway 22L so that a plane can land oppisite direction on 4R to get on the ground and to an ambulance quickly. That generally means that numerous aircraft go into the hold for a few minutes so that the ME gets down quickly.

I have also seen LAX-European flights dump thousands of pounds of gas so that they can get down to a safe landing wieght to divert to ORD for ME. However my memborable one was a B727 some years back that was at FL330, and only required 30 flying miles to land at CID. Normal descent rate is generally 3 miles for every 1000 feet of descent. Time from declaring emergency until on the ground 6 minutes.
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Old Mar 28, 11, 7:17 pm
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Originally Posted by jamesjim1k View Post
However my memborable one was a B727 some years back that was at FL330, and only required 30 flying miles to land at CID. Normal descent rate is generally 3 miles for every 1000 feet of descent. Time from declaring emergency until on the ground 6 minutes.
I would think that I would have needed medical attention after that landing.
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Old Mar 28, 11, 8:06 pm
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Originally Posted by Deltican View Post
I wonder if I can get a segment out of this?
If both segments had the same flight number, which seems likely, then no, it is no different than any other situation where two segments with the same flight number are treated as one longer segment for posting purposes.
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Old Mar 28, 11, 9:06 pm
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Originally Posted by cynicAAl View Post
Unfortunately, the distraction delayed the hot towel service, so I was forced to send a complaint to AA and demand compensation.
Haha. I was also on a flight where there was a medical emergency last week, DFW-LAX. However, the pax in need was in Y, and I was in F, so I didn't find out what happened, but things calmed down after a while and my hot towel did come out so I assume all went well.
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Old Mar 28, 11, 10:58 pm
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As a RN, I don't carry my "credientials" with me. If a FA, asked for help then wouldn't allow me to tend to the sick pax until I showed her my "Credientials" I would just go back to my seat.

I have been on 3 flights with medical emergency's, and not once was I ask to show proof.

Originally Posted by cynicAAl View Post
I've witnessed one medical emergency as well (also on DFW-LAX). Just climbing out of DFW, and the elderly man in front of me loses consciousness. His wife is hysterical slapping his forehard to try to regain consciousness. FA's were still seated, and people were ringing the call button like crazy. The FA finally came to see what the problem was, made a page for a physician, one came forward. One FA attended to the pax, got out the AED, and was calming the wife. The other FA documented every single aspect in a notebook, and wouldn't even let the physician and nurse near the pax until she confirmed their credientials. That impressed me. The pax eventually regained consciousness and seemed fine, stayed in his seat, and we continued to LAX.

It was fascinating to watch the FAs manage the situation with perfect precision and professionalism. Unfortunately, the distraction delayed the hot towel service, so I was forced to send a complaint to AA and demand compensation.
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Old Mar 28, 11, 11:23 pm
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Originally Posted by FlightNurse View Post
As a RN, I don't carry my "credientials" with me. If a FA, asked for help then wouldn't allow me to tend to the sick pax until I showed her my "Credientials" I would just go back to my seat.

I have been on 3 flights with medical emergency's, and not once was I ask to show proof.
my mom is an RN and always introduces herself to the lead FA as an RN when she boards, and is always thanked, even upgraded a few times.

On my med emerg flight, both had their credentials, so not sure what would have happened if they didn't have credentials on them. From a risk management perspective, I understand why AA would want to check credentials before letting someone treat a distessed passenger.
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Old Mar 28, 11, 11:35 pm
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Originally Posted by cynicAAl View Post
Unfortunately, the distraction delayed the hot towel service, so I was forced to send a complaint to AA and demand compensation.
I would expect nothing less than two RTW Flagship Suites to the destination of your choice for this extreme inconvenience.



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Old Mar 28, 11, 11:54 pm
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Anybody can tend to a distressed pax, but in order for the medical kit to be opened and utilized, MD or DO credentials must be provided.
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Old Mar 29, 11, 1:01 am
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Originally Posted by skylady View Post
Anybody can tend to a distressed pax, but in order for the medical kit to be opened and utilized, MD or DO credentials must be provided.
I have been a physician for over 35 years and been called upon on numerous flights for med emergencies. The majority seem to have been on IAD-SFO transcons on UA, given that I go to Wash, DC a lot to see elected officials.

They always ask for medical ID (I give it). In most cases on the SFO-IAD route there are as many as 10 or more physicians on the flight. I often get told to chill---some other doc has got it. I don't mind. I'm a surgeon and direct most of the busy trauma centers in the SF Bay area.

I'm usually glad in 2 priority scenarios: 1) The pax is OK 2) we don't get diverted (mildly selfish). As prior posters have mentioned, it is impressive how expeditiously the flight goes--getting to the airport--once the pilot has declared the emergency.

OTOH, there is the ritual where everyone must freeze in his or her seat whilst paramedics come on board. Mild tradeoff. Also, more than once, have had emergencies on LHR-SFO. Don't ask me why the pax gets in trouble on the last hour of a 10.5 hr flight.

I used to get a $200 or more electronic cert from UA if I actually evaluated the pax. The ritual was the FA would take my name (knew my seat number, etc). I turned it down a couple of times when I thought it was a non-event.

There were times when several docs were conferring on a pax by committee before my entrance on the scene. I always ducked (most of these are medical---I'm a trauma surgeon---I stop bleeding or a living mostly, so I'm not the main guy). I'm pretty sure they quit handing the certs out when multitudes of docs appeared. Just as well.

At any rate, the priorities for med emergencies seem to go ok when physicians are needed at flight level 370. FA's know their job quite well and do it. They're primarily there for everyone's safety. I'm still amazed at how many MD's are routinely seated on IAD-SFO flights, though.
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Old Mar 29, 11, 2:36 am
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A few months back when flying LH from ORD to FRA, the FA asked while we were still on the ground if any doctors are available onboard as one of the pax is not feeling well.

Being a doctor myself, I volunteered for standby. However, I've never encountered a ME at 36000ft before, and I have to say, quite honestly, I was a bit nervous.

For the first 15 minutes of our flight, I kept telling myself that I've done this before, just not at 36000ft, it shouldn't be that much of a difference... remember what you learned in med school, just relax... etc..

Thank God the pax was alright and fell asleep most of the time, and we landed w/o any complications.

Sometimes, I do think that we need to run some drills like this in co-op with airlines.
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