A Consultant Medical Doctor at the University Hospitals of Leicester miraculously managed to save the life of a passenger who suffered two cardiac arrests in the middle of a long-haul flight from London Heathrow to Mumbai earlier this month.
Dr Vishwaraj Vemala, a specialist in liver disease, was travelling with his mother onboard Air India flight AI-128 on 12th November when the cabin crew called for a doctor to come forward after a 43-year-old man with no pre-existing medical concerns suddenly collapsed.
The NHS doctor jumped into action and took the lead for the cabin crew after initial resuscitation measures failed to have any effect on the seriously ill passenger.
The ideal course of action would be to get the plane onto the ground at the earliest opportunity so that the passenger could be whisked to a fully equipped hospital, but despite the fact that the Boeing 787 Dreamliner was flying over a populated land area, this wasn’t an easy option.
By the point the passenger had suffered a cardiac arrest aboard the eight-and-a-half flight, the Indian registered aircraft was already flying over Pakistan – posing obvious diplomatic issues.
Dr Vemala says he requested an emergency medical diversion to Karachi in Pakistan but the request first had to be passed through the High Commission, and during this lengthy process, the passenger’s condition stabilised so they decided to carry on to Mumbai.
Unfortunately, an hour later, the passenger’s condition deteriorated, and he suffered a second cardiac arrest.
“For a moment, I thought I lost him,” Dr Vemala wrote in a Facebook post. Thankfully, Dr Vemala there was a defibrillator onboard and an emergency medical kit full of medicine for use by trained medical professionals.
Dr Vemala praised the cabin crew who acted as nurses, runners and communicators as he worked to stabilise the patient.
The flight nearly diverted to the Indian city of Ahmadabad, although it actually made it all the way to Mumbai, where medical responders were standing by to meet the plane.
By this point, Dr Vemala says all the emergency medicines onboard the aircraft had been exhausted, but the patient had been stabilised.
“This was indeed a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life. !!!I am amazed that in the most hostile environment, people from various backgrounds come together, forming a team with just one motive in mind to save a young life,” Dr Vemala wrote.
“They [the cabin crew] took up roles which were so unfamiliar to what they are usually used to,” Dr Vemala continued. “There was a celebratory huddle by the whole team on touchdown. There was a standing ovation on final touchdown with the whole Air India team and all passengers.”
And while Dr Vemala was there to look after the seriously ill passenger, luckily his mother was there to look out for her son. De Vemala says that after tending to the passenger for more than four hours on the flight, his mother was concerned he hadn’t managed to get any sleep or food.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.