In-flight medical emergencies (was Re: Cabin Depressurization)

Date:         18 Jan 2000 05:24:23 
From:         "Grant Lynde" <>
Organization: EarthLink Network, Inc.
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Hugh Dickson wrote in message ...
>> The O2 is there for people having heart
>> attacks or difficulty breathing or some other problem that O2 will
>> help.  That is, it's there for an individual emergency, not an
>> aircraft emergency.
>Often used for "white knuckle" pax.  "Placebo"?  Also used as a
>"walkaround" bottle.  Note nylon strap attached to some bottles
>with "two turns of one inch masking tape".

The O2 bottle is indeed used for passengers having breathing
difficulties.  I was on an international flight recently where a person
on the plane with a history of severe asthma was having an attack
triggered by a cold, exacerbated by the low PaO2 provided by an airplane
at altitude.  The medical kit on the airplane (a UA 777)consisted of a
cheap stethescope (I had mine), a bp cuff, some bandages, and
subcutaneous epinepherine (which would only be useful for a bee sting or
someone with an anaplalactic allergic reaction).  All I could do was
give this person some O2, ask the FA's to ask the pilots to descend
altitude to increase the FiO2, and expedite the approach into IAD.  I
was horrified by my inability to do much more than hold this person's
hand and reassure her!!!  Her blood O2 saturation on the ground with the
O2 was 88% (for non-medical types, normal is >96%, 94% if you're a old
and are a heavy smoker.  88% buys an admission to the hospital with
continuous medical observation.)  I am appauled that any airplane,
especially international, lacks the ability to provide licenced
physicians with even basic medications to treat inflight emergencies.

On an up note, UA was extremely appreciative and acknowledged my
intervention very appropriately.  I wrote a letter back to the medical
director who informed me that they are currently upgrading their medical
equipment on all their planes to be able to provide ACLS support for
persons in need (ACLS stands for Advanced Cardiac Life Support which
consists of the abiltity to perform CPR + shock someone and provide the
appropriate medications for someone who is suffering a heart attack or
other life-threatening situations which would compromise one's ability
to breathe).  All-in-all, I don't think I will ever fly again without my
trusty ACLS drugs and intubation equipment.