I am sure most of you may wonders what happens if you have a medical emergency on board a plane? Does every flight have a doctor on board? Does the pilot looks for a nearest airport to land so that you could be sent to the nearest hospital?
During Daddy’s flight from London back to Singapore, he encountered an incident which he can share with the readers on this. When the flight was in mid air between London and Singapore, he heard an announcement that the airline requested if there are any medical personnel on board to come and identify himself or herself to the crew to help them. Being a doctor who is still work regularly in emergency department, he went to the nearest crew to tell her, he could help. The stewardess brought him to one section of the economy cabin and there were a few crew members helping a lady passenger who was sitting on her chair with a oxygen mask. There was also a nurse from Australia who volunteered herself to help at the same time.
The lead steward told him briefly the lady complained of giddiness and vomited once about an hour ago. The crew had radioed the medical centre in Changi Airport for advice and the doctor at the medical centre asked the crew to perform some assessment and prescribed a medicine for the patient. Unfortunately, her condition did not improve.
When Daddy reviewed the patient, he found that the blood pressure and pulse rate were already taken by the cabin crew. They have quite a comprehensive medical kit containing a stethoscope, a pulse meter (to test for oxygen saturation) and a glucose meter to test for blood glucose. These are basic emergency kits which we required to make a basic assessment of a patient. He was quite impressed with these equipment.
After he has assessed the patient and found that she is stable and likely to have suffer from a bout of gastric flu, Daddy reassured her and inform the crew to let her drink a cup of Milo which contains sugar and fluid to hydrate her and watch her as the medicine given to her earlier which is an antihistamine and paracetamol will likely make her feel better.
After they landed, the lead steward thanked Daddy for his help and informed him that the passenger has recovered and left the plane well.
Thus, to answer your questions, what happens if you have a medical emergency on board:
1. Inform the crew. They will radio for advice with the doctor on the ground medical centre and the crew are train to perform basic medical assessment and give the appropriate medication to you with the advice from the doctor.
2. If your condition does not improve, the crew will ask for any medical personnel on board (eg doctors or nurses) to help, if possible. Daddy’s experience is in a long flight which has 300-400 passengers, there is a high chance that there will be someone on board who is medically trained. He believe that any one who is medically trained like a doctor or nurse will normally volunteer in such situation as we are in the profession of helping people.
3. If the patient is very sick, the crew and pilot may land the plane at the nearest airport to sent you to the hospital, at the advice from the ground medical team.
Daddy’s general advice to patients who are flying is that if their conditions are not stable (eg having quite bad vomiting from food poisioning), try to postpone your flight as you may not want to experience a medical emergency on board.