Stories by Louis Ibah
As you fly to your various destinations this Christmas and New Year season, the last thing you ever want to imagine is falling terribly sick on board the aircraft that you are flying. Whether it is on an international route or on a local route, every traveler wants to hit his final destination in good health. But that’s the ideal; the reality though is that medical emergencies in the sky happen every day. What kind of treatment do you expect if you pass out, choke, or otherwise become critically sick at 35,000 feet above se level? The issue has been in the spotlight again since the Nigerian passenger identified as. Mrs. Abaniwonda Modupe Kofoworola slumped and died on board an Emirates Airline flight from Dubai to Lagos last week. It was the second time a Nigerian would die on an Emirates flight. In July this year, Dr. Olusola Dada, also slumped and died on an Emirates flight from the USA. But it is not an incident unique to Nigeria. About 44,000 in-flight medical emergencies take place worldwide each year, according to a 2013 study in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Some of its findings are sobering: If you were to suffer a heart attack, seizure or other health problem on a plane, “access to care is limited,” the authors write.
The study identified the most common in-flight health issues include fainting, respiratory problems and nausea or vomiting. The study however said the death rate among all passengers with in-flight medical emergencies was less than 1 per cent.
Why passengers die
Analysts say most passengers who develop critical health conditions on board an aircraft and end up passing out don’t call for help on time. The majority usually assume that they can manage the sickness to the end of the journey where they can eventually get help. Some don’t even know that they can get help from the aircraft. Other deliberately fly knowing that they are terribly sick and should not make the journey. And then there are other passengers who opt to fly against the counsel of their doctors.
What to do
If you get sick on an aircraft, your first responders will be members of the crew. Flight attendants are trained to handle medical emergencies and planes are equipped with first aid kits. The kits include medicines such as nitroglycerin tablets, which can relieve chest pain, and dextrose, to treat low blood sugar.
Also during a medical emergency, flight attendants will often seek out traveling doctors and nurses. “Is there a doctor on board to assist please?” It’s very common to hear this plea for help once there is an emergency on board an aircraft. And indeed, traveling doctors, nurses and other health professionals were able to help in three-quarters of the in-flight medical emergencies analysed by The New England Journal of Medicine study.Should there be a doctor among the passengers on a flight, they can be called on to deal with anything from minor incidents, including panic attacks, and back pain, to strokes and heart attacks.
“While we can handle all sorts of situations, we’re only allowed to treat symptoms,” said Heather Poole, a veteran flight attendant for U.S. airline. “We can’t diagnose somebody and then treat them. If they’re bleeding, we stop the blood — that sort of thing,”he added.
But passengers must also know that sometimes, if the emergency requires the aircraft returning to the ground, the pilot would not hesitate to do so.
While passengers must take personal responsibility for the safety by not traveling if in dire health conditions, however should emergencies occur in the course of the flight, they should not hesitate to call for help. as with other cabin crew, are taught how to keep passengers from panicking by talking in a calm but authoritative voice. The medical training of the cabin crew you meet serving you drink sand food also ranges from using a defibrillator to performing a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) which is is an emergency life-saving procedure that is done when someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped, to helping people choking, to delivering a baby and cutting the cord.