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Quick-Thinking Pharmacists Save Airline Passenger

  • February 11, 2015
  • RPh on the Go

pharmacist-airlineDeeDee Hu and Sapana Desai had no idea that on their flight from Houston to Los Angeles in mid-December would save a fellow passenger’s life. A passenger on the flight lost consciousness and had no pulse, but thanks to a pair of pharmacists onboard who work at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center in Houston, the passenger was okay. Both Desai and Hu were on the flight for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) midyear clinical meeting.

Within 20 minutes after the plane took off, both the medical professionals heard a call for help. Hu, who works as a clinical specialist in critical care, found no pulse. Once she was able to reposition him across three seats, he temporarily regained consciousness.

A page for assistance from any medical personnel also yielded help from Desai, a clinical specialist in emergency medicine, as well as a family doctor and a nurse. Hu worked with the doctor to further assess the man while the nurse administered oxygen, and Desai started using the automated external defibrillator, or AED. The man once again had no pulse, so the doctor had to administer chest compressions twice. Afterward, they put the AED on him again, which showed cardiac rhythm. The AED is the best chance at saving someone’s life in a case like this.

From there, IV fluid was administered to the man. When he regained consciousness, sugar packets and a low-dose aspirin tablet were also administered to stabilize blood pressure and to reduce the potential damage of what appeared to be a heart attack. Both Hu and Desai demanded the plane make an emergency landing in San Antonio, at which point an emergency medical team removed the man from the flight to receive further medical care.

According to Hu, the passengers all expressed their gratitude. Many passengers asked if the entire team consisted of doctors. It just goes to show that you do not have to be an MD in order to help save lives. You never know when your medical knowledge and assistance will be required. The entire medical team worked swiftly, and claimed to have forgotten they were actually in an airplane, rather than at a medical facility.

Since the flight, both Hu and Desai were able to look at the contents of the FAA-regulated emergency kit. They shared their experience with the pharmacy review Journal to help make sure the contents of the kit were more widely known among medical professionals. They say having been more aware of the contents of the emergency kit beforehand would have been more helpful in the situation.

The identity of the passenger they helped save was not released for medical confidentiality reasons.

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