In-Flight Medical Emergencies: How an Air Ambulance Can Prevent Tragedy
How common are in-flight medical emergencies? And what really happens when the cabin crew asks, “Is there a doctor on board?” Recently, a friend sent me a link to a lengthy article in The Atlantic by Celine Gounder, a doctor who specializes in infectious diseases and public health. She relates her own experiences responding to medical emergencies while in flight, and discusses the all-too-real – and, for many passengers, unknown – dangers of flying with a serious health condition.
First, how do you know if flying could be dangerous for you? Your doctor is the best judge, but a general rule is that if you can't climb a flight of stairs or walk 50 yards without being short of breath, flying could be dangerous.
Second, it's important to realize that medical events in the air are relatively unusual. But they do happen. As Gounder points out, more people are flying than ever before, and increasingly, those passengers are elderly or have health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. People with certain conditions (like lung disease) may be more affected by airplane conditions such as lower pressure in the cabin. All that can add up to a greater likelihood of something going wrong while a person is trapped in a cabin at 40,000 feet.
If a passenger does experience distress, flight crews are trained to provide some medical assistance. In more serious situations, however, they often ask for help from medical professionals on board. Of course, there's no guarantee that there will be a doctor on a flight, and even if there is, not every M.D. will have the knowledge to deal with the situation – a podiatrist, dermatologist, or pediatrician, no matter how skilled, may not be able to deal with an elderly adult having a heart attack.
Gounder outlines several other issues that can arise with in-flight medical emergencies, including confusion over when to contact ground medical teams for support (many people don't know this is an option) and inadequately supplied first aid kits. So, while true in-air emergencies are fairly unusual, there isn't really a coordinated way of dealing with them, which can be dangerous for passengers.
However, there is one solution to the problems Gounder describes: services like those offered by MedFlight911 air ambulance. For people who have a health condition that could make flying alone difficult or dangerous, we offer air medical escort services. Our trained nurses or paramedics accompany the patient on a commercial flight and are available to assist in the event of an emergency. And because they're already familiar with the patient's condition, they'll be better able to identify serious problems and choose the appropriate interventions (plus they come prepared, with medications and equipment appropriate to the patient’s condition).
For people whose health precludes them from flying commercially, MedFlight911 offers advanced air ambulance services. Patients (and often their loved ones) are transported on a medically equipped jet and receive constant, one-on-one attention from our specially trained flight nurses and paramedics. With seamless bedside-to-bedside service, specialized medical equipment and dedicated crews, an air ambulance can be the ideal way to travel when a commercial flight just isn't an option.
Not every in-flight medical emergency can be prevented, but some can. At MedFlight911, we help make flying safe for everyone. Don't take a chance with your health. Instead, plan ahead so that you can get to your destination safely.
To find out more about MedFlight911's air ambulance and air medical transport services, give us a call at 888-359-1911 or get a no-obligation air medical transport quote.