Sheer fortune and great timing saved a 46-year-old man who went into cardiac shock and nearly died on a plane from Kolkata to Chennai, allowing him to live to see 2013. Luckily for Prakash*, a surgeon with a prominent city hospital himself, there were a few other surgeons on the plane who came to his aid and revived him without any trauma equipment.
Prakash and his wife were flying back home on a 7.45 pm Indigo flight 6E 291 on Saturday night. About 20 minutes after the plane left Kolkata, his wife began to scream and said that her husband’s breath had stopped. According to Dr JS Rajkumar, Chief Surgeon of Lifeline Hospitals, he along with two other doctors who were returning from a medical conference in Bengal, quickly rushed to his side.
“The minute I saw him, his body was cold and clammy like he was in a morgue. His breath had completely stopped and he had no pulse. I honestly thought he was gone and even told the flight attendants to ask the pilot to turn back or land at Bhubaneshwar,” related Dr Rajkumar. A greater shock awaited the doctors when they found that the aircraft’s first aid kid was practically ‘useless’ in this situation, “There were no endo-tracheal tubes to help him breathe - to resuscitate him, I would have had to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation till we landed,” he added. The greater issue was that there had been no defibrilator on the plane - the device that is used to shock a person whose heart has stopped back into sinus rhythm.
On the verge of giving up after two minutes of trying to revive him, Dr Rajkumar said that he gave the lifeless man a hard thump on his chest, as a final gesture. “Wonder of wonders, he gave a quick gasp of breath and came back to life. We were more amazed than anything else,” he said. After a quick exam, they advised the pilot that it was safe to continue to Chennai as he had suffered a cardiac arrhythmia - an unlikely stroke that could have killed him, but was unlikely to recur.
“I spoke to him for the rest of the journey and he said that he had attended my lecture! He was happy that he had been saved and said that he would go straight to Vijaya Hospital on landing,” said the doctor. And if that wasn’t gratitude enough for the doctors, the pilot Captain Yogesh Ramji sent him a scribbled note that said ‘thank you for being on board’.
Though they’ve saved hundreds of lives in controlled operating theatres, this is one of few times that they’ve worked a miracle in the air.