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A wing and a prayer: the tale of an in-flight emergency

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 13 March 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:616
  1. Osman A Dar, clinical fellow in diabetes and endocrinology, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge
  1. oadar1{at}

Two weeks in Africa: fishing, hunting, snorkelling, fresh papaya, and daily barbeques. Oh, and visits to all my relatives. The flight out to the continent of my birth started well enough. Snack, nap, snack, nap. But I awoke several hours into the flight to find three members of the cabin crew huddling around the passenger in front of me. When I heard one of them say, “It might be a good idea to bring some oxygen,” I found myself rousing from my slumber, inexorably and possibly quite against my will. I heard myself whisper, with some trepidation, “I’m a doctor, can I be of any help?” The relief on their faces was immediately evident.

An elderly man had had chest pain for some 20 minutes. I thought it strange that no announcement had been made asking whether a doctor was on board. Neither I nor the crew spoke the man’s language. With a series of hand gestures the man communicated that he had a crushing chest pain. He was sweating and breathing rapidly. I tilted his …

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