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13 September 2009

Safety Dance

I am training to be an Emergency Medicine physician, but sometimes I wonder how I would do in an actual emergency. I mean, I can run a trauma or cardiac arrest code without much problem on my own turf. But, how would I hand a situation at 36,000 feet?

Obviously, most of us won’t be faced with a situation like Wallace who relieved a tension pneumothorax with a wire hanger, a catheter and a bottle of brandy. However, I would like to think I could handle something reasonably simple. A bump on the head from a piece of falling luggage?

The British Medical Journal in 2000 ran an article listing the top 10 medical emergencies as: chest pain, collapse, asthma, head injury, psychiatric problems, abdominal problems, diabetes, allergic reactions, and OB-Gyn emergencies. Since 1986, most airlines carry an AED, and most also carry oxygen and some basic medical supplies. A study in 2008 by USA Today stated that three overseas airlines and only one US airline seem to do more than carry the minimum medical equipment.

Of course, I didn’t think about what could potential be in this particular aircraft’s safety kit as I sat watching the other passengers start to board the airplane: the morbidly obese person who was wiping sweat off their face as they hurried aboard, the obviously pregnant woman who was pacing around the waiting area, the barrel-chested passenger who looked as if they couldn’t wait to land to be able to pull out their cigarette pack and take their next drag, the laughing out loud been-at-the-airport-bar-during-their-layover pair, and the other 50 or so ticking time bombs of potentially unknown medical problems.

Armed with my medical knowledge and last year’s ACEP presentation “101 Uses for a Safety Pin and Duct Tape” I boarded, thinking in my head, “Surely you can’t be serious?” “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.”


Claudia's thoughts said...

The thought occurs to me too when I travel. But, you can only do so much with what you have.

We can be expected to do miracles when the majority of people do not take care of themselves.

It always amazes me when some of the mention examples are so surprised when they are confronted with an illness. The smoker with CA, the morbidly obese with CAD, OSA and DM, and they all wonder why their knees and hips are shot.

a corgi said...

makes you want to take a Xanax or two and sleep through the filght so you won't hear if anything is going on around you as you fly; you do hear of airplanes making unscheduled landings because of medical emergencies but you just don't think about things like that happening (the lay person like me doesn't) when we board the plane


Lisa said...

Interesting blend of people you mention. I guess you can count your lucky stars you weren't seated next to the obese person.

When we were on our cruise we were stopped in the middle of the Atlantic waiting for a helicopter to remove a passenger. She had internal bleeding and had to be airlifted off the ship. From what I hear the docs on cruise ships are less qualified than I am to handle much more than a hangnail so I would be looking to passengers like you to help me.