Dermatologists provide lifesaving care at 10,000 feet
Two dermatologists treat a man’s heart attack during a flight.
Dr. Nawas and Dr. Muhammad's story
We were traveling to the American Academy of Dermatology’s Annual Meeting when flight attendants called for a physician mid-flight. We rushed over to find an older man having a cardiac event.
When we spoke to him, he answered in Arabic that he didn't speak English. Luckily, Dr. Nawas is Jordanian and immediately began speaking with him in Arabic to determine his symptoms. He was having chest pains and difficulty breathing, clutching his chest, and sweaty—all signs of a heart attack.
We quickly used the plane’s medical kit to administer treatments and lower the patient’s blood pressure. We also urged the captain to make an emergency landing. When someone is having a heart attack, every single minute matters. The patient needed to get to a hospital as soon as possible.
Once stabilized, Dr. Nawas held the man’s hand, comforting him and calling him uncle, which is a cultural sign of respect when addressing someone older. Being able to communicate with him in his native language made all the difference, helping us quickly understand his symptoms and his medical history, and to reassure him and put him at ease.
When we made our emergency landing, we told the paramedics about the man's symptoms, medical history, and what care we provided in flight to provide continuity of care. We also ensured the paramedics had all the information they needed, since they may not be able to communicate with the patient. He was taken to the hospital and made a full recovery.
We’re thankful that we were able to help him, especially at 10,000 feet where his care options could have been very limited. Although we treat serious skin conditions as part of our dermatology sub-specialty, we are trained and experienced in providing general medical care. It is what we do as physicians—we help however we can, wherever we can.
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