Because of the comments to the post about the doctor on the airplane, I wanted to do a follow up. So let’s first talk about what is in the medical kit on a commercial aircraft. The FAA requires an AED, and a medical kit that contains the following items:

The most common inflight medical events are:

  • Gastrointestinal/Nausea (31%)
  • Neurological, such as fainting or seizures (26%)
  • Respiratory (7%)
  • Cardiovascular (5%)
  • Dermatological (5%)

My wife was on an aircraft flying from JFK to Heathrow where there was a death in flight. The flight attendants cleared out the back row of the plane and put the body on the seats, covering him with a blanket. That is where he stayed for the remainder of the flight.

I myself have been on two flights were there were medical issues. In both cases, the flight crew called for medical personnel. I wasn’t going to volunteer, but no one else did, so I raised my hand. The FA brought me a radio headset that was connected to the airline’s on call doctor, who consulted with me and we agreed upon a course of action.

The first was a moderate allergic reaction (urticaria, wheezes, pruritus) on a flight from Orlando to Boston. The passenger got himself 50mg of IV diphenhydramine and some inhaled albuterol. He was fine and slept the rest of the flight.

The second was on a flight from Las Vegas to Orlando. It was a guy who was having himself an anxiety attack. He was hyperventilating and complaining of shortness of breath, chest pain, along with numbness and tingling to his fingers and lips.

The reason for it was hilarious. He had gotten married to his fiancé (a white woman) while in Vegas. He was Puerto Rican, and was dreading his mother’s reaction when he told her that he had married a woman (who wasn’t Puerto Rican) that his mother hadn’t even met yet. If you know anything about Puerto Rican mothers, you would know that they are much like Italian mothers. He had every right to be afraid.

Anyway, I told the doctor that his vitals looked good and I felt like it was an anxiety attack. The doctor agreed. I traded seats with his wife for about half an hour and talked him down. Once he felt better, I went back to my seat. An hour later, his wife came and got me a second time. During that second visit, his wife told mine that I was a very patient and nice man.

That’s it for my aircraft stories.

Categories: MeMedicalMedical News


Paulb · July 2, 2022 at 6:30 am

On the way to a fly-out job to meet a ship, this was 2004, maybe? Flying Jet Blue for the first time, Boston to Houston, a middle-aged man passed out briefly. I sat for the first 2 calls for medical assistance, since I’m just a ship’s medic, basically EMT-Basic with some navy corpsman trauma training on top. Eventually I raised my hand. Guy was conscious but faded out once or twice. Talking to the wife, he was a type 2 diabetic and horribly hung over, but it took a few minutes of me fumbling about before I asked the right questions. She didn’t volunteer any info whatsoever. I basically gave the guy a half glass of OJ and oxygen and hung out with him on the floor and just got him to rehydrate once he was back in his chair. No support whatsoever from the plane staff beyond fetching shit I asked for like the oxygen bottle, stethoscope and blood pressure cuff.
What was interesting to me is that other than handing out tylenol and occasionally fishing rust flakes and out of people’s eyes, I had never done much with my knowledge, yet my mind and mouth was on autopilot and I said and did the right things in the right order.
We arrived in Houston on time, and my traveling clothes were a mess and I was sweating. After I asked for a can of diet soda and some wet-naps and was refused, but they wanted me to fill out some BS form. I told them I wasn’t filling out the form because they didn’t get me my soda and wet-naps, and I was going to show up at the gangway of my ship looking like a shitbag for my first impression.

    Paul Martin · July 2, 2022 at 2:10 pm

    “I told them I wasn’t filling out the form because they didn’t get me my soda and wet-naps.”

    Game ball to you. Well done.

JaimeInTexas · July 2, 2022 at 10:38 am


    Divemedic · July 2, 2022 at 11:17 am

    I’m guessing they are counting lacerations or perhaps mild allergic reactions as dermal problems.

Mike_C · July 2, 2022 at 3:51 pm

Thanks for looking that up. “My” FA was clearly smart enough to not give me the entire kit, it seems. Guess I should have been suspicious about her handing me the “kit” in a plastic bag. I didn’t think anything about it at the time, since I’d never responded to an in-flight thingie before (or since).

Come to think of it, that trip was a fluke: one “medical” on each leg of BOS-Reno. Otherwise, easily 20-30 flights per annum, and never a “medical”.

My friend K has a doozy of a story involving jettisoning fuel over the Atlantic, emergency landing in Nova Scotia, and half a plane full of hungry, angry Muslims. But she saved the life of some guy having a real-deal coronary. That was her sole “medical”.

    Aesop · July 5, 2022 at 10:50 pm

    Thanks for the deep dive.
    The FAA has upped its game, and I’d guess probably rather recently if I were a betting man.

    The kit used to be literally only the first two lines.

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