Mayo Clinic infectious diseases physician aids fellow passenger during in-flight medical emergency

With the help of a nurse and EMT on board, Aditya Shah, MD, a fellow in infectious diseases at Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic, was flying to Minneapolis when he aided a fellow passenger who started feeling intense pain in his eye during the flight.

Margaret Shields and her husband, Jim Rogers, were returning home from London, when Mr. Rogers complained of the severe pain in his right eye. The pain quickly intensified, and Mr. Rogers doubted whether he could survive the six-hour flight to Minneapolis. "I went up to the nearest flight attendant and said we needed immediate medical attention," Ms. Shields said.

"When I heard the [overhead] announcement, I immediately went up to the front of the plane to see what was going on," said Dr. Shah. "[Mr. Rogers] was wearing an eyepatch over the eye, and as soon as I took that off to see what was going on, blood started spurting out."

Two other passengers also came to his aid, including a retired nurse and an EMT. "They helped me check [Mr. Rogers'] blood pressure, which was extremely high," Dr. Shah said. After examining him more closely, Dr. Shah said Mr. Rogers appeared to have a tear in his right cornea, causing him to bleed profusely.

The in-flight medical trio lowered Mr. Rogers' blood pressure using blood pressure medication from another passenger and worked with on-ground medical support staff to come up with an emergency treatment plan before making an emergency landing in Shannon, Ireland. Dr. Shah made a new eyepatch and icepack for Mr. Rogers using gauze and a Ziploc bag.

When the plane landed in Ireland, an ambulance transported Mr. Rogers and his wife to the closest hospital, where he received a temporary surgical repair to his eye. "Words cannot express our gratitude," Ms. Shields said. "Without [the medical team on the plane], I'm not sure if my husband, or his eye, would have survived."

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