Aircraft medical kits are great for delivering babies, but two doctors on a flight from Hong Kong to London found they aren't much help in dealing with a collapsed lung.
So Dr. Angus Wallace and Dr. Tom Wong improvised with a coat hanger, some brandy as disinfectant and a rubber tube from the medical kit to treat a passenger who was struggling for breath.The passenger, Paula Dixon, 39, from Aberdeen, Scotland, was reported in stable condition Tuesday at Ashford Hospital in west London.
Dixon had been involved in a motorcycle accident on the way to the airport in Hong Kong, the London newspaper Today reported.
She complained of pains in her arm as the plane departed Saturday, British Airways said.
The doctors put a splint on the arm, but when the pain continued they realized she had at least two broken ribs, Wallace told BBC radio Tuesday.
As her condition worsened, the doctors decided on surgery to drain her collapsed left lung.
The aircraft's medical kit is "quite well-equipped for having babies and for people who develop urinary blockages, but there's absolutely nothing in the set that helps you if you need to put a chest drain in," said Wallace, an orthopedic specialist from Nottingham, England. Wong is a senior doctor at a Scottish hospital.
Wallace and Wong slipped the coat hanger inside the tube - known as a catheter - to help them push it through an incision in her chest.
"We gave her a little bit of local anesthetic in the skin on her chest. She was conscious during the whole procedure," Wallace said. "It was a little unpleasant when we went through the chest wall."
Wallace said he consulted with the flight captain, and the Boeing 747 continued on its 14-hour flight to London, arriving Sunday.