Birmingham doctor saves man’s life on London to India flight

A doctor has described battling for five hours as he saved the life of a passenger on a long-haul flight.

Dr Vishwaraj Vemala, 48, a liver specialist at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, was on his way to India with his mother when a fellow passenger went into cardiac arrest.

Aided by medical supplies on board and items from passengers, Dr Vemala twice resuscitated the 43-year-old.

He said he would remember the experience for the rest of his life.

“Obviously during my medical training, it was something I had experience dealing with, but never 40,000 feet in the air,” he said.

Cabin crew on board the Air India flight from London in November frantically began searching for a doctor when the passenger suffered a cardiac arrest and was left without a pulse and not breathing.

“It took about an hour of resuscitation before I was able to get him back,” Dr Vemala said.

“Luckily, they had an emergency kit, which to my utter surprise, included resuscitative medication to enable life support.”

Second cardiac arrest

However, other than oxygen and an automatic defibrillator, he said there was little to help monitor how the patient was doing.

After speaking to other passengers on board the Air India flight from London, Dr Vemala was able to track down various pieces of equipment including a heart-rate monitor, pulse oximeter, glucose meter and blood pressure machine.

The patient later suffered a second cardiac arrest, requiring even more lengthy resuscitation.

“We were trying to keep him alive for five hours in total,” he said.

The pilot arranged for landing at Mumbai Airport where emergency crews took over and the passenger was taken to safety, after thanking Dr Vemala for saving his life.

“It was also the first time in my seven years as a consultant that my mum had seen me in action, so that made it even more emotional,” he added.