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Just another day on an airplane… or was it!

Posted 12 August 2014 by Summa Flourish

Amy Synk, one of our very own pharmacists here at Summa Health System, was on a flight to Florida when she noticed a woman a few rows in front of her frantically hitting the "call" button. When the stewardess got over to her, she found that the woman's husband was unconscious. At that point, the stewardess asked if there were any doctors on the plane. Fortunately, a doctor and a nurse came forward to help.

As the man came back into consciousness, his wife was telling the doctor and nurse her husband was taking glucophage and this might be a hypoglycemic event. Amy, listening in, commented that the dose of glucophage he was taking was most likely too small for that to be the case.

There were no glucometers on the plane and without knowing the man's metabolic levels; someone may have administered dextrose which may have made the man hyperglycemic if Amy hadn't intervened with her knowledge.

As the discussion was occurring, the stewardess returned with an automated external defibrillator (AED) and an emergency medical kit that — according to Amy -- contained a "surprising amount of medications for an airplane." At this point, Amy volunteered to handle the medical kit and be in charge of administering any drugs. Most of the drugs in the kit had to be given intravenously . So, Amy asked the nurse to start an IV line.

After the IV line was started, the man began to shake and lose consciousness again, which prompted the doctor to ask Amy if the AED should be used to which Amy responded with an enthusiastic, "yes!" The AED indicated the man was in ventricular tachycardia — often referred to as V-tach. He was shocked twice before his heart returned to a normal rhythm.

While this was happening, Amy had put together a dextrose syringe as well as another in order to comply with how to handle V-tach. The man's rhythms stabilized just in time for the emergency landing in Atlanta where the medical crew was ready to take over care for the patient when they touched down.

The man was very lucky that Amy and the other two medical professionals were on the plane and acted so swiftly and selflessly. It was just another day in the life of a health care professional.

However, Amy was traveling with her triplet daughters -- who are not often impressed with their mom. But, as Amy quipped, in this case at least two of them may have been impressed with how their mom's skills helped save a man's life.


  • Mary Bird said: 8/12/2014 5:42 PM

    I, for one, am very impressed Amy. A young woman in my life just started her pharmacology studies and I will pass this story along to her. ~Mary

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