Ross University Blog

RUSM Faculty Save a Passenger’s Life on a Plane

October 05, 2015

“Is there a doctor in the house?” is something most of us have heard only in a scene in a movie, but for two Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) physician colleagues, the urgent announcement, “Is there a doctor on the plane?” was very real. They were flying home from the RUSM Leadership Conference, held Sept. 17-19 in Cancun, Mexico. Sean Gnecco, MD, RUSM Associate Professor in the Internal Medicine Foundations program, and Assistant Dean for Clinical Sciences, Iriana Hammel, MD, FACP, AGSF, heeded the call for a doctor immediately.

“The patient was panicked, shaking, having difficulty breathing, felt swelling in the throat, and had a rash on both arms and legs,” Dr. Gnecco explained. Flight attendants gave him the emergency kit that was onboard the plane and he quickly examined the patient, and administered oxygen.

The combination of symptoms and the patient’s history of allergies led him to a diagnosis of anaphylaxis, a disease that can be fatal within five to 10 minutes, he said. He quickly injected the person with an Epi-Pen® and within 90 seconds the individual began to feel better.

Fortunately, the plane was only a few minutes from its destination, and when it landed, paramedics were waiting at the airport to take the patient to the hospital for observation.

The airline formally thanked the RUSM heroes and, as a token of appreciation, added several thousand miles to their frequent-flier accounts.

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