Worse than snakes on a plane?

Worse than snakes on a plane?

What could be worse than snakes in a plane?

I was flying from New York to San Francisco Monday. We were half way across the US when there was an announcement.

“If there is a licensed medical provider on the flight, please identify yourself. We have a medical problem.”

I thought 'crap' as I pushed the call light. This has never happened before. I also thought, where is my hospital? When problems usually arise I have an infrastructure for back-up, if not at my finger tips, then a 911 call away.


40,000 feet in the air, and it will be me and my wife, who is an NP. I am an Infectious Disease doctor, but I am also an internist who works in an acute care hospital, so I am hoping it will be an issue I can temporize until the pilot can get the plane of the ground. A heart attack or early delivery and I run through the things I can ask for from the other passengers: aspirin or boil water or something.

Mostly, though, I thought, 'oh crap' while waiting for the flight attendant. It turned out that they did not need me after all, a false alarm.  Whew.

As I went back to the work, I was struck by the request: a licensed medical provider. OK. MD, DO, NP, RN. Someone with training in medicine. But in some states that would also include a DC, ND and even an acupuncturist.

There is a scary idea.  I can see an NP or DC pushing the call light and, given ND training, as so eloquently described over at the Naturopathic Diaries, it gives one the willies to think what would be diagnosed and how, chest pain or low blood sugar, would be treated miles in the air.

And I can easily imagine a chiropractor adjusting the spine to cure whatever problem presented itself. There are some chiropractors who have really drank the kool-aid and believe that their pseudo-medicine is the treatment for any medical problem.

It has happened at least once: Local chiropractor called to assist emergency on United flight. Good on him for stepping up to help. At least he didn’t try to adjust the spine, just ‘ordered’ oxygen for the short of breath passenger.  But a DC is no doctor.

More scary, and hopefully over stated, was Chinese Medicine Doctor Saves Passengers on Flight with Emergency Acupuncture.

The students had become severely dehydrated and went into shock from relentless vomiting part way through the 11-hour flight.

Shock? That’s serious and potentially fatal. What to do?

Dr Wendong Qin, a doctor of Chinese medicine from Shandong province, came to the rescue. There were no Western medicines on board to help the students, but Dr. Qin was able to utilize acupuncture points to relieve the symptoms that the teenagers were suffering from including stomach cramps, headaches and shock.

Shock.  That usually means ICU admission.

As more and more of the group became sick, the back of the aircraft was turned into a makeshift hospital. Before he had treated the teenagers, Dr Qin said that the pilot had considered making an emergency landing at an alternative airfield, but afterwards felt confident enough to fly on to London.

And what made the pilot feel confident his passengers were not going to die of shock? The good Dr. Qin, feeling competent to treat a severe illness, with pseudo-medicine.

Unfortunately, I had no needles, as you are not permitted to carry sharp objects on an aircraft, so I used my fingers instead on the acupuncture points of the boys worst affected and the symptoms lessened.

So if you become ill on an airplane and someone answers the call to help be carefull. It could be anyone. Even a reiki practitioner.


Points of Interest 04/15/2015
Points of Interest 04/14/2015

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