In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

January 22, 2015

Saving Lives at 30,000 Feet

By In the Loop

airplane flying into sunsetLike many air travelers, Chris Viozzi, D.D.S, M.D., was just trying to get some shut-eye on a recent flight from Minnesota to Amsterdam. That was put on hold after Dr. Viozzi was “jolted awake” as a flight attendant and female passenger rushed past his seat shortly after take-off. Moments later, Dr. Viozzi says he heard the flight attendant call for medical assistance at the front of the plane.

A few seats away, two other Mayo Clinic physicians on the same flight -- Todd Miller, M.D., and Richard Daly, M.D. -- quickly sprang into action. “I saw Todd get up just to my left, so I headed up there, too,” Dr. Viozzi says. ”When I got there, the woman had just collapsed onto the floor from shortness of breath. Todd had started chest compressions, and we just began doing basic life support at that point. I asked the flight attendant to find an automated external defibrillator (AED) if there was one on the plane, as well as a medical kit. Rocky (Dr. Daly) then came around the corner and started helping, as well.”

After the flight attendant brought them an AED, Dr. Daly tells us he and Drs. Viozzi and Miller found that their patient was regaining a normal heart rhythm and pulse, thanks to the chest compressions. “She remained unresponsive, which was concerning, but her blood pressure and heart rhythm were very stable,” he says. “We eventually carried her to a seat where she could be secured safely for landing, or in the event of turbulence.”

Over the next couple of hours, the woman gradually started to wake up on her own, and by the end of the flight, Dr. Daly says she was well enough to not only ask questions about what had happened but also to complain that her chest was sore. That pain, of course, was caused by the chest compressions, which Dr. Daly says, got the “blood flow back to her brain, which not only helped her avoid a brain injury, but also helped save her life.” Once the plane landed in Amsterdam, Dr. Daly tells us, a team of paramedics met them at the gate and took the woman to a local hospital for evaluation and observation.

While she doesn’t remember much about what happened up in the air (after noticing she was becoming short of breath, it's mostly a blur), Carol Bolin tells us she does have a very clear understanding of who is responsible for getting her on the ground safely, and alive. “And all I can say to those doctors is ‘thank you, thank you, thank you!’” she says.

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Tags: Dr. Chris Viozzi, Dr. Richard Daly, Dr. Todd Miller, Staff Stories

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