From intern to in-flight hero: UAE resident handles medical emergency days after becoming a doctor

According to him, the flight attendant was a little taken aback when he raised his hand


Nasreen Abdulla

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Supplied photos
Supplied photos

Published: Wed 22 May 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 22 May 2024, 11:33 PM

When 24-year-old Dr Lahal Abdulla boarded his Indigo airlines flight from Chennai to Ras Al Khaimah, he was looking forward to a restful time at home with his parents and siblings. He had just finished four years of medical school and a year of internship to qualify as a doctor. However, he had no idea that his first job would be an emergency, 35,000 feet above sea level.

Dr Lahal turned saviour for a woman during his flight from Chennai to Ras Al Khaimah on Wednesday, May 15. As the only medical professional on board, he helped the passenger who suffered an unexplained seizure.

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“The flight was pretty uneventful until then,” he said, speaking to Khaleej Times. “It was almost two hours after take off that crew began asking for a medical professional. I was hoping that there would be a more experienced professional but there seemed to be none. So I immediately volunteered.”

According to him, the airhostess was a little taken aback when he raised his hand. “I mean, I look like a college student so I think she was surprised when I said I was a doctor,” he chuckled. “I myself was a bit hesitant. I just graduated and I was worried what the emergency might be but luckily it was something I was able to handle. Just a few weeks ago, I had completed a specialized course in advanced life support so everything was still very fresh in my mind.”

Born and raised in Ras Al Khaimah, Dr Lahal was coming to the UAE to spend time with his family and to sit an exam to apply for his post graduate studies in London.

Diagnosing her condition

The airhostess led Dr. Lahal to the seat of a passenger who was unconscious. “She was a woman in her mid thirties and her head was rolled back,” he said. “Beside her, her husband and her son were panicking and crying.”

He examined the woman and found that her pulse was okay. “However, when I listened closed, I figured out that her breathing was laboured,” he said. “She was not in any immediate danger but the grunt when she was breathing indicated that her airway was obstructed. I wanted to figure out why that was.”

He tried to open her mouth to see what was wrong but was unable to do so. “She had clenched her mouth and I could see that she was biting her tongue,” he said. “That is when I realised that she was having a seizure. It had not been evident from the beginning because she was not convulsing.”

Treatment on flight

As soon as he realised that she was having a seizure, Dr Lahal laid her on her side. “This was so that she doesn’t choke,” he said. “In the case of a seizure, there is not much you can do from an emergency point of view except making sure that the patient doesn’t hurt themselves until it stops.”

Within a few seconds, the seizure subsided and the woman began responding. “As I was asking her questions, she began to make sounds,” he said. “So I sprinkled some water on her face and soon she woke up. I asked her to drink some water and rest.”

According to him, the seizure was a concerning one. “She had no history of convulsions and had no health issues,” he said. “I advised them to go into a hospital as soon as they landed to get a full check-up. Such an isolated incident is usually indicative of something deeper.”

However, a surprise awaited Dr Lahal. “Just before landing, the crew gave me a handwritten note to thank me for the service,” he said. “Obviously I was only doing my duty, but it was a very sweet gesture on their behalf, and it made my day.”


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