Doctors on Plane Saved Woman Having a Heart Attack During Flight

by Taruna Deshmukh1 year ago
Picture Doctors on Plane Saved Woman Having a Heart Attack During Flight

The odds of finding a doctor on a flight during a medical emergency are extremely rare. However, that wasn’t the case with Dorothy Fletcher. The odds were, surprisingly, in Dorothy Fletcher’s favor when she suffered a heart attack in mid-air! While a woman suffering a heart attack on a plane sounds horrific, Dorothy was certainly lucky that she evaded the inevitable. Let’s find out how the events folded out and how Dorothy was saved.

Dorothy collapsed mid-air on a Transatlantic flight.

Dorothy Fletcher
Dorothy Fletcher. Image credit: BBC

The incident took place in November 2003 on a transatlantic flight from Liverpool, England, to Florida. The then 67-year-old Dorothy Fletcher was traveling with her daughter to attend her daughter’s wedding. During the flight, she experienced acute chest pain accompanied by pain in the back and down the arm while finding it difficult to breathe. She was vomiting and sweating profusely, which led her to soon collapse. Apparently, the woman suffered a heart attack while on the plane.

The stewardess rushed to Dorothy and tried her best to bring her back to consciousness. Nonetheless, all the efforts were in vain. So, the stewardess ran to the passenger address (PA) system and made an announcement to find a doctor among the passengers. Surprisingly, the stewardess found not one but fifteen doctors on the flight! On top of that, every one of them was a cardiologist!


Luckily, the fifteen onboard doctors saved the woman who suffered a heart attack on the plane.

Woman suffered heart attack on plane
Woman suffered heart attack on plane

Lucky for Dorothy, fifteen cardiologists were also on board the flight she was on. All of them were headed to a cardiology conference in Orlando. So, when the stewardess asked if there was a doctor onboard, the call bell lights over the heads of fifteen onboard doctors began lighting up one after another. Eventually, all fifteen doctors came forward together to help Dorothy.

One of the doctors gave her oxygen while the other one prepared a drip to thin her blood. Two of the other cardiologists, on the other hand, were constantly monitoring her pulse and blood pressure. Meanwhile, another doctor asked the captain to divert the plane to the nearest airport.

At one point, the doctors thought that they could not save Mrs. Fletcher. However, they still went on to give it a try, and finally, one of the doctors found a pulse. Collectively, the doctors were able to get Dorothy back to her senses while still in the air.


The transatlantic flight bound for Florida then made an emergency landing in North Carolina so that Dorothy could receive proper medical attention. She was rushed to Charlotte Medical Center, where she spent two days in the intensive care unit. After that, she was transferred to a normal ward for the next three days. More interestingly, Mrs. Fletcher even managed to make it to her daughter’s wedding! And that’s how the woman who suffered a heart attack on the plane survived.

Just like the woman who suffered a heart attack on the plane, these people were also lucky enough to survive medical emergencies during their flights.

1 Two doctors performed surgery with silverware and a coat hanger to save a woman.

Dr. Angus Wallace
Dr. Angus Wallace. Image credit: BBC

In August 1995, Dr. Angus Wallace performed surgery on Paula Dixon mid-air with the help of a fellow doctor, Dr. Tom Wang, on Flight 32 from Hong Kong to London. Mrs. Dixon, who fell from a motorcycle on her way to the airport, complained of chest and arm pain and difficulty breathing during the flight. Dr. Wallace quickly figured out that one of Mrs. Dixon’s lungs had collapsed during the accident and opted to perform surgery to treat a life-threatening condition called tension pneumothorax.


Dr. Wallace used a scalpel to cut into Paula’s chest after giving her a local anesthetic, while Dr. Wong used a fork and knife to hold the wound open. Then, Dr. Wallace inserted a drain made of a urinary catheter attached to a coat hanger to relieve the pleural cavity pressure and save the patient. The doctors also used brandy to sterilize the equipment they had.

2 An off-duty US Air Force Captain landed the plane when the captain of the flight had a heart attack.

In December 2013, the captain of United Flight 1637, flying from Des Moines to Denver, had a sudden heart attack on the flight. Given the circumstances, the flight attendant was quick to make the announcement to check if they had a pilot onboard. Luckily, Mike Gongol, an off-duty US Air Force Captain, was on the same flight.

When the stewardess made the announcement, Gongol rushed to the cockpit and assisted the panicked first officer in safely landing the plane at Omaha. Fortunately, the plane, with over 150 passengers onboard, made a safe landing. Also, the captain who suffered the heart attack mid-flight survived and made a full recovery.


3 A woman gave birth to a girl on a flight in Canadian airspace. The newborn was given Canadian citizenship.

Canadian citizenship
A baby was given Canadian citizenship.

A baby girl named Sasha was born on New Year’s Eve in 2008 to a female Ugandan passenger on Northwest Airlines Flight 59. The plane, flying to Boston from Amsterdam, was around six hours into the flight when the woman in her eighth month of pregnancy went into labor.

Luckily, the flight attendants were able to find two doctors among the flight passengers. So, the doctors, with the help of the flight crew, successfully delivered Sasha. It happened some 90 minutes before landing when the aircraft was in Canadian skies. Since the child was born in Canadian airspace, the Canadian government also granted her Canadian citizenship!


4 Two babies were born on the flight that has the record for the most passengers on a plane.

Operation Solomon
Operation Solomon. Image credit:

Thirty-four Hercules C-130s and El Al Boing 747 jumbo jets flew nonstop for 36 hours on 21 May 1991 to evacuate Jews from Ethiopia. “Operation Solomon” saved thousands of Ethiopian Jews from Addis Ababa and ferried them to Jerusalem.

Nonetheless, because several of the flights removed seats from the planes to accommodate as many passengers as possible, they created a World Record, too. A Boeing 747 carrying 1,086 passengers from Addis Ababa landed in Jerusalem with 1,088 passengers as two babies were born during the course of the flight. It is also the highest number of passengers that ever traveled on a plane!

Also Read:
10 Craziest Reasons for Emergency Airplane Landings

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