A passenger who collapsed after boarding a plane at Heathrow was saved when a doctor spotted he was at risk of death after viewing his CT scan on an iPad.
Glyn Danks was returning to Perth, Australia, after five weeks in the UK visiting family when he suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm – a rupture in the main blood vessel from the heart.
Just as the Etihad flight was about to “push back” from the terminal, around 930am on August 22, he lost consciousness, fell to the floor and stopped breathing. Crew members began CPR and called the emergency services, with fire, police and ambulance crews at Heathrow all responding.
He was taken to Hillingdon hospital and immediately underwent a CT scan. But it was only when the images were viewed by Dr Rakesh Patel at Northwick Park hospital when the full extent of the danger to Mr Danks was spotted. Death occurs in more than 90 per cent of patients where the aneurysm bursts.
Dr Patel, a consultant interventional radiologist, who was in theatre with another patient, realised that Mr Danks needed immediate treatment and arranged for his ambulance transfer to Northwick Park, a specialist vascular centre in Harrow.
Mr Danks, 68, originally from Abbey Wood, said: “I went on the plane as normal and as I sat down there was a vacant seat beside me. I thought that was nice that I had a spare seat. I didn’t feel ill at all.
“The next thing I remember is waking up on the floor of the plane next to me. I could see lots of feet and I could hear lots of different people shouting and giving lots of advice.
“I didn’t feel any pain – it was as if I was in a dream. I couldn’t say anything or move anything. The next thing I remember was waking up in a hospital and being advised that I had to have a major op. If I didn’t have the operation it would be the end – there was no option but to have it.”
The surgical team at Northwick Park sedated Mr Danks and used a minimally invasive procedure, endovascular aneurysm repair, to insert a stent graft via his groin. The graft redirects the blood through the new graft rather than into the leaking aneurysm.
Dr Patel said: “I work at Hillingdon and Northwick Park, which are two separate trusts. I have an iPad, which was given to me by Hillingdon hospital. That allows me to access patient information and CT scans.
“I am the only one who has got one, and fortunately I had it here at Northwick Park when the registrar came in and said we have got this referral from Hillingdon. I took it out, saw that the patient had a ruptured aneurysm and said: ‘The patient needs to be transferred now.’”
Thoracic surgeon Selva Theivacumar said: “What is unique is that we had this collaboration between the two hospitals, the new technology that allowed us to treat him quickly, the response at Heathrow and the air crew members who were able to do CPR.
“Normally what happens is that something or other will tend to go wrong. In this particular case, everything went according to plan.”
Mr Danks, who was discharged from hospital six days later and has since flown back to Australia, said: “I’ve had no pain or discomfort following the operation. The procedure has been marvellous. It all worked. They’ve all done a brilliant job, everyone from A-Z. I’m here – 99 people wouldn’t be. I feel privileged and grateful. I will make it as good as possible for the how ever many years I’ve got left.”
- An edited version of this article appeared in yesterday’s Evening Standard