Dianne P is 68 and has been battling multiple myeloma cancer for 4 years. She has had bone marrow and white cell transplants and was doing well until reoccurrence last Fall.
She was stable and decided to go to Florida for Spring break with her family and she came down with the flu. Her weakened immune system could not fight the secondary pneumonia that set in. We were called as “back up” to a non-medical flight that the family was trying to organize to get her home. I told the daughter how much I was concerned after hearing of her condition-that a flight without monitoring could be catastrophic for her-even if they did carry “enough oxygen.”
Fortunately that flight fell through and we were called to get her home. Her husband met us bedside at the hospital and she was weak but alert. I asked to visualize her chest X-ray before leaving with her and I was shocked that no physician on the floor (even the hospitalist) was able to pull it up on computer. I had to travel to another floor and find a doctor that actually looked at her own X-rays. Her doctor agreed that the pneumonia was still apparent but she thought is was stable for now. Also her blood counts were seriously low but not quite low enough to transfuse her.
Her husband kissed her goodbye because he was driving their car back to Michigan and we were off. My medic and I grew concerned as her breathing worsened soon after lift off and we told Hal to hold the plane at the lower altitude while she adjusted. She seemed to stabilize but still had a rapid breathing rate.
Close to our refuel stop she began to worsen again. I was also concerned that a “water pill” was given to her that morning for thoughts she had too much fluid on her and now she was putting out way too much urine. Her potassium was probably getting to a critical level also. I spoke with Hal and he decided to land at a bit closer airport.
We gave her nebulizer treatment on the ground and allowed her to rest a bit and she seamed to stabilize again. Once back up in the air, it was clear she wasn’t going to tolerate flying much longer. Fortunately we could fly at low altitude and the trip was short to get into Grand Rapids.
I know for sure she would not have survived a non-medically supervised flight. When we arrived at the hospital I privately spoke to her daughter to let her know how sick her mom was and the family needed to have a plan if she got much worse. (Dianne and her husband told me “no breathing tube or CPR” but her hospital form did not say the same as our consent form.) Her daughter seemed a bit surprised and said “really? She has been so close to dying for 4 years now-it doesn’t seem real.”
On her caring website today it said that her husband made it back safely and Dianne is “preparing to meet her Savior.” The family is so grateful for the past few days they have had with her. We all pray for her comfort in these last days.
Thanks to my great team of medic Jackie, Mark, Hal and Mike and our flight followers/prayer warriors for helping to make this mission possible.
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