In 1995, an incredible story was released, where a woman was given a life-saving surgery operation during a long haul flight from Hong Kong to London. Many could not believe the doctors had been able to operate in such conditions and as the details of the operation started to come in the media, the story only became even more fascinating. Tragedy looked like it was about to unfold when Mrs. Pauline Dixon from Aberdeen suffered a severe collapsed lung just minutes into her flight from Hong Kong.
She was desperately struggling for breath, and the aircraft by no means had the necessary medical equipment on board to perform such an operation. Luckily, two doctors were on board, and along with the crew members they started to put together a makeshift surgery to save her life.
Nottingham based surgeon Professor Angus Wallace and Dr. Tom Wong, used everyday items they found in the plane to create a chest drain that would allow her to stay alive during the flight. The surgery was carried out in the patient’s seat as it was too dangerous to move her, though they did screen off the area from other patients using blankets. As this was during the 90s, people were still smoking on the plane, so first they were asked to extinguish all cigarettes on the flight.
The objects used for the surgery were a coat hanger sterilized in brandy, some sticky tape and a plastic bottle of mineral water. Luckily, they had a scalpel and scissors from the plane’s medical kit which allowed them to cut an insertion into her chest. Using a knife and fork they were able to hold open the hole and set up a drain using a urinary catheter and a bottle of mineral water was used as a seal. Amazingly they were able to pump the lung up and minutes later she was breathing correctly.
Professor Wallace said he was extremely worried for the patient and that the nearest airport being one hour away, he could not risk just waiting to land as he thought she would have never made it. The emergency happened because Mrs. Dixon was involved in a motorbike crash on her way to the airport, which she walked away from and believed she was unhurt – when her lung had collapsed due to a fractured rib.