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Swedish nurses save four patients mid-flight

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Swedish nurses save four patients mid-flight
15:45 CEST+02:00
Three Swedish nurses found themselves in the line of duty when not one but four passengers fell ill on a flight from Dubai. Marie-Louise Piatti tells The Local about oxygen, hysteria, bananas and a near emergency landing in Iran.

Piatti was heading home from a holiday in Dubai with two friends and had just snuggled into her seat on the Norwegian flight to Stockholm. The lights had been dimmed and the seatbelt sign turned off. At first, she thought the flight attendants were just huddled together for a customary mid-flight chat, until the announcement came out on the loudspeaker. The crew needed medical assistance.

A man had turned white as a sheet because his pacemaker had malfunctioned. Piatti and her two colleagues, Carolina Asplund and Sara Salehi, rushed to his side, getting him comfortable and administering oxygen. He was stable, if in bad shape.

The drama was far from over, however, as a man at the front of the cabin had to go to the toilet. He didn't make it that far, instead taking a violent tumble and smashing his head into the drinks trolley. He fell right in front of Piatti's colleague.

"I could just hear Sara shouting," Pietti recalls. The man's wife was also screaming in complete hysterics, a toddler on her arm.

"I understand her. If I'd seen what she'd seen, with him just collapsing, I would have sh** myself," Pietti says, who rushed over and used all her strength to get patient number two onto his back.

"He had a very low pulse and I was getting mentally ready to rip his shirt open and get the defibrelator out," Pietti says. "Carolina had to come over and remove the wife, who was completely hysterical."

Yet with pressure to the man's sternum, he soon regained conscience and the three nurses got him to lie down on a row of seats.

"He was probably concussed from hitting his head, too. He really was in a bad way," Piatti says.

Getting his pulse up meant a few moment of respite for the trio, who used the flight attendants as their assistants - shuttling oxygen tubes, blankets and anything else the Swedish nurses needed.

Then, like clockwork, two young children fall ill. As it turned out, the wee ones hadn't eaten enough and needed fluids. Bananas were rustled up to get their blood sugar levels up.

"Literally, every 30 minutes there would be another person falling ill," Piatti recalls.

Before the nurses managed to get the first patient comfortable, the pilots considered an emergency landing in Iran. As Piatti's colleague Salehi speaks Persian, the nurses weren't worried about translating, but the plane kept going.

Except... a strong headwind slowed down the plane and drained its fuel reserves. But finally, the wind abated, allowing the crew to avoid landing for petrol in Riga.

After six and a half hours, the plane touched down in Sweden. The airline later confirmed to the Aftonbladet newspaper that the two adult patients were in a stable condition, while the two children perked up during the flight.

Piatti doesn't consider herself a hero.

"Sarah, Carolina and I have chosen this profession, we're on call 24 hours a day, every day of the year, like police officers and firemen," Piatti says. "I hope that when the day comes that I fall ill, someone will help me."

It isn't the first time a flight between Stockholm and Dubai has turned into an extra shift at work for her, however. Piatti once had to help an older lady who was feeling poorly during a flight.

"I wonder what is going to happen on the next flight?"

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

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