A veteran who hadn't used his army medical training in decades helped save a fellow British Airways passenger whose foot was 'hanging' off
16.11.2023 - 16:17
/ London Gatwick
A software engineer on a British Airways flight from Tampa, Florida, to London Gatwick, found himself relying on decades-old medical training when a fellow passenger sustained a serious injury.
Hemal Patel, who is the lead developer at a bank, was on a BA flight on Monday after vacationing in Florida to visit friends and family.
During the flight, the cabin crew made an announcement asking if anyone on board had any medical experience.
Patel told Business Insider that he instantly volunteered his services, having done basic combat-medical training while serving in the British Army's Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
The training, however, took place 20 years ago, and Patel told Business Insider that he'd not had to put it into practice since.
"I don't think I've actually ever had to call on it, to be honest," he said.
Patel said the cabin crew told him his experience would nonetheless be valuable. He was called up to help the woman, believed to be in her 50s, alongside two fellow volunteers — a dermatologist and an infectious diseases professor who retired 15 years ago.
The Mirror was the first to report on this incident.
Patel said he was shocked when he first saw the injury, describing it as being "basically a stump of a leg with a foot hanging off it, and bone protruding out with a lot of blood."
The foot appeared to be severely fractured and at an unnatural angle, he added.
The software engineer said the woman was in a state of shock and was unsure how she'd managed to injure herself so severely.
She thought she might have fallen over, fractured her leg, and then continued to walk on it, Patel said.
He explained that the three volunteers tried to make her comfortable and elevated her leg to staunch the bleeding. They opted against a tourniquet.
The trio then discussed administering pain relief from the plane's medical kit, but the cabin crew advised that clearance was needed, Patel said.
The dermatologist connected with US-based medics via satellite link, who gave the clearance and allowed them to administer morphine, according to Patel.
The dermatologist then asked Patel to help "put this foot back together."
Patel said the dermatologist talked him through it, which she said would involve "pulling the bones apart and straightening it so it looks like how a normal foot and leg should look."
Patel practiced the "pulling" part on the dermatologist's hand before going ahead with it, he said.
To prevent the passenger from shattering her teeth, Patel said he got a leather belt and placed it in her mouth.
"It's when your training kicks in, to be honest with you, in a high-pressure situation like this," Patel told Business Insider.
"I'm always the type of person who will try and stand