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Heathrow patient saved thanks to quick response, lifesaving surgery and an iPad

Glyn Danks cropped

A man who collapsed on a plane at Heathrow Airport was saved thanks to a speedy response from emergency services and lifesaving surgery at Northwick Park Hospital.

Glyn Danks, 68, had boarded his 9.35am Etihad Airways flight home to Australia on 22 August, after five weeks visiting family in the UK.

He said: “I went on the plane as normal and as I sat down there was a vacant seat beside me. I thought it was nice that I had a spare seat and I didn’t feel ill at all.”

The plane was about to push back from the terminal when Glyn lost consciousness, collapsed and stopped breathing. The flight crew began CPR, called emergency services and had the Heathrow Passenger Experience team on board in under two minutes to manage the response.

Glyn had suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, a swelling in the main blood vessel (the aorta) that runs from the heart down through the chest and tummy.

“The next thing I remember is waking up on the floor of the plane,” said Glyn. “I could see lots of feet and I could hear lots of different people shouting and giving lots of advice.”

Glyn was rushed to Hillingdon Hospital and underwent a CT scan to review the severity of his condition. The images were sent electronically to Dr Rakesh Patel, Consultant Interventional Radiologist at Northwick Park and Hillingdon hospitals. Dr Patel reviewed the images on his iPad and immediately identified that Glyn needed lifesaving treatment.

He said: “I work at Hillingdon and Northwick Park , which are two separate trusts. I have an iPad, provided by Hillingdon, which allows me to access patient information and CT scans. Fortunately I had it here at Northwick Park when the registrar came in and said, ‘we have got this referral from Hillingdon’.

“I took the iPad out, saw that the patient had a ruptured aneurysm and said, ‘The patient needs to be transferred now.’”

Windsor resident and Heathrow Passenger Experience Manager Taj Dhaliwal said quick thinking and a co-ordinated response by the operations team ensured Glyn was in the care of Hillingdon Hospital not a moment too soon.

Taj said: “The safety of our passengers and colleagues is our top priority and, due to the nature of the role, my team is in place to respond at a moment’s notice. An ambulance request came through while I was having lunch with my colleague Jim Leahy and we both ran to the gate – part of our role is emergency first responders.

“We were able to help with CPR and brought emergency services to the scene as quickly as possible.”

Following the CT scans at Hillingdon, Glyn was taken by ambulance to Northwick Park Hospital, a specialist vascular and interventional radiology centre an 11-mile drive away in Harrow. He arrived shortly after 1pm and was transferred to the hybrid operating theatre for lifesaving surgery.

Glyn said: “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 operation was carried out by Consultant Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon Mr Selva Theivacumar, Dr Rakesh Patel and Dr Eldon Lehmann, Consultant Interventional Radiologist.

Mr Theivacumar, said: “Glyn’s rupture was fatal unless treated immediately.

“We sedated Glyn and inserted a stent graft through a small groin puncture. This allowed us to redirect the blood flow through the graft, rather than into the leaking aneurysm.

“There was no major cuts in the body and the whole procedure was done through a few-millimetre cuts in both groins under local anaesthesia. This minimally invasive needle-hole technique is the safest option in such patients with ruptured aortic aneurysms.”

Glyn, who is originally from Abbey Wood in London, was discharged on 28 August, six days after he collapsed. He has since flown back to his home in Perth, Western Australia.

He said: “Everyone who looked after me was brilliant. Everything happened in a straight line – it all worked and could not have been better. I’ve had no pain or discomfort following the operation and the procedure has been marvellous.

“I feel very privileged and grateful to be here - 99 people wouldn’t be! I will make my life as good as possible for the however many years I’ve got left.”

Jim Leahy, West Drayton resident who was also part of Heathrow’s response team, said: “Whenever there is an emergency, it’s great to see how everyone pulls together and works as one team with one goal. It is really good to hear Glyn is doing well and has been able to continue his journey home through Heathrow.”

Picture caption: Glyn and his lifesaving team at Northwick Park Hospital (from left to right): Mayen Serrano, Scrub Nurse, Dr Amit Saxena, Consultant Anaesthetist, Dr Rakesh Patel, Consultant Interventional Radiologist, Glyn Danks, Dr Eldon Lehmann, Consultant Interventional Radiologist, Mr Selva Theivacumar, Consultant Vascular & Endovascular Surgeon, Laura Bailey, Theatre Sister, Henna Islam, Diagnostic Radiographer