If you suffer from a certain disease or you suddenly fall ill, the first instinct is to call for a doctor and examine you. But what do you do if you’re on a long-distance flight and you need the help of a doctor right away? You might as well look for an engineer.
Karttikeya Mangalam, age 21, was on a flight from Geneva to New Delhi in February this year. He was coming back home after an exchange year in Switzerland. After being on the plane for a few hours already, an aircrew member announced the question everyone wishes not to hear on a flight – “Is there a doctor onboard?”
Everyone was terrified at hearing this question as it was clear that someone was ill and needed immediate medical assistance. Thomas, a 30-year-old man of Dutch origins had Type-1 Diabetes and the blood sugar levels in his body were way higher than the normal levels, which means that he was about to get into hyperglycemic shock at any moment if nothing was done. One very important thing that Thomas did, although he was feeling nauseous, sweating and faint, was to tell the flight attendant that airport security took away his insulin pump and that he didn’t manage to administrate any insulin during the past five hours.
Luckily, a Russian doctor that was also onboard was the first to help. What made the situation even better was that the doctor was a diabetic too and he was even equipped with insulin and all the necessary tools.
Nevertheless, things drastically changed when the doctor found out that the insulin pen he had was designed on a specific cartridge that contained insulin meant to be administrated slowly and on the long-term, which was completely different from the tool Thomas regularly used. Soon, he fell unconscious and even started foaming at the mouth.
This is when Karttikeya decided to step in. He discussed with the doctor about the possibility of fixing the dilemma of the pen and the cartridge. After a failed attempt to adjust the insulin equipment, Karttikeya had the brilliant idea to use the WiFi from the plane and to download a file of the design schematic of the pen. Within minutes he found out that the device required a small spring behind the cartridge.
“Keeping a cool head, I instructed the air hostess to ask the passengers for any ballpoint pens, which usually have a spring in them. In a few minutes, I got 4-5 pens from the anxious passengers,” said Karttikeya in a blog post.
Fortunately, there was a passenger that actually had the exact spring Karttikeya requested and he and the doctor were able to adjust the insulin equipment to fit Thomas’ needs. Within 15 minutes, everything was getting back to normal and Thomas’ life was saved.
“He thanked me a lot and told me to come visit him in Amsterdam where he owns his own restaurant and brewery and where I supposedly would receive as much free food and beer as I want. I think saving a man’s life is more than what anyone could ever imagine to achieve from the basic engineering knowledge endowed in [freshman] year,” explained Karttikeya in his blog post.