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Critically ill Bengaluru woman flown from US to Chennai in 26-hour flight

Aug 17, 2022

BENGALURU: In one of the longest aeromedical evacuations to India in recent times, a 67-year-old Bengaluru woman with critical cardiac condition was flown from Portland in the United States to Chennai on a 26-hour air ambulance flight through Iceland and Turkey that arrived in India early Tuesday. 

The airlift cost $133,000 (a little over Rs 1 crore) and involved two super-midsized private jets in as many legs, taking into consideration the condition of the patient, who is now being prepared for a heart surgery. The patient, who could be only identified as a resident of Indiranagar, was known to be in Oregon with her children for a few years until she developed the heart condition and sought treatment there in the US.

"The woman's family felt the treatment in the US was not sufficient for her," said Dr Shalini Nalwad, co-founder and director of ICATT, the air ambulance services firm. 

The long airlift of the 67-year-old critically ill woman began on Sunday morning from Portland, Oregon, after she was shifted in an ambulance from the Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center to the Portland International Airport where she was put onto Challenger 605, the super-midsized private jet customised as a flying intensive care unit (ICU). 

"An ICU had been readied onboard with a medical team, including three doctors and two paramedics, to monitor the patient. She was flown to Reykjavik airport in 7.5 hours and the halt at the Icelandic capital was for refuelling the aircraft," Dr Rahul Singh, co-founder of ICATT, added. 

From Reykjavik, the Challenger flew the patient to Istanbul, Turkey, in six hours where the medical and aviation crew, barring a Bengaluru doctor who had gone to the US and travelled all the way monitoring the patient, was replaced. 

"The patient was shifted to another Challenger 605 in the Turkish airport and then flown to Diyarbakir airport in four hours," Singh said. 

On its final leg, the air ambulance flew from Diyarbakir and landed in Chennai at 2.10am on Tuesday. After completing immigration procedures onboard on the airport tarmac, the woman was rushed to Apollo Hospital in an ambulance where she was admitted. 

"The treatment period there (in the US) was longer and costing much more than airlifting her to India," said Dr Shalini Nalwad, co-founder and director of ICATT, the Bengaluru-based air ambulance services firm. 

Sources, however, said that the woman was facing issues on the health insurance front there as she was an Indian passport holder. 

"This was probably the longest-ever aeromedical retrieval in the country with the patient flown all the way from the US to India over two days' time," Dr Nalwad claimed. 

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