Saving lives on land and in the air

Saving lives on land and in the air
Dr Low was aboard a flight from Amsterdam when he heard someone ask for a doctor. A toddler who was running a high fever had lost consciousness. He promptly attended to the child, who came to about 30 minutes later.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Less than two months after saving a toddler's life at the Temasek Club in Rifle Range Road, Dr Low Lee Yong has done it again - this time, in the confines of a plane.

Just over an hour into his flight, which took off from Amsterdam on Monday, he heard a voice behind him asking: "Any doctor around?"

These were the same words he heard when he was having lunch at a restaurant in Temasek Club on Nov 8 last year, when he rushed to resuscitate a three-year-old boy who had nearly drowned in the club's pool.

It was a feeling of deja vu on the flight, Dr Low said. "I thought I was dreaming. When I turned around, I saw a very anxious mother carrying a child who was unconscious, just a few seats behind me," he told The Straits Times on Monday night, after the KLM flight he was on with his wife landed.

"I ran back and said I'm a doctor," said the founder of MHC Asia Group, which manages a network of over 1,200 clinics in Singapore.

Dr Low proceeded to lay the 2 1/2-year-old boy on his side. His vital signs were strong, but he was running a high fever. He removed the boy's layers of clothing and asked for cold water to sponge his temperature down. He also put the boy on oxygen from a resuscitation kit provided by the cabin crew.

After about 30 minutes, the boy came to and started crying.

"The child probably had a febrile fit," said Dr Low. This is common among young children and usually happens when they have high fevers of 38.5 deg C or more.

The plane, carrying over 300 passengers, then made an unscheduled landing in Bucharest in Romania, following advice from two other doctors on board, said Dr Low.

They recommended that the boy, who was travelling with his parents and elder brother, be sent to hospital. A KLM spokesman said an ambulance was ready at the airport.The captain of the plane explained to the passengers that they had to land because of the boy's condition and thanked them for their patience.

The flight was delayed by 3 1/2 hours, according to KLM.

The captain also came in for some praise. Dutch DJ Theo Nabuurs, who was on board, tweeted about the incident and complimented him on his quick action.

Dr Low, who was on holiday in Iceland and Norway with his wife to see the Northern Lights, said he could still recall the "drama" in November.

Back then, he had held upside down a boy who had been pulled out of the pool in an attempt to drain water from his lungs before performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, after the boy's face, lips and hands had turned purple.

He said: "That impression of the boy who almost drowned in a pool has still not cleared from my mind."

But he added: "As a doctor who has been trained to handle emergencies, you just have to do what you are trained for."

This article was first published on January 6, 2016.
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