A High-Flying Medical Emergency: How a Doctor and a Smartwatch Saved a Life on an Great Air India Flight

By manish198832 Jul6,2024

A High-Flying Medical Emergency

A High-On July 2, a routine Air India flight from Delhi to San Francisco became the scene of a dramatic medical emergency that highlighted the potential of modern technology in life-saving situations. Among the passengers was a 56-year-old woman who suddenly fell ill, experiencing dizziness and repeated vomiting. Her condition quickly deteriorated, causing alarm among the flight crew and passengers.

A High-Fortunately, Dr. Gigy V. Kuruttukulam, the medical director at Kerala’s Rajagiri Hospital, was on board. His quick thinking and innovative use of an Apple smartwatch played a crucial role in stabilizing the woman’s condition during the flight.

A High-The Incident Unfolds

A High-Midway through the flight, the woman began to feel unwell. The symptoms escalated rapidly: she felt dizzy and soon started vomiting repeatedly. The flight attendants were alerted, and an announcement was made to inquire if there was a doctor on board. Dr. Kuruttukulam responded immediately, presenting his identification to the flight crew and offering his assistance.

A High-Without any conventional medical equipment available, Dr. Kuruttukulam had to rely on what was at hand. The woman was wearing an Apple smartwatch, a device that, unbeknownst to many, comes equipped with several health monitoring features. Recognizing the potential of the smartwatch, Dr. Kuruttukulam used it to gather crucial health data.

A High

A High-The Role of the Apple Smartwatch

A High-The Apple smartwatch, often considered a luxury gadget for fitness enthusiasts and tech-savvy individuals, turned into a vital medical tool. Dr. Kuruttukulam utilized the watch to monitor the woman’s heartbeat and oxygen saturation levels. The smartwatch’s ability to conduct an electrocardiogram (ECG) was particularly useful in this scenario.

A High-Through the smartwatch, Dr. Kuruttukulam discovered that the woman’s oxygen saturation was alarmingly low, and her blood pressure was elevated. These readings were critical in determining the immediate course of action needed to stabilize her condition.

Administering Treatment

With the smartwatch providing vital signs, Dr. Kuruttukulam administered the necessary injections available in the flight’s medical kit. The injections helped to stabilize the woman’s condition, but Dr. Kuruttukulam continued to monitor her vital signs using the smartwatch throughout the remainder of the flight.

The Impact of Technology in Medical Emergencies

This incident underscores the growing importance of wearable technology in medical emergencies. Devices like the Apple smartwatch are equipped with advanced health monitoring features that can provide real-time data. In this case, the smartwatch’s ability to perform an ECG and measure oxygen saturation levels was instrumental in diagnosing the woman’s condition and administering timely treatment.

The use of the smartwatch in this context highlights a broader trend in healthcare: the integration of technology to enhance patient care. Wearable devices are becoming increasingly sophisticated, offering features that can detect irregular heartbeats, measure blood oxygen levels, and even alert emergency services in critical situations. These advancements are particularly significant in scenarios where traditional medical equipment is unavailable.

The Broader Implications for In-Flight Medical Emergencies

Medical emergencies on flights present unique challenges. The confined space, limited medical supplies, and the absence of immediate hospital access make it imperative for flight crews and any medical professionals on board to be resourceful. The quick thinking and innovative use of available tools, as demonstrated by Dr. Kuruttukulam, can make a significant difference.

Airlines often carry basic medical kits that include essential medications and equipment. However, the addition of more advanced medical tools, like portable ECG devices or even training flight attendants to use passengers’ wearable technology, could further enhance the response to in-flight medical emergencies.


The incident on the Air India flight from Delhi to San Francisco is a compelling example of how technology can be leveraged to save lives in unexpected situations. Dr. Kuruttukulam’s use of an Apple smartwatch to diagnose and treat a passenger’s medical emergency demonstrates the potential of wearable devices in healthcare.

As technology continues to evolve, the integration of such devices into everyday medical practice is likely to increase. This will not only improve the quality of care provided in routine settings but also enhance the ability to respond effectively in emergencies, whether on the ground or at 35,000 feet in the air.

In the future, we can expect to see more stories of technology playing a critical role in saving lives. The combination of skilled medical professionals and advanced wearable devices represents a powerful alliance in the ongoing effort to provide timely and effective healthcare in all situations. This incident serves as a reminder of the potential that lies in the intersection of technology and medicine, and how it can be harnessed to improve patient outcomes in even the most challenging circumstances.

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