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Phoenix serves as global hub for mid-air medical emergencies

Posted at 10:42 PM, Feb 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-06 00:42:43-05

Every day 2.5 million Americans get on a plane. So what happens if there's a medical emergency on board?

"Really what happens in the sky is just a reflection of what really happens on the ground," said Doctor Moneesh Bhow.

The doctor helps head up Medlink, a tiny call center right next to the trauma bay at Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix.

Local doctors and staff answer about 600 emergency calls a day providing medical guidance for sick passengers.

It doesn't matter where they're flying in the world, the call is answered here.

"They're either concerned about potentially a stroke, a heart attack, or they're in cardiac arrest," said Dr. Bhow. 

While we were in the room, a call comes through from a flight headed to Canada from the Dominican Republic. A 72-year-old passenger was having a hard time breathing. The plane was over the Atlantic Ocean still two hours away from landing. The team in Phoenix starts giving medical advice while figuring out where to divert the plane. The decision was finally made to divert to North Carolina.

"It's one thing to be able to touch and feel a patient," said Doctor Bhow. "Now we're relying on someone else's eyes and someone else's judgment to feed us information."

So the next time you fly, you can rest easy knowing a Valley doctor is standing by to help.