Set the scene: an asthmatic toddler is having an asthma attack aboard a transatlantic flight from Spain to the U.S. The parents realize they had accidentally packed his asthma supplies in their checked luggage. What are they to do? Thankfully a MacGyver-like genius was on board and steps in to save the day.
When he learned the two-year-old boy’s oxygen saturation was only 87-88 percent, Dr. Khurshid Guru, director of Robotic Surgery at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, sprung into action to create a makeshift nebulizer and oxygen delivery device out of supplies readily available aboard the Air Canada flight.
During an interview with an ABC News reporter, Guru said he was able to obtain an oxygen tank and an albuterol inhaler. He then collected oxygen tubing, a bottle of water, and a water cup. He connected one end of the tubing to the oxygen tank, and the other to a small hole in one end of the bottle, which acted as a holding chamber. The water cup was connected to the bottle opening, and acted as a mask that was applied to the child’s face by the parents.
The doctor would have then probably squirted the inhaler into the system, and a flow of oxygen would have supplied the child with both oxygen and albuterol. Guru said that after 30 minutes of oxygen therapy and two breathing treatments, the child’s oxygen saturation rose to the 94-95 percent range, which is a safe level for any person.
In the event of an emergency
As a respiratory therapist, I can attest that these parents are not the only parents to accidentally pack their child’s medication in checked luggage. Some parents go on vacations and forget their child’s medical supplies altogether. Unfortunately, a MacGuyver-like physician isn’t always available.
My hometown of Ludington, Michigan, is the destination of many tourists during the summer months. Many of these tourists have children with asthma, and every year a few of them forget to pack their child’s medical supplies.
This is where I get to meet these families in our local emergency room. Usually, we give these children oxygen if needed, and one or a few albuterol breathing treatments just as Dr. Guru did for this child. And, usually, within an hour or two, these children are breathing easy and discharged to the care of their parents, with the medical supplies needed for the duration of their vacation.
Look, it is not unusual for parents to make such mistakes, and it does not make you a bad parent. Still, there is a lesson learned here: No matter how well controlled your child’s asthma is, be sure to pack rescue inhalers and nebulizers, and have them somewhere that is readily available at all times. This is very important, because you never know when an asthma attack will occur. MacGyver can only be in one place at a time…as far as we know.
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A Registered Respiratory Therapist and asthmatic