August 23, 2017

Physician rushes to help injured aboard turbulent flight

Whether traveling abroad on a medical mission or putting aside stethoscopes to work on volunteer projects, our health care professionals lend a hand when needed.

Stepping in to help is second nature for physicians at Kaiser Permanente. Whether it’s traveling abroad on a medical mission, or putting aside stethoscopes to work on volunteer projects, our health care professionals never shy away from lending a hand when needed.

Ervin Fang, MD, an ophthalmologist at the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, embodied the organization’s commitment to helping others during his recent flight from Athens, Greece to Philadelphia. The plane encountered extreme turbulence, and Dr. Fang rushed to provide medical aid to flight attendants and fellow passengers who were injured during the rough ride.

photo of Ervin Fang, MD
Ervin Fang, MD

“It was the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced,” says Dr. Fang, who captured the chaos that ensued with photos and video taken from his seat.

According to Dr. Fang, the severe turbulence occurred just before landing, as beverage service was ending. Several passengers were not wearing their seat belts.

“After the plane suddenly jumped, there were drinks splattered on the ceiling, people and their belongings were tossed out of their seats, and strewn across the aisles," he says. "Even the pilot was surprised by the magnitude of the turbulence.”

A total of three passengers and seven crew members suffered injuries, ranging from bruises and head bumps to a dislocated shoulder, according to the airline.

Dr. Fang and another physician on the flight immediately offered to assess, treat and triage the injured passengers. “I didn’t think twice,” says Dr. Fang. “As soon as I heard that there were injured, I acted quickly to assess the situation and provide care as needed.”

Dr. Fang notes that it was the flight attendants who needed care urgently. “I treated two flight attendants; one was a head injury, and the second suffered a dislocated shoulder that I tried to relocate as the plane continued to our destination.”

When the plane landed in Philadelphia, 10 people were taken to a local hospital for further evaluation and treatment, and have since been released.

“It was a scary, surreal experience. Everyone was disoriented, but also relieved that we survived,” says Dr. Fang. “I am also glad I was able to use my medical skills to aid the flight attendants.”