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Doctor assists with medical emergency on flight, appalled by poorly stocked first-aid kit

After Dr. Andrea Merrill tweeted about how Delta's onboard first-aid kit was severely lacking, the airline committed to making changes.

Doctor assists with medical emergency on flight, appalled by poorly stocked first-aid kit
Image Source: AndreaLMerrill/Twitter

Dr. Andrea Merrill is a surgical oncologist at the Boston Medical Center Department of Surgery. She was recently flying on Delta Air Lines when there was a medical emergency on board. Of course, she volunteered to help. She discovered how poorly stocked the plane's first-aid kit was. To encourage Delta to do better, she took to Twitter, where she highlighted all of the missing elements she believed were important parts of any first-aid kit. In response, several other doctors chimed in with their own suggestions. Soon enough, Delta personally called her to let her know they would be making changes to their first-aid kit.


"Dear Delta, I just assisted in a medical emergency in the air," Dr. Merrill explained in her post, tagging the carrier. "Your medical kits need a glucometer, epi-pen, and automatic blood pressure cuffs. It is impossible to hear with a disposable stethoscope in the air. Please improve this for passenger safety!" Her tweet quickly went viral, garnering over 58,000 retweets. It was also liked more than 494,000 times. What was most interesting, however, was how many doctors expressed the same concerns she did. Dozens of doctors posted similar calls for action from Delta.


A fellow doctor wrote, "I also assisted with a medical emergency on Delta last summer and the patient was [about to have a] possible stroke. There was no glucometer. There was a case for one but no supplies… It was shocking how poorly stocked the 'medical bag' was." Another added, "I helped out a few years ago, and made these same recommendations, I also asked for a pulse oximeter. [I am] sorry to hear nothing has changed, especially when their doctor on the ground wants us to say if they need to land based on a weak blood pressure, which may not be as bad as 60/palp because, you know, cannot hear."


Reportedly, this was an issue on other flights as well. "I assisted with a medical emergency three months ago on a United flight and really needed Narcan," one doctor shared. "This is a life-saving medicine that should be stocked in every medical bag." According to one expert, airlines were not legally bound to provide a well-stocked first aid kit. They stated, "Airlines were given a waiver by the [Federal Aviation Administration] years ago. I have written to them numerous times asking for reconsideration or at least an update. [i] never even got a response."


Thankfully, Delta took note of Dr. Merrill's request. They called her to let her know they would be making changes to their first aid kit. She noted in a follow-up tweet, "Delta called me to follow up on the medical emergency per protocol. [I] found out they are switching to automated blood pressure cuffs and real [stethoscope] in August! I directed them to the thread of amazing comments for more suggestions for improvements. [They] will consider [a] glucometer if [it] can [be stored at the] gate." That is definitely a win!


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