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Doctor uses an Apple Watch and quick-thinking to help an elderly woman on the plane

The woman in her 70s was suffering from shortness of breath on the flight so the cabin crew asked whether there was a healthcare worker on board.

Doctor uses an Apple Watch and quick-thinking to help an elderly woman on the plane
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Ingo Joseph; BBC | Dr Rashid Riaz

A few years ago, we would not have imagined that technology could play such a huge role in saving lives, but surprisingly, today it is making a massive impact. A doctor traveling on a plane from Birmingham to Verona ended up helping an elderly woman using an Apple Watch, per The Independent. The woman in her 70s was reportedly suffering from shortness of breath on the flight, so the cabin crew asked whether there was a healthcare worker on board.


That's when Dr. Rashid Riaz, 43, from NHS, came ahead to help the woman. He borrowed an Apple Watch from staff on the flight and used its feature to check the blood oxygen level of the lady. They were traveling in RyanAir to Italy. He was also able to speak in Urdu to ask her about the history of her heart issues. After this, Dr. Riaz continued using the Apple Watch and an oxygen cylinder to monitor and maintain her saturation levels until they landed in Italy.

The doctor told BBC that the device helped him to find out the patient had low oxygen levels. He said that the patient recovered quickly and she was sent off with the medical staff once the plane landed. "I used a lot of my own learning during this flight on how to use the gadget," Dr Riaz said. He then said, "It is a lesson in how we can improve in-flight journeys with this sort of emergency through a basic gadget which nowadays is easily available."


Dr. Riaz praised the airline's staff who took care of the emergency. But he said that all airlines must consider having physical kits, which should include basic measurement tools, diabetic and blood pressure meters and an oxygen saturation monitor. "These things can save someone's life in an emergency situation," he added. However, the Apple website states that measurements taken with the Blood Oxygen app are not for medical use, designed only for general fitness and wellness purposes. BBC reported that the iPhone maker is in a patent dispute with a medical technology company called Masim and the later series of the watches, like Series 9 and Ultra 2 Apple Watch, would be released without the blood oxygen feature."

In another similar instance, 29-year-old Kimmie Watkins was not feeling well and thought she would feel better after sleeping for a while. Soon, she received an alert from her Apple Watch that her heart rate had spiked to 178 beats per minute. Earlier, she was not taking the whole situation seriously because she did not have a history of heart problems. She found out that she had a serious medical condition: a blood clot in her lungs. 


Her doctors diagnosed her with pulmonary embolism, which happens because the blood clot gets stuck in an artery in the lung and blocks blood flow to part of the lung. Thanks to her watch, she went to her doctor right on time and came to know about the health issue. Watkins said, "I'm very lucky and if my sleep hadn't been disturbed, my partner would have found me asleep on the couch or not really asleep."

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