Doctors Improvise to Save Sick Plane Passenger

It involved a makeshift catheter made of straws
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2019 9:01 AM CST
Medical MacGyver's DIY Catheter Saves Sick Passenger
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/ChaNaWiT)

It was 10 hours into a China Southern Airlines flight from Guangzhou to New York on Tuesday, and the crew suddenly had a problem: an elderly man who said he couldn't urinate, had a swollen stomach, and had broken into a cold sweat. Two doctors answered the call for medical assistance, and their quick thinking likely saved the man's life, per the South China Morning Post. The man's family told surgeons Zhang Hong and Xiao Zhanxiang that he had a history of prostate enlargement, and they gave the doctors permission to do what they needed to do to help him. With six hours left in the flight, Zhang and Xiao knew they had to take extreme measures, as they realized the man had gone into shock—so they created a catheter by taping together straws from milk boxes, plastic tubing from an oxygen mask, and a syringe needle.

After the needle was inserted, however, the doctors realized it wasn't big enough to extract the urine—leading to what Fox News calls a "split-second decision" by Zhang to start sucking the bodily fluid out himself. The Mirror reports Zhang spent 37 minutes with his mouth to the tube, spitting out almost a quart of urine into a wine bottle at his side. "It was an emergency situation, I couldn't figure out another way," he says, per the Post. The man was told to rest and see a doctor as soon as he landed; there's been no update on his condition. Zhang, meanwhile, is shrugging off the praise coming his way. "Saving lives is a doctor's instinct," he says, per the Mirror. Chinese media outlet The Paper has one word for him: "Respect!" (More China Southern Airlines stories.)

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