State & Union: Area physician resuscitates ailing passenger at 36,000 feet
Today we relate the remarkable story of an area physician who, during a flight across the Atlantic Ocean on a recent family trip, resuscitated an unconscious man at 36,000 feet.
Dr. Tahir A. Chauhdry, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist with offices in Olean and Bradford, Pa., related to story earlier this week to reporter Amber Turba of The Bradford Era.
“My family was flying to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for a family vacation” — to Mecca, the holiest city in the Muslim world, and Medina, also a holy city — Chauhdry explains. “This is a mini-pilgrimage; we generally go every year to recharge our spiritual batteries.”
Getting away from the cold and snow is an added benefit of the trip, he says.
“While sleeping on Flight 020, Zayba, my 16-year-old daughter, shakes me and tells me they need a doctor up front right away,” Chauhdry says.
Dazed and confused, he went to assess the patient, an unconscious man alone aboard the flight with no family.
“Unfortunately, Saudi Arabian Airlines wouldn’t let anyone touch the patient unless they could prove they were a physician,” he says. “By chance, I had my New York State Physician Emergency/Disaster Card in my wallet.”
Initially, Chauhdry said he went to assess the man by a flight attendant’s request.
“Originally, there were two other doctors with him,” he says. “Off the hook, I went back to my seat. Two minutes later, a bunch of flight personnel grabbed me. They wanted to see proof that I was a physician — the other doctors had no proof.”
Chauhdry notes that he carries his physician’s card “mostly to avoid speeding tickets.”
“Normally, I try to avoid getting a ticket; this time, I got to save a man’s life,” he says. “I was the only one that could resuscitate the patient, based on the Saudi’s requirement, so that’s what I did. The other two doctors, a radiologist and pediatrician, were not qualified according to the Saudis. I’m grateful that I was.”
Aside from “always carrying an official physician’s card,” Chauhdry adds that the incident taught him even more about spontaneity and the grateful ability to serve others.
“I am thankful that I could have been some assistance,” he says. “I am not an emergency room physician. However, I have practiced in two disaster zones (Kashmir and Haiti, while he has also lent aid to Syrian refugee camps in Greece over the past year). These instances have been instrumental in my growth both as a person, and a physician.”
Despite being a “fish out of water” in the incident, Chauhdry notes the importance of the incident’s “memorable” nature.
“I am thankful to God that this man regained consciousness with my help, though I am sure that any physician, nurse, EMT, etc. could have done the same for him,” he says. “He had no family with him, and this is one of those instances where you have to put everything aside and be someone’s family and help them however you can. That’s all I did.”