A man in his 70s was on an El-Al flight from Bulgaria to Israel on Tuesday when he experienced a diabetic emergency. A vigilant flight attendant noticed the elderly passenger had lost consciousness and needed immediate assistance.
Dr. Nathan Ungar, an aviation physician and long-time United Hatzalah volunteer, happened to have been on board. As a physician who frequently accompanies ill patients, Ungar had developed a prior rapport with the crew, who immediately approached his seat and informed him of the emergency.
Ungar quickly located the distressed passenger and found him slumped in his seat, having barely regained consciousness, and sweating profusely. The passenger managed to inform Ungar that he was diabetic.
Ungar, suspecting low blood sugar levels, requested the onboard doctor’s kit from the flight crew. This kit, equipped with essential medical tools and medications for various in-flight emergencies, is standard on every flight. Ungar also requested a jar of honey from the crew while waiting for the medical kit.
The honey arrived immediately, and Ungar administered it to the patient. As soon as the medical kit arrived, Ungar checked the patient’s sugar and was relieved to see that the sugar levels had risen due to the honey, yet the patient’s blood pressure and saturation levels were low.
Suddenly, the patient lost consciousness again, and his breathing became shallow. Ungar moved the patient to the galley floor and enlisted the help of another passenger to elevate the patient’s legs. He connected the patient to oxygen, opened an IV line, and administered fluids to the patient, who slowly regained consciousness.
Given the patient’s unstable condition, having lost consciousness twice, Dr. Ungar recommended that the pilots make an emergency landing at the nearest airport. Since the patient was unable to return to his seat, Ungar sat in the galley jumpseat next to the flight attendants and closely monitored the patient’s condition until the plane made an emergency landing at Rhodes International Airport.
Emergency crews from Rhodes promptly boarded the plane and transported the patient to a nearby hospital for further care. The patient is now stable and recovering nicely.
Reflecting on the incident, Ungar expressed how happy he was to help save a life. “I’m blessed to have been in the right place at the right time.”