An App to Keep You Safe When You Fly Takes Flight Locally

Local Doctors create airRx, helps physicans assist with in-flight medical events

PEORIA, Ill. - There are few situations scarier than experiencing a medical emergency while at 30,000 feet. Across the world, nearly 200 medical events occur every single day on planes.

We recently saw this play out in the case of Carrie Fisher who had a heart attack on aboard an international flight last month. The attention to that instance sheds light on the scary prospect of falling ill while up in the air.

A new app, developed locally, aims to keep you safe when you fly. A team of doctors at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center teamed up with aerospace medical experts, airline professionals and app developers to help physicians who volunteer to help a sick passenger on a plane.

It's headquartered right here in Peoria.

"I had my own in flight medical emergency about 10 years ago." Radiologist, Dr. Raymond Bertino, says.

Dr. Bertino describes waking up on an overseas flight feeling distressed.

"A way I'd never felt in my life. I didn't know how serious the situation was even though I'm a physician." Dr. Bertino said.

Thankfully, the flight attendants located an anesthesiologist on board to help.

"An anesthesiologist is someone who treats emergencies in the operating room and treats emergencies with some regularity but such a person on an airplane doesn't necessarily know exactly what to do. They can feel very much out of their element, as he expressed." Dr. Bertino explained.

Since having his own medical scare, Dr. Bertino has stepped up to help passengers on 2 other flights.

"I did the things that I knew were important and I did the very best that I could, as every physician would, but I could tell there was something lacking." Dr. Bertino said.

He took his idea to his co-workers at the hospital and the airRx app took off.

"It was created to help physicians who volunteer to help a fellow passenger on board a commercial airline flight should they become ill." Resident Physician and Director of Operations for airRx, Courtney Cook, explained.

With a simple download, physicians have access treatment for the 23 most common medical emergencies that happen aboard a plane at their fingertips.

"It might be a urologist who's a physician on a plane and they may know really well how to take care of all kidney problems but they may not have dealt with a heart attack in years," Cook said. “So airRx fills that gap and it gives them what medications are available on the plane, what equipment is available, and gives them a reminder of these are the sort of things you do in these situations."

Peoria International Airport Director, Gene Olson, says PIA saw 8 medical emergencies last year.

"We do plan for this kind of activity and it's really not what's happening in the airplane it's what happens when the airplane gets on the ground,” Olson explained. “If there's something available for a doctor to do...that's a great thing."

On the ground or in the air, it's helping to lead to better outcomes when a passenger becomes a patient.

"We want the best possible results for the patient." Dr. Bertino said.

The app is available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play for just under $5. Developers have seen about 2,000 downloads so far, but hope to see it in the hands of every doctor to provide the greatest level of care.


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