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IIT-Kanpur student says engineering skills helped save man’s life on flight

Karttikeya Mangalam used presence of mind and engineering acumen to assist a man whose blood sugar levels had shot up because of lack of insulin.

Karttikeya Mangalam, a final year electrical engineering student, has written about his experience in IIT-Kanpur’s in-house magazine.(Karttikeya Mangalam Facebook)

By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

A student of Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur has claimed he could save a 30-year-old Dutch man’s life onboard a flight by using his basic engineering acumen.

Karttikeya Mangalam, a final year electrical engineering student, has written about his experience in IIT-Kanpur’s in-house magazine. The write up ‘Even engineers can save lives’ was tweeted by IIT-Kanpur on May 7 and has been retweeted over 1,000 times

The undergraduate student was flying to New Delhi from Geneva in February this year when a man seated two rows behind him needed medical assistance.

Mangalam said Thomas, the passenger, was a Type 1 diabetes patient and had forgotten his insulin pump at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport during the security check. It had been five hours since his last insulin dose and his blood sugar had reached dangerous levels.

Though Thomas was carrying insulin cartridges, he did not have the device needed for injecting it into his body.

A doctor on the same flight, also a diabetes patient, had multiple injecting equipment at hand but Thomas’ insulin cartridges were thinner than the insulin pen’s diameter. The doctor said Thomas needed urgent help or he would face the possibility of multiple organ failures or slip into a coma.

The crew announced that the plane would be making an emergency landing in the Afghanistan-Kazakhstan region because Thomas had lost consciousness and was foaming at the mouth.

Mangalam stepped in to help and asked the air hostess to give him access to wi-fi and used it to look up an engineering drawing style diagram of an insulin pen and realised that the doctor’s pen was missing a spring.

“I instructed the air hostess to ask the passengers for ballpoint pens, which usually have a spring in them. I reassembled the pen and gave it to the doctor who then adjusted the dose, changed the needle and injected the proper dosage of Thomas’ insulin,” Mangalam wrote.

Thomas’ blood sugar level stabilised in 15 minutes and he was transported to Gurgaon’s Medanta where he received further assistance.

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