American Airlines Disputes "Empty Oxygen Tank" Story

American Airlines is disputing reports that the oxygen tanks were empty and that the aircraft’s defibrillator did not work on a flight in which a 44-year-old Brooklyn woman died of complications from heart disease and diabetes.

From the Associated Press:

The airline said the oxygen tanks and a defibrillator were working and noted that several medical professionals on the flight, including a doctor, tried to save passenger Carine Desir, 44, who had heart disease.

“American Airlines, after investigation, has determined that oxygen was administered on the aircraft, and it was working, and the defibrillator was applied as well,” airline spokesman Charley Wilson said Monday.

Wilson said Desir’s cousin flagged down a flight attendant and said the woman had diabetes and needed oxygen. “The flight attendant responded, ‘OK, but we usually don’t need to treat diabetes with oxygen, but let me check anyway and get back to you.'”

Wilson said the employee spoke with another flight attendant, and both went to Desir within one to three minutes.

“By that time the situation was worsening, and they immediately began administering oxygen,” he said.

Wilson said the defibrillator was used but that the machine indicated Desir’s heartbeat was too weak to activate the unit.

An automated external defibrillator delivers an electric shock to try to restore a normal heart rhythm if a a particular type of irregular heart beat is detected. The machines cannot help in all cases.

Wilson said three flight attendants helped Desir, but “stepped back” after doctors and nurses on the flight began to help her.

“Our crew acted very admirably. They did what they were trained to do, and the equipment was working,” he said.

Desir was pronounced dead by one of the doctors, Joel Shulkin, and the flight continued to John F. Kennedy International Airport, without stopping in Miami. The woman’s body was moved to the floor of the first-class section and covered with a blanket, Oliver said.

Desir died of complications from heart disease and diabetes, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office.

Airline Disputes Cousin’s Story of Death [Chicago Tribune]

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