Crew use EpiPen to save girl on plane
An emergency shot of adrenaline may have saved the life of a young Irish girl who fell ill with a nut allergy on board a transatlantic flight from Dublin.
United Airlines flight UA22 left Dublin Airport bound for Newark in New York at around 9.20am yesterday morning with 169 passengers and eight crew members on board.
Some 90 minutes later however, when the Boeing 757-200 aircraft was more than 1200km west of Ireland, the crew contacted controllers at the Irish Aviation Authority's North Atlantic Communications Service at Ballygirreen in Co Clare.
An airline spokesperson confirmed epinephrine, a medicine also known as adrenaline, is on board all United Airlines flights.
It's believed the drug, which can be used to treat people who have developed a serious allergic reaction to food such as nuts and is often injected via a device known as an EpiPen, may have been used to revive the girl.
Witnesses said the passenger, believed to be a four-year-old girl, was travelling with about six family members in business class when she fell ill and went in to suspected anaphylactic shock.
"There was an announcement that there was an emergency. They asked if there were any doctors or nurses on board and two people came forward to help," passenger Mike van Niekerk told the Irish Independent.
"Her face looked quite puffed up and she was obviously in distress. It appeared to be quite desperate at one point but then it calmed down when she was given an injection."
The crew confirmed to the service centre that they were declaring a medical emergency and wished to return to Dublin. They also indicated they required permission for a high speed return and approach.
The pilot requested emergency medical services to be available for their arrival and asked air traffic controllers for an 'expeditious taxi to the terminal' so that their ill passenger could receive attention as soon as possible.
The flight landed back in Dublin at 12.32pm, over three hours after originally departing. It is understood the girl was in a stable condition when she was taken from the aircraft brought to hospital. United Airlines had to cancel the flight upon returning, as the crew would have exceeded their legally permitted duty hours.
Passengers spent last night in local hotels and are due to resume their journey to Newark Airport this afternoon.
Last December, a 14-year-old girl died on a Dublin footpath after suffering a fatal reaction to a restaurant nut sauce.
Emma Sloan lost her life on O'Connell Street in Dublin just days before Christmas after a pharmacy refused to administer an EpiPen as she had forgotten her prescription. Her mother Caroline launched a campaign advocating free availability of the life-saving injection devices.