Sunday 11 December 2016

'Essentially I was poisoned ' - Irish woman (25) spends three weeks in intensive care after long-haul flight

Cian Murray

Published 19/10/2016 | 13:28

An Irish woman spent three weeks in intensive care after her lungs shut down following a long-haul flight.

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Lisa Talty, 25, from Miltown Malbay in Co. Clare, ended up in intensive care in Sydney after travelling to Australia with her boyfriend earlier this year.

Ms. Talty, who has Cystic Fibrosis, started experiencing respiratory failure after her flight landed in Sydney.

She claims this was due to being stuck on the plane for "over two hours" before take-off.

"I travelled here with my partner, Noel, on July 20, and by the morning of the July 23 I was in the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital here in Sydney on maximum life support," she told Independent.ie.

"While I do have Cystic Fibrosis, I was cleared by my medical team in Limerick to travel here and I passed all medical tests. I was as healthy as possible before I travelled here, yet when on arrival in Sydney I was beginning to go into complete respiratory failure.

"[The cause of] this has since been linked to the flight my partner and I took from Abu Dhabi to Sydney. The flight was delayed and remained at the gate, with the doors closed and the engine not running for over two hours.

"My lungs failed to cope with the massive influx of CO2 they were taking in and I got hypoxia. Essentially I was poisoned with CO2. The difference in my health from the time I boarded that flight to the time I disembarked was huge."

Lisa with her boyfriend, Noel McGuaine
Lisa with her boyfriend, Noel McGuaine

Ms. Talty has no memory of the immediate aftermath.

"I have no memory of almost two weeks. I have been told that I spent those next two weeks on maximum life support in an induced coma.

"It took over 13 hours to stabilise me, during which time my partner Noel was told to inform my parents at home in Ireland of the seriousness of the situation.

"A doctor then rang my parents to tell them they should get the next flight as things were looking extremely poor," she said.

Thankfully, she was able to pull through and began an unlikely road to recovery.

"I spent five weeks in the hospital, three of which were in ICU where I beat all odds, managing to be the first person in that hospital to get off the ventilator and the ECMO machine in the way that I did.

"It went from talk of death, to talk of an acute lung transplant, to being taken off the ventilator to slowly coming off the ECMO machine, all miracles in the eyes of the doctors.

"Five weeks to the day I landed in Sydney, I was able to leave the hospital. I still have far to go.. It is a miracle to say the least. [It's a long way since] Carmel and Gerard, were told to fly out immediately and the doctors would try and keep me until they arrived but they couldn't promise it would work."

The Clare woman added that the event affected her family greatly and she now has to stay in Australia until further notice.

"I am still receiving follow up care that is essential. I am medically and legally unable to fly which means I have to stay in Sydney indefinitely."

Despite this, Lisa is appreciative the incident occurred in Australia and not Ireland.

"If it happened on the return leg of the journey, I would be dead. We just don't have the same facilities as readily available in Ireland. The amazing support from my family, and of course Noel, is another one of the reasons I am still here today."

She added that the care provided from the Irish Support Agency in Sydney was not what she had hoped for.

"My brother-in-law's wife got in contact with the Irish Support Agency. To say the help that was offered was unimpressive is an understatement. They did offer my parents accommodation however this was hostel accommodation over twenty minutes from the hospital which my mother explained was unsuitable for several reasons.

"My parents sorted out alternative accommodation themselves only five minutes walk to the hospital."

A spokesperson from Etihad Airways, the airline Ms. Talty flew with, said: "We are very sorry to hear about Ms Talty’s illness and her ensuing hospitalisation.

"Our records show that we assisted her in obtaining her unconditional fit to fly medical clearance certificate ahead of the flight from Dublin to Sydney via Abu Dhabi. We also took numerous additional measures to ensure her comfort before and during the flight. These included specially pre-allocated seating, complimentary access to our lounges, an extra bag allowance for medical equipment, and meet and assist services at departure in Dublin and Abu Dhabi and on arrival in Sydney."

"The flight from Abu Dhabi to Sydney was delayed by one hour and 26 minutes prior to departure due to the offload of a sick passenger. While the aircraft was on the ground, in line with industry-standard normal operating procedures, the auxiliary power unit provided power and pressurised air for the air conditioning systems throughout the aircraft. These systems ensure the constant flow and refresh of air across all cabins both on the ground and in the air.

"The crew and airport staff were briefed on her condition and reports for the flight do not show any further requests for medical assistance from her or her travelling companion at any stage of her journey."

The Irish Support Agency have been contacted for comment.

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