A 67-year-old Indian woman—who has a critical heart condition and in need of emergency surgery—was airlifted from the US to India’s southern Chennai city over a 26-hour flight, making this one of the longest aero-medical evacuations in recent years in India.
She arrived in Chennai early Sunday and is awaiting treatment at Apollo Hospital.
According to reports, the flight stopped three times on the way —once in Iceland and twice in Turkey—before landing in the city. The woman is a resident of neighbouring Bengaluru city.
The flight cost $133,000. The family used a Bengaluru-based air ambulance flight service called ICATT which is equipped with an ICU. It involved two super-midsized private jets—one from Portland to Istanbul, Turkey, and another from Istanbul to Chennai.
The woman, whose name has not been revealed yet and is only identified as a resident of Indiranagar, had recently moved to Portland, Oregon, with her children. She was being treated there for her heart condition, but as soon as her health deteriorated, the family decided to seek treatment in India.
“The woman’s family felt the treatment in the US was not sufficient for her,” Dr Shalini Nalwad, co-founder and director of ICATT, the air ambulance services firm, told The Times of India newspaper.
As the woman recently moved to the US, she was facing issues to secure health insurance as she was an Indian passport holder.
“The treatment period there (in the US) was longer and costing much more than airlifting her to India,” Nalwad was quoted as saying. She added, “This was probably the longest-ever aeromedical retrieval in the country with the patient flown all the way from the US to India over two days’ time.”
The latest aero-medical retreat reflects the growing importance of air ambulance operations, which is still at a nascent stage in India.
In May, India’s junior civil aviation minister V K Singh informed parliament that there are 49 air ambulances operating in the country, run by 19 operators. In the past three years, about 4,100 patients have been moved in air ambulances in India.
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