Kerala: India’s ‘Florence Nightingale’ who saved soldier’s life mid-air

Kerala: India’s ‘Florence Nightingale’ who saved soldier’s life mid-air

Nurse Pudusseriparamba GeethaImage source, P Geetha’s family

Image caption, Ms Geetha says this was the first time she had to administer CPR on a flight

By Imran Qureshi

BBC Hindi

An Indian nurse who was travelling to be honoured for her work has been praised for saving the life of her co-passenger on a flight.

Geetha P was travelling from the southern state of Kerala to the national capital Delhi to attend a function to honour winners of the Florence Nightingale award for nurses.

But 30 minutes after the plane took off, the cabin crew made an announcement calling for medical help.

Suman, a soldier on his way to Indian-administered Kashmir, had collapsed in his seat and showed no signs of a pulse.

“I started CPR [Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation] when he was on his seat,” Ms Geetha told the BBC.

“One of my colleagues had collapsed like this in the hospital and I had given CPR and rushed her into the cardiac intensive care unit. There were several other cases too in the hospital. But this is the first time I had to do this on a flight,” she said.

After the CPR, there were some signs of a pulse.

The flight crew had two bottles of IV fluids. Another doctor on the flight, Premkumar, who had also rushed to help, quickly applied a cannula to the patient.

“In about an hour or so, Suman was able to eat something, too. Throughout the flight, I sat next to him in the back of the plane,” Ms Geetha says.

Once the plane landed in Delhi, a medical team rushed Suman to a hospital, where he is recovering.

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Image source, P Geetha’s family

Image caption, Ms Geetha was awarded the Florence Nightingale medal in 2020 in a virtual ceremony

Dr Mohammed Asheel, a World Health Organization officer who was on the same plane, told the BBC that he first thought Ms Geeta was Suman’s relative when she and others ran to help him.

“I saw a woman attending to the patient and three other doctors – one an emergency care specialist – who had already rushed to the seat,” he said.

After the flight landed, Dr Asheel spoke to Ms Geetha and was surprised to learn that she had also received the “Best Nurse” award in 2019 from the Kerala government.

“It is such a strange coincidence that she was going to Delhi to be felicitated by the president for receiving the Florence Nightingale award, and then she helped save the life of a patient, mid-air,” Dr Asheel says.

Ms Geetha won the national award in 2020 but the ceremony had to be conducted virtually due to the Covid pandemic. She and other past winners had been invited to Delhi to be honoured by President Droupadi Murmu.

Her award citation refers to her work during the deadly Nipah viral outbreak that hit Kerala in 2018.

She was also involved in disaster management operations during the massive floods in the state in 2018 and 2019 as well as the battle against Covid-19.

Image source, P Geetha’s family

Image caption, In 2019, Ms Geetha (sixth from right) won an award for Kerala’s best nurse

Ms Geetha started her career at the government medical college hospital in the northern district of Kozhikode and later worked across the state.

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She is currently working at a private hospital in Kozhikode after retiring from government service earlier this year.

Tens of thousands of nurses from Kerala work in hospitals outside India, but Ms Geetha says she never regretted not going abroad.

“It was God’s will that I should serve people here.”

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