IIT student uses basic engineering skills to help save man’s life mid-air

He replaced the spring in the doctor’s insulin pen with a spring from the ballpoint pen which helped a doctor passenger to inject insulin into the patient

The Hush Post: Knowledge is like an ocean. You can use it whenever you need it. It can help you, and others in difficult times. An IIT student got an opportunity to use his engineering skills to help a diabetic patient who developed complications mid-air.

In a write-up in the in-house magazine, Karttikeya Mangalam, a final year B Tech student studying electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, recollected the incident. The 21-year-old was flying to New Delhi from Geneva via Moscow in February when he realised a man seated two rows behind him needed medical help.

The passenger, according to the student, suffered from Type 1 diabetes and had forgotten his insulin pump at the security check counter at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. His blood sugar had risen to a dangerous level as it had been over five hours since he had taken his last insulin dose. Though he had the insulin cartridges he needed, he didn’t have the device with which he could inject them. A doctor on the same flight, also a diabetes patient, had insulin as well as a “pen-esque contraption” used to inject the insulin. However, the patient’s insulin cartridges wouldn’t fit in the doctor’s insulin-pen.

The plane was planning to make an emergency landing when Karttikeya went to the patient’s seat and saw the doctor struggling to adjust the man’s insulin cartridge into his pen.

This is when the engineering skills of the student tried to provide a temporary fix.

Using the airplane WiFi, the student found an engineering drawing style diagram of an insulin pen and realised that the doctor’s insulin pen was missing a spring.

”I instructed the air hostess to ask the passengers for ball point pens, which usually have a spring in them,” writes Karttikeya.

”I reassembled the pen and gave it back to the doctor who adjusted the dose, changed the needle and injected the proper dosage of insulin. In about another 15 minutes, his blood sugar levels stopped rising and then started coming down, the doctor reported.”
When the flight finally landed in Delhi, the passenger was taken to Gurgaon’s Medanta hospital.

Karttikeya’s write up titled ‘Even engineers can save lives’ was tweeted by IIT Kanpur’s unverified Twitter handle on May 7.
“I think saving a man’s life is more than what anyone could ever imagine to achieve from the basic engineering knowledge endowed in that year,” the student summed up in his article.



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