“Our client had a heart attack,” explained the dispatcher from Universal Assistance last week. “He wants to go home to Portugal, but the specialist says he must have a doctor. We have hired a medical flight, and we want to know if you can go to New York. You come back the same day.”
Experts advise waiting a week or two after being discharged for a heart attack, but no one knows the risks of flying earlier because almost no one does. An expert who suggests that a physician go along is covering his ass, not delivering advice based on evidence.
Still, the insurer had agreed, no minor matter when an air ambulance coast to coast costs about $40,000. I had no idea what I would earn; nor did the dispatcher, but it would be breathtaking. Hiring a doctor for a day to testify in a malpractice trial runs to $7000.
I still remember with pleasure the single occasion I flew first class. Flying in a private jet while earning the price of a European vacation might leave an even better memory.
But would the patient require my skills? It was unlikely, but, not being young and stupid, I could not dismiss the possibility. Like most doctors, I can perform basic CPR, but I and most doctors have long since forgotten advanced CPR: complex drugs and techniques required for various cardiac malfunctions. Emergency room doctors, paramedics, and ICU nurses deal with these routinely.
Wistfully, I informed the dispatcher that those were the appropriate escorts.