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Critically ill woman flies from US to Chennai city over 26-hour flight for heart surgery

A 67-year-old Indian woman with a critical heart condition who required emergency surgery was airlifted from the United States to India’s southern Chennai city over a 26-hour flight, making it one of the country’s longest aero-medical evacuations in recent years. She arrived in Chennai early Sunday morning and is currently being treated at Apollo Hospital. The plane stopped three times on the way, once in Iceland and twice in Turkey, before landing in the city, according to reports. The lady is from the nearby city of Bengaluru.

The plane ticket cost $133,000. The family used ICATT, a Bengaluru-based air ambulance service with an ICU. It involved two super-midsized private jets, one flying from Portland to Istanbul, Turkey, and the other flying from Istanbul to Chennai, India.

The woman, whose name has not yet been revealed and who is only identified as an Indiranagar resident, recently relocated to Portland, Oregon, with her children. She was being treated for a heart condition there, but when her condition worsened, her family decided to seek treatment in India. ‘ The woman’s family felt the treatment in the US was insufficient for her,’ Dr. Shalini Nalwad, co-founder and director of the air ambulance services firm ICATT, told The Times of India.

Because the woman had recently moved to the United States, she was having difficulty obtaining health insurance because she held an Indian passport. ‘The treatment period there (in the US) was much longer and much more expensive than airlifting her to India,’ Nalwad was quoted as saying. ‘ This was probably the longest-ever aeromedical retrieval in the country,’ she added, ‘with the patient flown all the way from the US to India in two days.’

The most recent aero-medical evacuation reflects the growing importance of air ambulance operations, which are still in their infancy in India. V K Singh, India’s junior civil aviation minister, informed parliament in May that the country has 49 air ambulances operated by 19 operators. In the previous three years, about 4,100 patients have been moved in air ambulances in India.


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