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How an IIT-Kanpur student helped save a co-passenger’s life in a flight

A student of IIT Kanpur, with his determination, quick-thinking and smart usage of basic engineering skills has recently helped save a life, some 30,000 feet above the earth. Karttikeya Mangalam, who is a senior undergraduate student of Electrical Engineering in IIT Kanpur, was on his way back to Delhi after finishing a semester in EPFL (Where he was an exchange student), Switzerland when the incident happened.

Karttikeya has narrated his story and it has been shared by his institution that must be very proud of their student’s performance.

As per Karttikeya’s narration, he was on a flight from Geneva to Delhi via Moscow in February 2018, when he noticed a commotion inside the plane and flight attendants asking if there is a doctor among the passengers. Luckily there was, and Karttikeya learned that a passenger from Amsterdam named Thomas is in a state of emergency as he was a patient of Type 1 Diabetes and he had forgotten his insulin injecting device in the security check area in Moscow airport. The device was specially set for his insulin requirement and he had not received his dosage in more than 5 hours. Karttikeya was informed that the blood sugar levels of Thomas were way beyond normal. Due to his severe diabetic condition, Thomas was on the verge of passing out. Karttikeya has further narrated that the doctor was a diabetic too and he had his insulin medication with him.

The dosage and chemical composition of the doctor’s insulin was apparently different from what Thomas needed. Thomas apparently did have some spare insulin cartridges with him but they were not of the required size to fit into the doctor’s injecting device. But upon considering the emergency and Thomas’ condition the doctor and Thomas agreed to administer Thomas with the insulin the doctor had with him. Karttikeya further narrates that the attempt was not successful and after sometime Thomas was found passed out with foam coming from his mouth.

The difficulty of the situation made the flight crew decide that they needed an emergency landing at an airport near the Kazakhstan-Afganistan border and the plane was still an hour and a half away from landing even though it has already started its descent. Karttikeya further narrates that he was informed by the doctor that Thomas might be at serious risk of life due to his condition. Karttikeya was further informed that the doctor had tried injecting Thomas with his own insulin by trying to adjust the cartridge holding tube’s diameter but the injection pen was not working.

Upon hearing this, Karttikeya, who was himself nervous at the situation managed to keep a cool head and went ahead to examine the pen. He then requested the air hostess to give him access to the premium wi-fi connection accessible only to business class passengers. Once online, Karttikeya checked the manual of the injecting device from the manufacturer’s website. Being an Engineering student, he was able to decipher the Engineering drawings and parts of the pen device shown in the manual. Karttikeya then went ahead to disassemble the device and cross-check the parts. Upon examination, Karttikeya discovered that a spring was missing from the pen due to which the cartridge was not being pushed. Unable to find the spring after searching near the seats, Karttikeya decided to improvise and requested the co-passengers for any ballpoint pens they were carrying. Displaying his engineering skills and some Indian ‘Jugaad’, Karttikeya managed to fit one spring perfectly in the pen. Within minutes, the pen was ready and working.

The doctor was able to inject Thomas with the correct dosage of the specific insulin he was prescribed and soon Thomas’ blood sugar levels started coming back to normal and he regained consciousness. Karttikeya was allocated a seat next to Thomas in the business class and upon arrival in Delhi, he even assisted him to a hospital for a check-up and buying a new insulin pump. As a gesture of gratitude, Karttikeya received Thomas’ invitation to visit his restaurant in Amsterdam and have as much food and beer he wants anytime, without charge.

Karttikeya has acknowledged the importance of basic engineering skills taught in freshman years and has thanked his institution for making him capable to save a man’s life in an emergency. Karttikeya’s story is an inspiration for everyone.

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