Pak docs save Thane man after mid-air heart attack

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DoctorPaksitani officials allow unprecedented emergency landing and deploy ambulance to airport to take Vasant Bondale (76) to Aga Khan University Hospital, where doctors treat and release him in a fortnight. Amid frequent reports of crossborder firings along the LoC comes an India-Pakistan story to soften the heart of even the most ossified cynic.

The ministry of external affairs yesterday confirmed that on June 24, Vasant Bondale, a resident of Thane, was given life-saving treatment in a Karachi hospital after he suffered a heart attack on board an Istanbul-Mumbai flight. This despite the fact that Vasant, his wife Nalini, and her brother Vijay Phadnis, did not have Pakistani visas.

Nalini told Mirror yesterday, “I was not scared of landing in Pakistan as the priority was to save my husband. It was of course on my mind that we had no visas, but the Pakistani authorities never brought it up. In-fact, their cooperation is something that we don’t have words to express. They treated us like family.” On June 24, Vasant (76) and Nalini (72) were on their way back to India after a 10-day Scandinavian tour when Vasant suffered a heart attack mid-flight.

“It was around 3.30 am (IST). After finishing my dinner I wanted to discuss something with my husband. However, when he didn’t respond to my words I realised something was wrong,” Nalini said. Vasant was first attended to by Dr Sudhir Deodhar, a resident of Kolhapur and a member of the Scandinavian tour group.

After the pilot of Turkish Airlines flight TK 720 made an in-flight announcement asking for doctors to volunteer, the crew realised there was also a cardiologist -Dr Sudhir Bhate – on board. Dr Bhate attended to Vasant, who soon began to respond to the medicines.

Dr Bhate quickly confirmed that Vasant was in the midst of a cardiac arrest and recommended that he be taken to the nearest hospital as soon as possible. The pilots of flight TK 720 swung into action, informing the nearest ATC tower – in Karachi – about the situation. “Karachi ATC told us the pilot was requesting an emergency landing due to a medical emergency.

They confirmed that the request had been granted,” said Junaid Kausar, manager, operations, for Turkish Airlines in Karachi. An ambulance was deployed at Karachi airport, and were in position before the plane touched down. “The medical team rushed Vasant to the Aga Khan University Hospital, one of Pakistan’s best. Vasant was put on a ventilator in the cardiac care unit and a team of doctors were quickly on the job,” Junaid added.

After doctors saved Vasant’s life, one question remained on everyone’s mind – how would Pakistan authorities react to their lack of visas? However, their fears were soon put to rest – not only were they not asked for a visa, but in their own words, were “treated life family”. “One of the officials who even asked his wife to come to the hospital and stay with me just so that I would feel like we were in a safe place,” Nalini said.

In the mean time, while the airline and Pakistani officials got in touch with the Indian government, Vasant’s and Nalini’s relatives in Thane were also informed. Jayant Bondale, Vasant’s son, said, “When I heard about this, I decided to go to Pakistan at once. I was not sure if i would be able to get a visa In such a short time, but believe it or not, I got a visa in a matter of hours. I thank the Pakistani officials and the airline for their support.”

Vasant Bondale was discharged from the hospital on July 11 and returned to India the same day by a Pakistan International Airlines flight. “All I remember is that Pakistani officials were warm and cordial,” Vasant told Mirror. Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for the ministry of external affairs, said, “Our officials in Karachi have expressed their gratitude to Pakistani authorities.”

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