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In-flight 911: Airlines rely on Arizona business for help

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PHOENIX -

If you have a medical emergency, you call 911, but what do you do if you have a medical emergency onboard a flight?

You can't call 911, but there is one center here in the valley called MedAire that airlines from around the world rely on to get them through some of the most serious and bizarre medical situations.

With 120 airlines as customers worldwide, there is a pretty good probability that the next time you fly, your flight has a direct link to doctors right here in Phoenix -- should someone on your plane have a medical emergency.

These patients are thousands of miles away, thousands of feet above the Earth.

MedAire is based inside Banner Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix.  It provides medical help to cover over 100 airlines from across the globe.

"We get a wide range of calls.. most common is fainting on an aircraft, but we get chest pains, possible heart attacks, strokes, overdoses, migraine headaches," said Dr. David Streitweiser, MedLink medical director.

The personnel have to assess a myriad of complaints and then make the best determination of treatment.

"There is a lot of times that there is no one medically trained on the aircraft and the flight crew are not medically trained except to do CPR, so it can be very difficult to get an accurate assessment and we just have to use our instincts," said Streitweiser.

In just the short time we were at the call center, doctors treated two flight attendants who were burned on their way to London -- and helped one flight over north India make arrangements to divert because of a passenger with heart trouble.

All in a days work for this team who treats patients without ever seeing them.

MedAire says the holiday season is usually their busiest with a lot more people traveling out of town.

Online: www.medaire.com

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