Woman, 44, Dies on Plane With 2 Empty Oxygen Tanks

The New York Times

A passenger returning home to New York from Haiti collapsed and died aboard an American Airlines flight after a flight attendant first told her that he could not give her any oxygen, and then brought her an oxygen tank that was empty, a relative said on Sunday.

American Airlines confirmed the flight death and said medical professionals had tried to save the passenger, Carine Desir, 44, of Brooklyn.

Ms. Desir, who had heart disease, died of natural causes, a spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner’s office, Ellen S. Borakove, said on Sunday.

Ms. Desir complained of illness and extreme thirst on the flight from Port-au-Prince on Friday after she had eaten a meal, according to Antonio Oliver, a cousin who was traveling with her and her brother Joel Desir. A flight attendant gave her water, Mr. Oliver said.

A few minutes later, Ms. Desir said she was having trouble breathing and asked for oxygen, but a flight attendant twice refused her request, Mr. Oliver said in a telephone interview.

After the flight attendant refused to administer oxygen to Ms. Desir, she became distressed, pleading, “Don’t let me die,” Mr. Oliver recalled.

He said other passengers aboard Flight 896 became agitated over the situation, and the flight attendant, apparently after phone consultation with the cockpit, tried to administer oxygen from a portable tank and mask, but the tank was empty.

Mr. Oliver said two doctors and two nurses who were aboard tried to administer oxygen from a second tank, which was also empty.

Sonja Whitemon, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, would not comment on Mr. Oliver’s claims of faulty medical equipment aboard the plane.

Ms. Desir was placed on the floor and a nurse tried to resuscitate her, but to no avail, Mr. Oliver said. “I cannot believe what is happening on the plane,” he said, sobbing. “She cannot get up, and nothing on the plane works.”

Mr. Oliver said he then asked for the plane to land right away, and the pilot agreed to land in Miami, 45 minutes away. But before the plane could land, Ms. Desir collapsed and died, he said.

“Her last words were, ‘I cannot breathe,’ ” he said.

Ms. Desir was pronounced dead by one of the doctors, Joel Shulkin, and the flight continued on to John F. Kennedy International Airport. Her body was moved to the floor of the first-class section and covered with a blanket, Mr. Oliver said.

Computer Model of Nurse Activity

MEMPHIS, TN – Researchers at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and the University of Memphis Center for Healthcare Technology have taken a lead from the military on an innovative way to explore how to boost nurse capacity and the bottom line.

The research, called “data farming,” uses computer simulation to analyze thousands of nurse workflow scenarios in hopes of finding ways to increase a nurse’s capacity to be at the bedside.

ata farming was originally used by the Marine Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, Va. , to improve understanding of modern combat situations, said W.Joseph Ketcherside, MD, senior vice president and chief medical informatics officer at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

Ketcherside said the healthcare organization’s data farming project, which has only just started, is relatively new for healthcare and will look at all the variable options of what a nurse does in a day to determine ways to get the best care with the least amount of resources.

By doing a sample workflow with simulated patients, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare can analyze treatment of 5,000 imaginary patients overnight and can manipulate it in all sorts of ways, rather than building it in the real world, which would take months, Ketcherside said.

Paul Cornell, director of the Center for Healthcare and Technology at the University of Memphis, said data farming should not be confused with data mining, which uses existing de-identified patient data to study marketing patterns. Rather, data farming “grows” data by running thousands of simulations on imaginary patients and imaginary scenarios to find out previously unknown options for providing care.

The center also is using data farming to look at ways to improve the physical environment to aid nurses, Cornell said. For example, if patients are grouped together and nurses have less walking to do, it can analyze how much such step-saving will affect the quality of care.

Preliminary results of data farming models have shown it may be possible to make changes that can result in shorter hospital stays, resulting in a positive effect on the bottom line, Cornell said. In addition, if changes can be made to improve a nurse’s capacity, the hospital may be able to improve retention of nursing staff and could possibly reduce nurse-to-patient ratios.

“People can make intuitive arguments that if we give them more tools they will do better, but those cost money,” Cornell said. Data farming gives hospital executives additional information for making decisions about purchasing healthcare IT and making physical changes to the hospital.

Ketcherside said the hospital and the University of Memphis Center for Healthcare Technology will publish a report on what they discover through data farming, and it plans to hold workshops for interested parties on how to do data farming.

Diana Manos, Senior Editor


Insulin-secreting cells produced by stem cells

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Results of recent experiments provide "definitive evidence" that human embryonic stem cells can be used to generate cells that secrete insulin in response to glucose, like the beta-cells in the pancreas.

"Development of a cell therapy for diabetes would be greatly aided by a renewable supply of human beta-cells," Dr. Emmanuel E. Baetge and colleagues, from Novocell Inc. in San Diego, comment in the research journal Nature Biotechnology.

In the study, the researchers show that pancreatic tissue, derived from human embryonic stems cells, can generate cells that are "morphologically and functionally similar" to beta-cells after being implanted into mice.

In addition, the team goes on to show that implantation of the stem cell-derived tissue stops glucose levels rising excessively in the animals.

These findings suggest that human embryonic stem cells could, in fact, represent a renewable supply of insulin-producing cells for treating diabetes, the researchers conclude.

SOURCE: Nature Biotechnology, online February 20, 2008.