(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): MAS and the Health Ministry should respond to the adverse report in the New Zealand Herald today on MAS and the economy class syndrome or "deep vein thrombosis", the latest scare among air travellers.
Under the heading, "Flight clot victim allowed no room", the
New Zealand Herald reported today:
"She had heard all about it in the British media before emigrating to New Zealand with her partner in November.
"She swallowed aspirin, drank plenty of water and regularly walked in the plane.
"Despite her care, she was struck by pain in her right knee during the Malaysia Airlines flight to Kuala Lumpur.
"She asked a flight attendant if she could lie down to stretch her legs for half an hour.
"’But she wouldn't let me, and stated the flight was full, despite several seats being available in business class,’ Miss Beattie said yesterday.
"Within days of landing at Auckland on November 25 after their flight from Kuala Lumpur, Miss Beattie had been diagnosed with a blood clot in her leg - deep vein thrombosis.
"It has not moved to her lungs, but in one false alarm she thought it had.
"Middlemore Hospital is treating her as an outpatient.
"She is taking a three-month course of blood-thinning drugs and wears a surgical compression stocking.
"She is well under the danger age-zone and bears none of the characteristics that put people at increased risk of clots, such as a genetic predisposition, pregnancy or obesity.
"And she took precautions by swallowing aspirin before her flight, and drinking plenty of water and walking regularly in the plane.
"’It's scary. This is what I'm angry about.’
"’Airlines are trying to pass on the responsibility to passengers. How can they when they have provided so little information on this?
"’And how does it happen to me when I took the precautions ... There needs to be more research.’
"Malaysia Airlines' New Zealand sales and marketing manager, Richard Fletcher, said last night that he had no information on how Miss Beattie was treated inflight, but people were able to lie down on the company's planes in a medical emergency.
"Passengers were given advice, like minimising alcohol intake and drinking water, he said, but the airline's inflight magazine did not mention blood clots."
MAS, which is already deeply in debts, can do without such an adverse international publicity about its airflight service, particularly indifference on a subject uppermost in the minds of safety-conscious airtravellers after extensive publicity that air passengers may be at a greater risk of suffering a fatal blood clot during or after a flight than previously thought.
A recent study of 100 passengers has revealed that 10% developed clotting as a result of flying. The study used ultrasound scanners to detect the presence of clots in the blood stream. Volunteers, aged 50 and over, were tested before and after their flights.
The report's author, vascular expert and consultant surgeon Dr John Scurr, said he was startled and concerned by his findings.
Scurr said the study was specifically designed to trace blood clots caused by flying. "We studied the patients before they went. It was really only because of the flying that there was a difference" he said. He said it was unlikely that any other activity would have caused the blood clots.
As an immediate measure, MAS should introduce in all long-haul flights an in-flight safety video for all passengers warning them of the potential risks of "deep vein thrombosis" (DVT) and instructing them of the precautionary steps to take, like exercising regularly aboard the plane and providing the necessary air-cabin space.
Even though deep vein thrombosis is often referred to as "Economy Class Syndrome", passengers in first and business class are equally at risk. The risk also applies to other forms of travel, such as coach or bus travel where travellers stay seated for hours at the time.
For this reason, there should be a proper response to the DVT hazard not only by MAS but also by the Health Ministry, to protect the health and safety of Malaysians.