A SCOTS woman was given life-saving surgery 30,000 ft in the air by

two doctors using a coathanger sterilised in brandy, sticky tape, and a

plastic bottle of mineral water.

Drama struck as Mrs Pauline Dixon, 39, from Torry, Aberdeen, suffered

a collapsed lung minutes into her flight from Hong Kong. As she

desperately struggled for breath, it became apparent the aircraft did

not have the medical equipment needed to carry out surgery.

Improvising with everyday items provided by the cabin crew,

Nottingham-based surgeon Professor Angus Wallace and Dr Tom Wong, a

senior houseman from Brechin, operated to provide a chest drain to

alleviate her condition.

They carried out the emergency surgery on Mrs Dixon in her seat in row

53, towards the back of the aircraft, after first screening off the area

from other passengers with blankets.

Passengers were asked to extinguish cigarettes as the pair cut a hole

in her chest using a scalpel and scissors from the plane's medical kit.

The doctors used a knife and fork to hold open the incision. Then they

tried to set up a drain using a urinary catheter -- but it was too


Professor Wallace, an orthopaedic surgeon, found a coathanger,

sterilised it with brandy and inserted it into the tube to stiffen it.

To complete the operation, a bottle of mineral water was used as a seal

to stop air escaping. Minutes later, the lung pumped up and Mrs Dixon

was breathing normally.

Professor Wallace said: ''She was fully conscious thoughout but we

managed to find some drugs to double up as anaesthetics.

''I was sweating a bit to say the least and the first thing I did when

the job was done was drink the brandy. If she had known how much I was

worried she would probably have panicked more. It's the most unusual

operation I've ever taken part in.''

''The nearest airport was Delhi which was one hour away. I was not all

that keen on landing as I don't think she would have made it.''

Mrs Dixon said the operation was: ''The most frightening moment of my

life. The prof and the doctor said I would have to have an operation in

my seat or I would die. It was not a case of signing consent forms or

anything. I just told them 'do what you have to do'.''

She added: ''I'm eternally grateful to them both. Those two heroes

saved my life. They really excelled themselves considering the equipment

they had.''

Last night, Mrs Dixon, who had been returning from a 10-day break in

Hong King where she was visiting her sister, was recovering at Ashford

Hospital in West London where she was taken as soon as the aircraft


The mid-air emergency was caused by a motor-cycle crash in which she

had been involved on the way to the airport. She had walked away from

the accident and thought she was uninjured.

Last night, a British Airways spokesman praised the fast action of the

two doctors.

The drama began when Mrs Dixon complained of pains in her arm while

the Boeing 747, with more than 300 passengers aboard, was taxiing to

take off.

The cabin crew called for a doctor and the two medics came forward,

putting Mrs Dixon's arm in a splint.

But just 20 minutes later, with the plane already in the air and

beginning a 14-hour flight, she complained of chest pains. The pair

diagnosed that she had fractured ''between two and four ribs'' and that

her lung had collapsed. They then decided they would have to operate.