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Irish woman (25) spends three weeks in intensive care after long-haul flight to Australia

By Cian Murray

Published 19/10/2016

Lisa Talty: My lungs failed to cope with the massive influx of CO2 they were taking in and I got hypoxia. Essentially I was poisoned with CO2
Lisa Talty: My lungs failed to cope with the massive influx of CO2 they were taking in and I got hypoxia. Essentially I was poisoned with CO2

An Irish woman spent three weeks in intensive care after her lungs shut down following a long-haul flight.

Lisa Talty, 25, from Miltown Malbay in Co. Clare, ended up in intensive care in Sydney after travelling to Australia with her boyfriend earlier this year.

Ms. Talty, who has Cystic Fibrosis, started experiencing respiratory failure after her flight landed in Sydney.

She claims this was due to being stuck on the plane for "over two hours" before take-off.

"I travelled here with my partner, Noel, on July 20, and by the morning of the July 23 I was in the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital here in Sydney on maximum life support," she told

"While I do have Cystic Fibrosis, I was cleared by my medical team in Limerick to travel here and I passed all medical tests. I was as healthy as possible before I travelled here, yet when on arrival in Sydney I was beginning to go into complete respiratory failure.

"[The cause of] this has since been linked to the flight my partner and I took from Abu Dhabi to Sydney. The flight was delayed and remained at the gate, with the doors closed and the engine not running for over two hours.

"My lungs failed to cope with the massive influx of CO2 they were taking in and I got hypoxia. Essentially I was poisoned with CO2. The difference in my health from the time I boarded that flight to the time I disembarked was huge."

Ms. Talty has no memory of the immediate aftermath.

"I have no memory of almost two weeks. I have been told that I spent those next two weeks on maximum life support in an induced coma.

"It took over 13 hours to stabilise me, during which time my partner Noel was told to inform my parents at home in Ireland of the seriousness of the situation.

"A doctor then rang my parents to tell them they should get the next flight as things were looking extremely poor," she said.

Thankfully, she was able to pull through and began an unlikely road to recovery.

"I spent five weeks in the hospital, three of which were in ICU where I beat all odds, managing to be the first person in that hospital to get off the ventilator and the ECMO machine in the way that I did.

"It went from talk of death, to talk of an acute lung transplant, to being taken off the ventilator to slowly coming off the ECMO machine, all miracles in the eyes of the doctors.

"Five weeks to the day I landed in Sydney, I was able to leave the hospital. I still have far to go.. It is a miracle to say the least. [It's a long way since] Carmel and Gerard, were told to fly out immediately and the doctors would try and keep me until they arrived but they couldn't promise it would work."

The Clare woman added that the event affected her family greatly and she now has to stay in Australia until further notice.

"I am still receiving follow up care that is essential. I am medically and legally unable to fly which means I have to stay in Sydney indefinitely."

Despite this, Lisa is appreciative the incident occurred in Australia and not Ireland.

"If it happened on the return leg of the journey, I would be dead. We just don't have the same facilities as readily available in Ireland, such as VV-ECMO machines for lungs. The amazing support from my family, and of course Noel, is another one of the reasons I am still here today."

She added that the care provided from the Irish Support Agency in Sydney was not what she had hoped for.

"My brother-in-law's wife got in contact with the Irish Support Agency. To say the help that was offered was unimpressive is an understatement. They did offer my parents accommodation however this was hostel accommodation over twenty minutes from the hospital which my mother explained was unsuitable for several reasons.

"My parents sorted out alternative accommodation themselves only five minutes walk to the hospital, however the cost of this accommodation was huge. The consulate did offer to pay for five nights of this, however once it became clear that I had travel insurance, they asked my parents if they could claim the cost back through this.

"I think given this was completely inappropriate at that time. This was asked while I was still in a critical condition. They offered next to no support from then on, leaving my parents and partner stranded in a foreign country with next to no support. I think this is disgraceful."

Etihad Airlines, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish Support Agency have been contacted for comment.

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