I worked as an emergency doctor in air rescue for more than 20 years. Once the control center sent us to an 80-year-old lady in a nursing home who was suffering from shortness of breath. Many people think that the rescue helicopter is only used in dramatic cases. But if an emergency ambulance is not available quickly, we also go out on “normal” missions.

On site we were taken to the patient’s room. She lay in bed with her upper body elevated and was visibly gasping for air. She wore a thin plastic tube under her nose through which she was given oxygen. The woman was wide awake and completely oriented. The feeling of suffocation frightened her greatly. I quickly got an overview of the medical records. As a result, the woman had been discharged from a clinic three weeks earlier with a weak heart – her findings were such that the doctors had seen no further treatment options. The current shortness of breath could, on the one hand, be the result of pulmonary edema, in which fluid built up in the lung tissue due to her heart failure and hindered breathing. On the other hand, the woman also suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – the doctors no longer saw any treatment options for this either. In this disease, the small airways are permanently narrowed. Those affected find it difficult to breathe out; air can no longer escape from the alveoli.

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