Paula Dixon had boarded flight BA032 despite suffering injuries after crashing her motorbike en route to the airport. As the plane left the runway Wallace and another doctor were summoned to Dixon's aid after she complained of chest pain, which was diagnosed as potentially fatal tension pneumothorax.
A broken rib had punctured the membrane surrounding the lungs that keeps the chest cavity airtight. Wallace decided to operate despite being without his basic medical equipment. He used part of the coathanger, sterilised in brandy, to insert tubing into her chest to release air. Dixon completed a full recovery within minutes of the makeshift operation at 35,000ft.
"I told her I was terribly sorry but I was going to have to operate," he said. "We sterilised it all with Courvoisier and when the operation was over, I drank the rest. I can tell you, I needed it."