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Woman Suffers Allergic Reaction While Flying To Cleveland Clinic, Doctor From Same Hospital Saves Her Midflight

May 08, 2018 06:57 AM EDT
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Ashley Spencer suffered from a life-threatening allergic reaction in the air, but two doctors were able to save her life.
(Photo : Josep Lago | AFP/Getty Images)

Thousands of feet up in the air, Ashley Spencer suffered a dangerous allergy attack. Fortunately, two doctors were onboard to help save her life.

Spencer, 28, was traveling from Philadelphia to Cleveland when the incident took place last Saturday, May 5.

A Terrifying Allergic Reaction

According to News 5 Cleveland, the American Airlines flight only just took off from the ground when she passed out suddenly.

It was apparently an allergic reaction to a bag of chips Spencer consumed before boarding her flight. She has a severe peanut allergy.

"I stopped breathing," Spencer recalls to the news publication. "I still had a pulse. That's when the stewardess said, 'Is there any medical professionals on the aircraft? It's an emergency.'"

Two doctors rushed to her side to offer their aid, Dr. Erich Kiehl, an electrophysiology fellow from the Cleveland Clinic, and a nephrologist from Duke University, according to New York Daily News.

They used an Epi-Pen on her four times and then observed her vitals throughout the flight.

Spencer's allergies aren't her only problem, though, as she has a rare autoimmune disease called Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA), a disease that she says has weakened her heart.

In and out of chemotherapy the past several years, she's actually traveling to Cleveland during the incident to meet with doctors who could potentially shed more light on her EGPA. Spencer is set to visit Cleveland Clinic, the same clinic Kiehl is part of.

Due to her disease, she adds, it's fortunate that Kiehl was on the plane to monitor her heart.

The airplane had an emergency landing at Pittsburgh, where Spencer was shuttled to a hospital.

Top-Notch Treatment From Her Heroes

With her allergies and condition, it's not the first time Spencer has gone into anaphylactic shock. However, she praises the doctors on the plane who went above and beyond the call of duty.

"I am beyond thankful," Spencer says. "I could have died up there."

In gratitude, she bought plaques for the two doctors who helped her survive the attack.

For his part, Kiehl is keeping a low-profile after saving Spencer's life.

"Dr. Kiehl ... says he was just using his medical training and doing his job," Andrea Pacetti, spokeswoman for Cleveland Clinic, says in a statement on Daily News. "And that this was really a team effort among him, the other physician, the flight attendants, the pilot and the other passengers on board."

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