A woman headed to the Cleveland Clinic — hoping to get a new medication for her autoimmune disease — nearly died mid-flight after a bag of chips set off her severe peanut allergy.
But a doctor who works at the hospital happened to be on the same flight, and helped keep Ashley Spencer alive until the plane landed.
The 28-year-old Philadelphia resident started to lose consciousness after the American Airlines flight took off Saturday, when she was eating a bag of chips she bought at the airport.
“I stopped breathing,” Spencer told ABC affiliate WEWS in Cleveland. “I still had a pulse. That’s when the stewardess said, ‘Is there any medical professionals on the aircraft? It's an emergency.’”
Spencer suffers from eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis, or EGPA. The autoimmune disease inflames blood vessels, causes heart problems and worsens the symptoms of an allergic reactions, according to the National Institute of Health.
She’d undergone chemotherapy and other forms of treatment over the last few years.
Her hope was to find a new medicine at Cleveland Clinic, she told the Washington Post. That was nearly derailed when the chips, which she thinks were cooked in peanut oil, sent her into anaphylactic shock.
When the stewardess called for help, Dr. Erich Kiehl and another doctor affiliated with Duke University came running over.
Kiehl, who’s an electrophysiology fellow at the Cleveland Clinic, used several Epi-Pens and oxygen on Spencer, a spokeswoman for the hospital told the Daily News.
The doctors kept checking her vitals until the plane made an emergency landing in Pittsburgh, according to the Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman.
Spencer was brought to a local hospital, WEWS reported, and spent Saturday night in the intensive care unit.
The doctor, who wasn’t immediately available for comment, is trying to keep a low profile after the incident, the Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman said.
“Dr. Kiehl...says he was just using his medical training and doing his job,” spokeswoman Andrea Pacetti said in a statement to The 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.”
Pacetti added the doctor and Spencer plan to meet later this week.
Spencer was able to make her Monday appointment, telling the Washington Post she ordered a plaque to thank Kiehl.
“I’m probably going to cry because he saved my life; you can’t put a price on that,” she told the newspaper. “Words are never going to be able to express my gratitude.”