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Doctors Save Woman Suffering From Severe Peanut Allergy Mid-Flight

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A woman traveling to Cleveland from Philadelphia had to be saved mid-flight after suffering from anaphylactic shock. The woman was having a severe reaction due to her peanut allergy.

Is There A Doctor On The Plane?

On Saturday, May 5, Ashley Spencer was on her way to the Cleveland Clinic to receive treatment for eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA). It is an extremely rare autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of small and medium-sized blood vessels in people with a history of hypersensitive allergic reactions.

Spencer said that she ate a bag of chips prior to getting on her flight. She believed that it could be the cause of the severe allergic reaction that she suffered. During the flight, Spencer became unconscious and went into anaphylactic shock. Spencer stopped breathing but did have a pulse during the severe reaction.

To save Spencer's life, flight attendants asked the passengers on the airplane if there were any medical professionals on board. An electrophysiology fellow, Dr. Eric Kiehl, from the Cleveland Clinic where Spencer was traveling to, was able to save her life. He injected Spencer four times with an EpiPen to stop the reaction. A doctor from North Carolina also helped Spencer during her anaphylactic shock.

Spencer described her treatment during the flight as better than some treatment she has received at hospitals. She says that her heart was already weakened by EGPA.

Spencer added that she still plans to go to the Cleveland Clinic where she wants to see Dr. Kiehl once more. She gave both of the doctors who helped save her life plaques as a thank you present.

What Is Eosinophilic Granulomatosis With Polyangiitis?

EGPA also known as Churg-Strauss syndrome is a very rare disease, with only 2 to 5 new cases a year per 1 million people, according to the Vasculitis Foundation. It features swelling in certain types of blood cells or in tissues, which then causes injury to organ systems. Organs most affected by EGPA include the lungs, nose, sinuses, skin, joints, nerves, intestinal tract, heart, and kidneys.

People who suffer from EGPA also have asthma or allergies. Spencer suffers from a severe peanut allergy. A majority of people with EPGA also have a higher number of eosinophils, a type of white blood cells that control mechanisms related to asthma and allergies. Typically, eosinophils make up 5 percent or less of all white blood cells in the body, but those with EGPA can reach a count of more than 10 percent. 

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