Peanut Allergy Almost Kills Woman Traveling for Life-Saving Treatment

A Philadelphia woman flying to Cleveland for life-saving treatment almost died mid-flight because of a severe reaction to her peanut allergy.

On May 5, Ashley Spencer, 28, was traveling to the Cleveland Clinic to be treated for eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the blood vessels.

Before boarding the American Airlines flight, Spencer said she ate a bag of potato chips that she now believes triggered her allergic reaction. It was only shortly after the plane had left the runway that Spencer passed out.

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

A Philadelphia woman who went in to anaphylactic shock in the middle of an American Airlines flight has survived thanks to treatment from two doctors on board. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Luckily for Spencer, Dr. Erich Kiehl made himself known to the flight crew and he was able to inject her with an Epi-Pen four times. Coincidentally, Kiehl is an electrophysiology fellow at the Cleveland Clinic.

Another doctor from North Carolina was on hand to assist. Spencer said the treatment she received in the air was better than some experiences she has had in hospitals.

"I am beyond thankful. I could have died up there. I would have to say the treatment I got on an aircraft was probably better. When a person goes into anaphylactic shock it has to be taken seriously," Spencer said.

Spencer said her heart was already weak from her condition and that constant attention from Dr. Kiehl kept her alive. "Having Dr. Kiehl on board was so important. He was monitoring the heart completely."

The plane made an emergency landing in Pittsburgh and Spencer was taken to a local hospital.

She still plans to travel to the Cleveland Clinic and said she wants to meet with Dr. Kiehl again. Spencer has purchased both doctors plaques as a thank you present for saving her life.