Kismet: American Passenger Flying to Clinic Has Inflight Emergency, Life Saved By Clinic’s Doctor

Ashley Spencer was flying American Airlines from Philadelphia to Cleveland over the weekend where she would receive treatment at the Cleveland Clinic. But she went into anaphylactic shock on the flight.

She was on her way to a clinical trial for eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis which is an autoimmune disease which inflames blood vessels.

Spencer reports she stopped breathing, she “still had a pulse. That’s when the stewardess said, ‘Is there any medical professionals on the aircraft? It’s an emergency.'”

One of the passengers onboard happened to be a doctor at that clinic. He and another doctor from North Carolina responded. She received four epipen injections. The aircraft diverted to Pittsburgh.

The passenger reports that “she has a severe peanut allergy” though she thought her reaction was to “a bag of chips she ate before the plane took off.”

A year ago I wrote about the doctor who winds up helping with a medical emergency every time he flies American. He’s got the thank you travel vouchers to prove it, too.

The first female flight attendant was Ellen Church, hired at United in 1930. She was a registered nurse, and for half a dozen years this became a requirement — something that lasted at US airlines in some part until World War II. Aircraft weren’t the same smooth rides back then that they are (most of the time) today. Now we have to luck into a doctor on board.

Lufthansa has a formal ‘Doctor on Board’ program where doctors sign up and receive 5000 miles, pre-identify themselves, and arrange liability waiver in advance. Pre-registration is one way to solve Delta’s doctor problem. Lufthansa reports about 3000 onboard medical emergencies each year and over 50 diversions.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “Is there any medical professionals on the aircraft?” Now that the passenger is safe, the flight attendant should take a moment to learn some grammar.

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