Hi my name is Ashley Spencer and I am now 30 years old, but my near death experience from anaphylaxis to one of my food allergies happened two years ago when I was flying from Philadelphia to Cleveland. May 5th, 2018 was a nightmare that made national news and brought media attention to food allergies and the need for better safety on airplanes.
The flight began like every other flight I have taken. I brought my own food on the plane due to all my food allergies which are peanuts, tree nuts, and I am gluten intolerant. I brought my own food because I wanted to prevent any in-flight emergencies from happening.
So, I start eating these gluten-free kettle cooked chips which did not disclose that they were cooked in peanut oil, and when we were about 35,000 feet up in the air, I started to feel like I was getting motion sickness because I was feeling nauseous.
On my way, back to the restroom I noticed something else wasn’t right, I was getting red and getting hives. When I got into the bathroom and started throwing up that is when I noticed my throat was closing and I was like I need to get out of the bathroom so I can get to my Epi- Pens since I always keep two of them in my purse; as well as, my inhaler and Benadryl. So, I frantically opened the bathroom door and I thought I took five steps out of the bathroom, but I opened the door and just passed out because my oxygen levels were already plummeting.
That is when I was asked what did I take in the bathroom and I proceeded to show my medical alert bracelet which showed I had a rare auto immune disease known as eosinophilic granulamotosis with polyangitis and food allergies.That is when the flight attendant ran for my purse and proceeded to ask if there were any medical professionals on board. That is when Dr. Erich Kiehl from the Cleveland Clinic ironically where I was flying for a second opinion for my rare auto immune disease responded and Dr. Blake Cameron from Duke University responded as well.
I then gave myself my first epipen waited about 5 minutes started going in and out of consciousness and then Dr Kiehl administered administered the second epipen. This is when Dr. Kiehl started pleaded with the on-ground doctor to land the plane in Pittsburgh which ultimately would save my life but we still were not out of the woods yet.
I remember them having to open the emergency medical kit and draw up epinephrine which was the concentration for if the patient was experiencing cardiac symptoms. Thankfully Dr. Kiehl was a cardiologist and was able to think quickly on how to switch it to an anaphylactic dose.
Ultimately, my life was saved by two amazing doctors that were able to think quickly to keep me safe and protect my airway while they were trying to emergency land the plane. I am so greatful they were there in the time of need. They truly were my guardian angels and gave me a reason and a purpose. I love being an advocate for the food allergy community and getting to tell my story! I have gotten to meet some amazing people and speak to Senators about the national shortage of epipens and in Congress about equipping auto-injectors on planes. I will not stop fighting for the food allergy community until the stigma changes or a cure is found!
If you would like to get in touch with me, follow me on Instagram @allergy_advocate_ashley.