For most people, eating a bag potato chips comes as second nature, especially when you need something convenient and quick to eat. Most products these days are clearly marked if they contain things like nuts, but that’s not always the case.
Ashley always took extra special precautions to make sure she never consumed anything that was peanut based. Her rare auto-immune disease meant that she couldn’t eat a bunch of her favorite foods; but that was a small price to pay considering the bigger picture…
Ashley didn’t have long to plan for her trip to a special hospital in Cleveland for treatment. She booked her flight with American Airlines, from Philadelphia to Cleveland, and prepared herself mentally for the journey. Ashley had been having a hard time recently, and she wasn’t relishing the idea of flying across the country, even if her mom was in tow; but it had to be done.
With the flights booked, Ashley was far more excited about returning home than she was about going to Cleveland. She felt lucky to have an appointment with a top specialist in the hospital there, and had been seeking some kind of solution to her rare condition that had eluded her so far…
Hugs and Kisses
Ashley knew she would only be away for a few days but she was anxious. She was flying with her mom but wasn’t the biggest fan of air travel in the first place. She hugged her dad tighter than usual when she said goodbye at the airport, as he wished her a successful trip, assuring her that everything would work out fine.
She didn’t know why, call it a sixth sense or female intuition, but Ashley just didn’t feel right. There she was at the Philadelphia International Airport, hopefully en-route to some medical relief but she just wasn’t enjoying herself. She milled around the shops at the airport, bored and distracted; but then she started to feel a little peckish…
Just a Snack
Ashley barely ate these days. Her condition meant that she wasn’t able to eat certain food items as she would have an allergic reaction if she did. Ashley barely had an appetite, but she had to eat in order to keep as strong as possible. A salad, some fresh salmon or seafood; all would have been a wholesome option for her, but she wasn’t in the mood.
Ashley did have one weakness though and that was for potato chips. She particularly liked the Kettle Chip variety of potato chips and just couldn’t resist when she passed by a kiosk in the airport which was selling them. Having studiously read the ingredients as she always did, confirming there were no nuts involved with the potato chips, Ashely felt a little better as she started munching. “They were delicious,” Ashley said later…
For the next hour or so Ashley’s mood picked up as she filled her tummy with a variety of Kettle-stlye Chips and drank some cold mineral water. She had to stay hydrated at all times due to her condition, and was drinking extra fluids ahead of her flight to make sure she didn’t dehydrate while flying.
The flight was routine and fairly uneventful. Ashley settled into her seat as the plane took off, feeling a little light headed, she just assumed it was from the speed of the plane taking off. People around her were eating and watching movies and everything seemed ok. Then, Ashley took a turn for the worse…
Ashely knew something just wasn’t quite right. She had become more accustomed to the signals her body gave her as a result of her illness and decided it was time to visit the bathroom. Her head was spinning as she trundled down the aisle, holding on to the tops of seats for dear life. Finally she made it to the bathroom.
Ashley felt confused all of a sudden. She was sure there was no nuts in her potato chips, but she also knew that she was in the midst of a serious allergic reaction and was all but going into anaphylactic shock right there and then. Having thrown up in the toilet, Ashely noticed hives appearing on her skin and she was finding it hard to breathe…
Ashely needed the Epi-pen from her purse urgently, but her purse was up in first class with her mom who had no idea what was going on with her daughter. She tried to make her way to first class but she was so disoriented that even thinking straight was becoming a challenge by this point.
Things then went from bad to worse somewhere over the skies of Philadelphia. “I took about five steps and face-planted in the aisle,” Ashely recalled. “I had a pulse, but I stopped breathing for about 45 seconds.” She said. Thankfully, a flight attendant noticed what was going on with Ashley and immediately went to find out if there was a doctor on board…
Fortunately for Ashley there wasn’t just one but two doctors on the flight. Both men rushed down the aisle at lightening speed when they heard that a passenger on the plane wasn’t breathing properly. The amazing coincidence was that one of the doctors was from the very Cleveland Clinic that Ashely was headed to, while the other one was a nephrologist from the Duke University School of Medicine; both highly qualified men.
It wasn’t long before Dr. Erich Kiehl and Dr. Blake Cameron had turned the cabin into a makeshift clinic; an airborne one at that. They immediately got to work on Ashely, as one doctor stuck the Epi-pen into her a total of four times, while the other doctor monitored her vital signs. The men worked like a team, and that was the lucky part for poor Ashley…
Those Potato Chips
It turned out that the potato chips were actually cooked in peanut oil and that’s what gave Ashley the violent reaction she had on the flight. The fact that it didn’t say that those specific chips were cooked in peanut oil is an issue that Ashely will deal with later. For now, she’s just happy to be alive, and that’s down to the doctors on the plane.
Ashley Spencer, 24, has something called Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis; also known as EGPA. It causes inflammation of small and medium-sized blood vessels in people with a history of airway allergic hypersensitivity. It means that Ashley’s life is a challenge daily, and not one that anyone would want to have to face…
Owe Them Life
Luckily for Ashley, Dr Kiehl is a cardiologist, and that fact could well be what saved her life aboard that flight. “It’s beyond scary,” Ashley said. “I owe him my life. The doctors did a phenomenal job.” After they had stabilised Ashley, the plane made an emergency landing in Pittsburgh, where paramedics were waiting for Ashley on the tarmac.
Life and Death
Ashley hasn’t forgotten about those potato chips which almost took her life on the flight. She also hasn’t forgotten the brand which failed to inform that they cook their product in peanut oil, and intends to take action. Talking about the mislabeling issue, Ashley said, “We have a problem in Congress and they are not taking this seriously. If it’s going to take somebody to die – whether an adult or child – before they take action, that’s ridiculous. I almost died on that plane.”
Life On Hold
The rare condition that Ashely suffers from has severely affected her life. With round after round of chemotherapy and steroids, Ashley found it impossible to keep her job as a physical therapist at St Mary’s Rehab in Langhorne. “It all got put on hold,” she said.
Having left the hospital after the flight from hell Ashley was in remarkably good spirits. This woman has been through more in a year than most people could handle in their lifetimes, and thanks to the constant support of her loving family, Ashley has remained resilient and even defiant in her fight against her condition. It is hoped by all that Ashley Spencer goes from strength to strength and makes a full recovery.