A local doctor was credited with saving a life this week after he helped a woman who is believed to have overdosed Friday on a Minneapolis-bound Spirit Airlines flight from Boston. Dr. Anil Punjabi, a Boston cardiologist, and a number of other crew and passengers worked to keep the woman alive for 25 minutes as the plane made an emergency landing.
The woman, who was not identified, visited the plane’s lavatory for a lengthy period of time before other passengers alerted crew aboard the flight, Fox-affiliate WFXT reported Monday. When she returned to her seat, she was slumped over and began turning gray before passengers realized the woman wasn’t breathing. That’s when Punjabi was called to help.
Working with Punjabi, the crew and nurse — as well as an EMT trainee — worked to keep the woman breathing by administering CPR for the better part of half an hour before the plane could safely land. While attempting to keep her alive, they allegedly found a needle hidden in the woman’s bra.
“We were down on the ground within 25 minutes, but at that time she was completely unresponsive,” Punjabi told the station.
He added, “It’s not an uncommon sight. Even if you walk around Boston, you know there are certain areas you know that are affected by this more than others. It was actually pretty shocking that this would happen on a plane.”
Pointing to the prevalence of the opioid epidemic, Punjabi said that Narcan — which is used for opioid overdoses — is a necessary tool for airline staff to be able to effectively treat passengers who suffer overdoses aboard flights.
The number of opioid-related overdoses that resulted in death has more than quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC reported in 2015 that an estimated 91 Americans die daily from an opioid overdose, which includes prescriptions opioids and heroin — but that figure could actually be significantly higher.
As International Business Times previously reported, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine published a new study earlier this month revealing opioid- and heroin-related deaths nationwide to be 24 percent and 22 percent higher, respectively, than previously reported.
A representative for Spirit Airlines did not immediately return International Business Times’ request for comment.