A BMC Doctor Saved a Woman’s Life on an Airplane

Anil Punjabi kept a woman alive after an apparent drug overdose.

Anil Punjabi

Anil Punjabi/Photo provided by Boston Medical Center

The story sounds like a plot line ripped from Grey’s Anatomy.

On a Friday evening flight from Boston to Minneapolis, Anil Punjabi heard a flight attendant call out for a doctor. The third-year Boston Medical Center cardiology fellow, who had been drifting off to sleep, jolted awake.

“I whipped off my eye mask, undid my seatbelt, and jumped out into the aisle,” Punjabi told Boston.com. “And I actually, I don’t know why, I ran towards the back. I didn’t even know where the person was or where they needed help.”

It’s a good thing he did. A couple rows back, he discovered a woman in the throes of an apparent drug overdose. Her skin was gray, her lips were blue, and when Punjabi, along with an OB/GYN nurse and an EMT trainee also aboard the Spirit Airlines flight, cut open her clothes to begin chest compressions, a syringe fell out of her bra.

The group performed chest compressions and CPR, and administered glucose and an EpiPen. They kept the woman alive until the plane could make an emergency landing in Buffalo, where she was resuscitated with overdose-reversing Narcan.

“I just think it was an unfortunate situation,” Punjabi told Boston.com. “And even though I was able to save one life, I think there’s a lot more work that needs to be done. I think this is bigger than a person almost dying on a plane. I think it should open people’s eyes that this is a bigger problem.”