LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A Little Rock doctor helped save an overdosing passenger on a flight that resulted in change for a major airline.

It all started on a flight in 2020 to Miami for Dr. Jill Flaxman, who is based out of Little Rock at Natural State Pain and Wellness.

“I knew something very bad was going on, but I didn’t know what,” Dr. Flaxman said.

She and her husband were going on a vacation when she found out a passenger was overdosing.

Dr. Flaxman said she realized there was no medical equipment on the plane except an IV kit and a flashlight on her phone.

“We had nothing to attempt to reverse a valium or opioids,” she said. “We were not even able to check her blood pressure.”

She stabilized the passenger for three hours until the plane landed. The passenger is okay now, and she confirmed to Dr. Flaxman she had taken opioids prior to the flight.

Still, Dr. Flaxman and her husband noticed the need for Narcan on flights to reverse potential overdoses in passengers.

So, Dr. Flaxman’s husband wrote an email to Delta Airlines.

“He said, ‘You know, it’d really be best if y’all had Narcan on board,’” she said.

A spokesperson responded to the email, thanking Dr. Flaxman for her assistance, and informing the couple the airlines would begin keeping Narcan on flights in the future to save lives.

I reached out to Delta Airlines for comment on adding more medical equipment to flights, including Narcan.

A medical emergency in flight can be an intense experience for everyone involved. That’s why Delta’s Wellbeing team is making it easier for our flight attendants, onboard medical volunteers, and partners at STAT MD to quickly assess a situation and determine next steps. Part of that effort includes adding medical-grade diagnostic tools to our onboard medical kits this summer, including automated blood pressure cuffs, medical-grade stethoscopes and pulse oximeters. This is just the start, because as medical technologies advance, we can, too.”  

Dr. Flaxman said in her clinic, she tries to find other routes for pain than prescribing opioids. But when she does, she is quick to encourage patients to also get a Narcan prescription for the worst-case scenarios.

“You might not need it, but what if someone gets your pills, and you find them and all you need to do is squirt some Narcan into their nose?” she asked. “It would save their life.”