3 doctors save Covina grandmother on flight back to L.A. from Super Bowl

Local news

Three doctors happened to be on the same flight as 61-year-old Blanca Diaz of Covina when she had a life-threatening medical emergency.

Diaz, a mother and grandmother, says she was struggling to breathe and felt like she was drowning. Coincidentally, three doctors were on board her flight from Miami to Los Angeles, on their way home from attending the Super Bowl. They were a part of a group of health care heroes invited by the NFL.

About four hours from landing, the American Airlines crew called for help over the loudspeaker. Dr. Salima Thobani and Dr. Rahim Govani, who are married, and their friend Dr. Nilesh Vora, jumped into action.

“She’s got oxygen on her mouth and her husband is holding her hand. You can see the desperation,” Govani, who works at Kaiser Permanente in Downey, said.

The doctors say they had limited equipment on board.

“You have no EKGs, no chest X-ray,” said Thobani, who works at Kaiser Permanente South Bay. “So many things are running through your head as to what this could be. But one thing we knew is she needed to get to into a hospital.”

But the doctors agreed it was a matter of life or death.

“I spoke to the pilot and said, ‘Listen, I’ve never had to tell someone to land a plane, but we need to land because if we don’t land, I think she might pass away on this flight,'” Govani said, adding that this was the eighth time he’s responded to an emergency on a flight, but the only time he’s asked to land.

They did everything they could to help her until the pilot landed the plane safely in Houston. Diaz was rushed to a hospital, and turns out, she suffered from lung collapse.

“If you believe in divine intervention, we were meant to be there for a reason,” Thobani said. “We were just the vehicles for her to get where she needed to go so she can still live because her time wasn’t up yet.”

After being hospitalized for several days, Diaz’s family says she is back in L.A. recovering.

“It was such a great moment for me, personally speaking, to be there, to be able to help somebody,” Vora, who works at MemorialCare in Long Beach, said.

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