It is no secret that babies come when and where they’re good and ready. Canadian family medicine resident, Erin Sullivan, recently experienced it first-hand when she helped deliver a baby aboard a KLM Airbus 330.
According to Erin, flight attendants made a page over the intercom of the Calgary-bound flight, asking if there were any medical professionals aboard. Having worked as an emergency and critical care nurse and recently graduated from medical school in Ireland, Erin answered the page.
In one of the airplane’s washrooms, Erin found the reason for the call – an expectant mother, clearly in distress. Though the woman couldn’t speak any English, it quickly become apparent that she was in labor. Erin knew she had to think quickly.
“I politely asked the flight attendants to clear out business class as fast as they could, and got her positioned between the last two rows, because that was the widest area we had,” Erin told CBC News. “Thank goodness for the extra leg room in those sections.”
Erin wasn’t delivering alone – there were a few nurses that had also joined them in the business section – but Erin was the only physician. So she prepped the best she could for the delivery, which was “imminent” with the on-board medical kit – a kit that Erin described as “scanty.”
“You know when they go around with the most towlettes in the beginning? I had a couple packs of those ready in case she started bleeding,” she said. “But other than that, I had nothing.”
Thankfully, despite the lack of supplies (one cord clamp, one pair of scissors, two sets of sutures, and two sets of sterile gloves), mom delivered a healthy baby boy who appeared to be full term. But there was one little problem – with only one cord clamp, they couldn’t cut the baby’s umbilical cord (two clamps are usually used). Thankfully, one of the nurses helping came up with an idea.
“She said, ‘Wait, I know,’ and she grabs her purse and she’s fumbling through it and she pulls out one of those plastic claps you use to reseal potato chip bags with, and I’m like, ‘Perfect!’” Erin, who credits her ability to make do to her time as Northern nurse, said. “Up north, we had to do a lot of MacGyver-ing when we ran out of supplies and things like that.”
With mother and baby both doing well and safe, the plane made an emergency landing in Yellowknife. There, mom and baby were transported to Station Territorial Hospital. Interestingly enough, the rest of the passengers were able to stay aboard the flight and continue to their destination.
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