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Baby Delivered Aboard An Air France Flight

Photo from Cleveland Clinic

An expectant mother who suddenly went into labor while on a flight found her baby safely delivered thanks to fellow passengers who turned out to be doctors.

Toyin Ogundipe was on a December 17 flight on Air France when midway through, she started feeling contractions, PEOPLE reports. Two flight attendants were on hand and the crew contemplated making an emergency landing.

But the plane was 35,000 feet over southern Greenland, so going off course to the US military base in the Azores Islands would have taken two hours, and they were already close to the final destination of JFK Airport in New York.

As it turned out, on board were 27-year-old Dr. Sij Hemal, who had flown in from New Delhi with a layover in France, and Dr. Susan Shepherd. Hemal is a a second-year urology resident at Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute, and Shepherd is a pediatrician.

Hemal was getting ready for a glass of champagne when Ogundipe started going into labor. He said,

I was pretty tired from jet lag. I thought I’d just have a drink and fall asleep. As it turned out, I’m glad I didn’t drink anything.

Shepherd, coincidentally, was sitting beside Ogundipe, and the doctors rushed to assist with the impending birth. Hemal said, “Her contractions were about 10 minutes apart. The pediatrician and I began to monitor her vital signs and keep her comfortable.”

Ogundipe was transferred to the first-class section, which was more spacious and had fewer people, while flight attendants took care of Ogundipe’s four-year-old daughter.

The doctors gathered tools and equipment from the plane’s medical kit and monitored Ogundipe’s blood pressure, oxygen rate and pulse. They realized over the next hour that the baby was going to arrive before they landed.

In a statement, Ogundipe said, “I was relaxed because I knew I was in safe hands. They did everything a doctor or midwife would have done if I was in the labor room in the hospital. Even better, if you ask me.”

The mother and her kids were immediately transported to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center once the plane landed.

Air France gave Hemal a travel voucher and a bottle of champagne as a thank you. He said, “So much could have gone wrong, but it didn’t. Being on that particular flight, sitting next to a pediatrician…it’s like it was destiny.”

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