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Baby on board: Nurses jump into action to help deliver baby during flight

Neonatal intensive care nurses Lindsey Kilgore and Eunice Publow pose with Austrian medical resident Lena and the newborn baby girl onboard the plane.

Meet the dream team! Neonatal intensive care nurses Lindsey Kilgore (left) of Kingston Health Sciences Centre and Eunice Publow (center) of The Ottawa Hospital helped Austrian medical resident Lena (right) deliver a baby girl mid-flight.

This wasn’t how Eunice Publow and Lindsey Kilgore expected to end their winter vacation.

The long-time friends had just spent three action-packed weeks in Thailand and Indonesia, exploring waterfalls, attending beach parties and learning how to cook local cuisine. Now, they were on a flight to Dubai, the first leg of their journey home, and wanted nothing more than to get some sleep.

But another adventure would soon come calling.

In the middle of a seven-hour flight, tens of thousands of feet above the Arabian Sea, a fellow passenger went into labour.

Fortunately, Eunice and Lindsey are registered nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Eunice here at The Ottawa Hospital and Lindsey with Kingston Health Sciences Centre.

The dream team unites

“About five hours into the flight, there was an announcement asking for medical professionals to make themselves known,” recalls Eunice. “I had overheard one of the flight crew members say ‘baby,’ so my ears immediately perked up. I went and got Lindsey, who was napping at the time, and we presented ourselves to the crew.”

“There was a resident physician from Austria named Lena who was training in obstetrics, and she came forward, too,” recalls Lindsey. “The three of us formed a little team to work together.”

“The flight crew had gotten the mother situated in front of an emergency exit, behind a curtain, and she was progressing very, very quickly,” says Eunice. “Lena went in with a flight attendant and helped the mother give birth.”

A little improvisation

“When the baby was born, we didn’t hear any crying,” recalls Lindsey. “We attend a lot of deliveries, but normally we have all our equipment and our people, so we really had to improvise. The baby did need a bit of oxygen, but fortunately, there’s no shortage of oxygen masks on a plane! Eventually, she started to cry.”

“We had to keep her warm, so the crew grabbed some warm blankets,” says Eunice. “And when she was an hour old, we used a glucometer to test her blood sugar, which was slightly on the low side, so Lindsey helped the mother breastfeed. After that point, things were pretty stabilized with the baby. The captain came out of the cockpit and asked Lindsey and I if we felt the need to divert the plane, but we determined we could make it the rest of the way.”

“For me, this experience really re-iterated the role of a nurse — it highlighted that this is more than just a job,” says Lindsey. “This is something that spills over into everyday life and not something you can get away from. Being willing to help is definitely a part of who you are. And even though it was a stressful situation, it really showed how a group of strangers can really come together to work as a team and create a good outcome for someone in need.”


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