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Cape Town - A long-haul flight to New York welcomed an unexpected passenger onboard after a 17-year-old mother gave birth to a son.
The SA Airways (SAA) flight was just four hours into its journey from Joburg to the US, about 38 000 feet above West Africa, when Angolan national Fatawmatt Kaba went into labour. SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said crew members called for any doctors onboard to assist when they realised what was happening.
According to the New York Daily News, paediatric anaesthesiologist Julie Williamson had just finished taking part in a week-long medical conference in South Africa and was on her way home on the SAA flight.
Williamson admitted to the website that she had not delivered a baby since she was in medical school 15 years ago, but together with another doctor and a nurse who were also aboard, the Californian doctor was able to assist the pregnant passenger.
“It was exhilarating,” Williamson, 41, told the New York Daily News.
“While there was lot of discussion whether to divert the flight, the mother made the decision for us by saying ‘push!’… When we checked, the baby was crowning, and she delivered him in two pushes.”
“You could see his little umbilical cord still attached,” passenger Jamahl Winters told the US website. “It’s amazing. I didn’t think stuff like that really happened in real life. I thought it was something that happened or TV and in the movies.”
Tlali said after the midair delivery, the doctors determined that both the mother and the baby were stable and healthy.
The flight continued through the night to JFK Airport in New York, where the pair were taken to hospital by a team of paramedics.
Tlali said that while the SAA crew were trained to handle such situations, the airline wanted to point out that the primary responsibility rested with the expectant mother.
He suggested that pregnant women checked with their doctors before flying to avoid any possible risk to themselves and the lives of their unborn babies.