India-born doctor helps woman give birth on Delhi-New York flight


New Delhi: An Indian-born American doctor has helped a mother give birth to a baby boy on board a flight 35,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean en route to the United States from New Delhi.

Dr Sij Hemal was on the Paris to New York segment of his day-long journey on December 17 after attending a friend’s wedding, when he and a pediatrician in the seat next to him answered an urgent call to help a fellow passenger who had gone into labour.

The plane was skirting the southern coast of Greenland as the mother, 41-year-old banker Toyin Ogundipe, called for assistance, the Cleveland Clinic said in a press release.

“Her contractions were at least 10 minutes apart, so the paediatrician (Dr Susan Shepherd) and I began to monitor her vital signs and keep her comfortable. We’re trained to stay calm and think clearly in emergency situations,” explains 27-year-old Dr Hemal, who is a second-year urology resident at Cleveland Clinic in the US.

“With the nearest site for an emergency landing being two hours away at a US military base, the two physicians recommended to the pilot they continue to New York, still four hours away. While air hostesses tended to Toyin’s travelling companion, her 4-year-old daughter, Amy, the two doctors used instruments and supplies in the aircraft’s basic medical kit to routinely check her vital signs, including blood pressure, oxygen rate and pulse,” the press statement said.

Within an hour, Toyin’s contractions accelerated; they occurred seven, then five and finally two minutes apart. “That’s when we knew we were going to deliver on the plane,” Dr Hemal 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 labour room in the hospital. Even better, if you ask me,” the mother said.

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