Nurse tells of dramatic mile-high birth on Kuwait Airways flight to Manila

Airline praises professional conduct of its staff

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Strangers worked together to help a passenger give birth on a Kuwait Airways flight to Manila on Tuesday.

The Filipina woman went into labour prematurely shortly into the nine-hour flight from Kuwait City, a nurse who helped with the delivery told The National.

Sheryl Pascua, her husband Ruel and another nurse sprang into action when the cabin crew called for assistance from any medical professionals aboard Flight KU417.

“When I attempted to conduct an internal examination, I was surprised and thrilled that the mother was already at the crowning stage,” Ms Pascua said. “I shouted for my husband to help, then the process became simultaneous. With a few moments to coach and to prepare her, the baby came out.”

The baby was delivered as the plane flew over Iraq, and kept warm with a blanket and a hot water bag until the flight landed in Manila.

Mr Pascua and the other nurse, Carlos Abungan, cut the cord and attended to the infant, as his wife and cabin crew looked after the mother.

Ms Pascua, who works in the UK, said her experience as a clinical instructor specialising in maternal and newborn care came in handy.

“The support and shared knowledge between us three nurses made the situation and pressure lighter,” she said.

“Of course, we don’t discount the help, alertness and assistance of the cabin crew, especially their off-duty onboard nurse crew [member] Justine, who stood by me throughout the entire monitoring, also other crews and passenger who extended help by giving their blankets.

“It was indeed a picture of one team working together.”

Kuwait Airways commended its staff for their “professional” handling of the situation. It said regular training meant they were “always ready to face any sudden and emergency situations”.

Photos on social media purporting to be from the flight show two Kuwait Airways cabin crew holding a tiny baby and smiling widely. Photos shared by Ms Pascua show the team that brought the infant into the world.

The story may have brought some of its protagonists together for life. Ms Pascua is still in touch with the mother, Mr Abungan and Justine.

It is not uncommon for babies to be born on flights. In 2019, a Middle East Airlines plane to Lebanon gained an extra passenger at 38,000 feet. The child was delivered by the crew after the mother went into labour in the bathroom.

Updated: August 05, 2022, 12:24 PM