Dr. Sij Hemal, 27, a second-year urology resident at Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute, helped a 41-year-old Nigerian banker, Toyin Ogundipe, deliver her baby on December, 17, 2017.
Ogundipe, who resides in both the United Kingdom and Nigeria – went into labor about midway into her flight from Paris-to-New York, as the jet skirted the southern coast of Greenland, 35,000 feet below.
An emergency landing would require a two-hour diversion to a U.S. military base in the Azores Islands, so Dr. Hemal – who volunteered to assist Toyin – recommended to the pilot that they continue to JFK International Airport, still four hours away.
“Her contractions were about 10 minutes apart, so a pediatrician (Dr. Stefanie Ortolan, of Senlis, France) and I began to monitor her vital signs and keep her comfortable,” explains Dr. Hemal.
They also suggested Toyin be moved to the roomier first-class section, which had very few passengers. While the flight’s air hostesses tended to Toyin’s traveling companion, her 4-year-old daughter, Amy, the doctors helped her mom deliver her baby boy.
Toyin recalls being rather composed throughout the delivery, thanks to the calm manner of the two doctors and the professional treatment they provided: “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.”
After about 30 minutes of pushing, Toyin gave birth to a boy, whom she named Jake. Upon arrival at JFK, Toyin, Jake and Amy were whisked away by ambulance to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. Toyin was released later that day, and is recovering – with her children – at the home of friends in New Jersey.