The passenger cabin of an Air India flight to Toronto turned into a delivery room on the weekend when a baby was born at 11,000 metres.
The mother and child are safe and sound and on the ground now — “so happy,” according to the family — but there was great concern at the time.
Luckily, Dr. Balvinder Singh Ahuja from Brampton, Ont., was on the same Delhi to Toronto flight as Kuljeet Kaur, her husband Ranjodh Singh Gill and their seven-year-old daughter.
A pediatrician in India before moving to Canada, the doctor was returning home after a visit to India when he heard a call on the plane’s loudspeaker.
“They said, ‘There is a patient who requires immediate medical attention, if there’s any doctor or nurse on board,’” he said.
“So I went back and saw this lady laying on the floor — and her husband was sitting there — and she was quite in pain and these air hostesses said, ‘She’s pregnant and she’s in labour.’”
He said he’s attended hundreds of births, but his real expertise is with children after they’ve been born. In this case, he wasn’t sure how much time he had before the baby would arrive.
He gathered together what he thought he would need. Then he had to improvise.
Scotch was used to sterilize the scissors.
“I needed something to clamp the cord at the maternal site. So for that, one of the air hostesses said she’s got a sewing kit. So we took threads from those needles and used those threads to tie the knot,” he said.
One final improvisation — “the microwave in the kitchen was used to warm a blanket for the baby.”
After about 45 minutes of labour “the baby came out and thank God she cried very well,” the doctor said.
The baby girl is named Aakash Leen Kaur. Aakash means ‘sky’ in Hindi and she weighed in at seven pounds.
After she was born, her mother and little Aakash were given an upgrade to first class and when the plane landed in Toronto about nine hours later, mother and daughter were whisked off to hospital where they are reported to be doing fine.
As for the man who delivered her, he’s not a licensed pediatrician in Canada. Like most foreign-trained doctors he needs to be recertified before being allowed to practice in Ontario.
A few days later the doctor is still excited.
“It was an awesome experience and in my 25-year professional career and in my life of 45 years I’ve never had so much excitement,” he said.
One final question remains unresolved — what will the baby’s nationality be?
Her parents are Indian, she was born in the skies over Kazakhstan and she was heading to Canada.
That conundrum will be sorted out in the days to come.