Dubai: The sky was clear and the flight smooth on Sunday (August 14), when a Cebu Pacific flight from Dubai to Manila faced an emergency after a passenger delivered a baby girl mid-air, forcing it to land in India.
The first-time mother suddenly had contractions on board flight CX-5J015 from the UAE to the Philippine capital, one of the two nurses who attended to the mother told Gulf News.
As the aircraft was cruising at its designated altitude, the incident caused a small commotion, prompting the cabin crew to call for help.
The pre-term baby girl was due in October while the mother, Holiday “Dianne” Teodoro, reportedly had fit-to-travel documents that airlines require for expectant mums.
The diversion caused the normally eight-hour flight to last about 18 hours, according to Missy Berberabe Umandal, of San Lorenzo, Makati, a passenger who was on the home-bound flight after a five-day leisure trip to Dubai.
A nurse’s diary
When the emergency call came from the public address system for a medical practitioner to attend to an expectant mother with a burst water bag on board, Manilene Jumawan, a Filipina nurse, was fast asleep.
The aircraft, an A330-300 carrying 269 passengers, was filled with mixed emotions: excitement over the impending birth at 36,000 feet — and worry over the mother-and-child’s condition.
Jumawan, who earned her nursing degree from the Far Eastern University in 2004, works as a nurse at Al Mafraq Hospital in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.
She flew Sunday with her family from Dubai for a short holiday after snapping up cheaper airfares from the no-frills carrier.
“My husband woke me up when he noticed Dianne, the expectant mother, going through labour pains,” Jumawan told Gulf News.
Dianne, who was travelling with her mum, Yolanda Teodoro, were seated not far from the ER charge nurse.
Then the announcement came: someone needed immediate medical attention.
Without hesitation, Jumawan raised her hand. “There was no other thought running through my mind at that time except that I needed to help her … Upon checking Dianne, she told me she can’t bear the pain anymore. Some liquid discharge was coming from her already.”
Jumawan said Dianne was 32-weeks pregnant. Another Filipina nurse, Jennifer R. Royo, gave Jumawan a helping hand.
They had to make do with what they have: “There were no medical instruments anywhere … we just had to use what was available, which was not much,” said Jumawan.
Initially, the captain, Ralph Louis Prado, who once flew combat planes for the Philippine Air Force, had planned to make an emergency landing in Bangkok as it’s closer to Manila.
Prado, assisted by First Officer Vincent Angelo Obispo, quickly decided against it.
“The moment my purser told me that the baby was out,” Prado told Gulf News in a chat, “I knew the baby was vulnerable because she was premature. My minimal/very little medical knowledge and instinct tell me that I should get the plane down asap, because the baby may have difficulty breathing due to the high cabin altitude … but at the same time, I had to regulate the descent because a rapid descent might rupture the infant’s delicate inner ear.”
Captain Prado added: “Bangkok was still (a) good 2.5 hours from the time I got the info from my purser. Hyderabad (Rajiv Gandhi International) was just 40-45 minutes.”
Meanwhile, the crew kept the passengers informed through the aircraft’s PA.
“I couldn’t figure out whatever else the captain or the cabin crew were announcing, as my focus was on the mother and the baby,” said Jumawan.
“Since the Cebu Pacific flight, I guess, had all-economy seats, the cabin crew moved the mother to an area with a little more space, so we were able to assess Dianne clearly … the floor was lined, first, with plastic sheets, then with blankets. I think it was close to the kitchen. That’s where she delivered the baby… ”
Here’s what Umandal posted on her Facebook page: “Had the most ‘NORMAL’ flight ever with Cebu Pacific Air. A woman near our seat gave birth to a healthy baby girl, on our flight from Dubai back to PH. We had to do an emergency landing in India to ensure the baby’s safety. All flight attendants, pilots, and passengers were very attentive too. Very lucky baby.. since she was born in a Cebu Pac plane, she gets FREE TRAVELS FOR A LIFETIME with the airline. Congratulations to the first-time Mom and Grandma! This is something you don’t get to see everyday. It only happens in movies, and we’re lucky to witness this miracle❤️✈️”
It’s been claimed a baby born mid-flight could fly with the airline for a lifetime.
International aviation rules allow a pregnant passenger to board the plane within 24-32 weeks of pregnancy, but the airline may require a doctor’s certificate stating the condition of the mother and the baby, as well as the husband’s written consent.
Certain airlines require these if the mother is already into her 29th week of gestation.
No comment was immediately available from Cebu Pacific.
It was not immediately clear what the name of the baby would be.
Umandal claims she overheard the mother saying that she would name her first-born “Haven,” but a comment on Umandal’s post suggested another name for the baby: “Cebuana Pacifica.”
In a Facebook post, Capt. Prado thanked the nurses, the cabin crew and the ground crew, adding: “Big thanks to the Rajiv Gandhi Int’l Airport ground team for making things easier and faster during our diversion. Thank you for taking care of the mother and the baby.”