HONOLULU (AP) — A doctor and a team of neonatal medical professionals were in the right place at the right time — helping a Utah woman deliver her baby onboard an hourslong flight to Hawaii.
Lavinia "Lavi" Mounga of Orem was traveling from Salt Lake City to Hawaii on April 28 for a family vacation when she gave birth to her son, Raymond, at just 29 weeks gestation.
"It was a shock to myself and everybody on the plane," said Mounga during a zoom interview with KSL-TV from the hospital in Honolulu.
Mounga said she had no idea she was even pregnant.
"The weirdest pain. I've never felt that pain," she said.
Dr. Dale Glenn, a Hawaii Pacific Health family medicine physician, along with Lani Bamfield, Amanda Beeding and Mimi Ho — neonatal intensive care unit nurses from North Kansas City Hospital — were also on board.
"About halfway through the flight, there was an emergency call, and I've experienced this before and usually they're pretty clear asking if there is a doctor on board," Glenn said in a Hawaii Pacific Health press release. "This call was not like this and it was fairly urgent."
Mounga said she went to the bathroom and passed out, only to wake up to see a baby in her arms.
"Felt the pressure, and the next moment, I open my eyes and I look down and I really don't know what I saw, but I put my hand down and I picked it up and it was a baby," she said.
"I don't know how a patient gets so lucky as to have three neonatal intensive care nurses onboard the same flight when she is in emergency labor, but that was the situation we were in," Glenn added.
Bamfield said she heard someone call out for medical help and saw how little the baby was.
All three nurses and the doctor sprung into action. With no special equipment for the preemie, the group got creative: they used shoelaces to cut and tie the umbilical cord and used a smartwatch to measure the baby's heart rate.
"We're all trying to work in a very small, confined space in an airplane, which is pretty challenging. But the teamwork was great," Glenn said.
"I didn't have to do it alone and I had so much support and everyone was just so willing to offer up everything that they had," said Mounga with emotion. "So much kindness in the world still, even with all the craziness that's going on."
Felt the pressure, and the next moment, I open my eyes and I look down and I really don't know what I saw, but I put my hand down and I picked it up and it was a baby.
–Lavinia “Lavi” Mounga
The delivery was also the subject of a viral TikTok, which racked up more than 11 million views as of Sunday night. The video shared by Julia Hansen shows the announcement of the birth on the flight, with the plane landing three hours later.
Hansen and a friend she was flying with, Siearra Rowlan, told The Washington Post the situation initially caused a commotion, but other passengers were pretty "casual" about it by the end of the flight.
"Everyone just kind of got up, got their carry-on and left," Hansen said of the scene after Mounga and her son were escorted off first.
Newborn Raymond Mounga has some new aunties and an uncle in Hawaii Pacific Health Dr. Dale Glenn and North Kansas City Hospital NICU Nurses Lani Bamfield, Amanda Beeding and Mimi Ho who helped with his unexpected delivery on a recent flight to Hawaii. https://t.co/CdGVOTXdpupic.twitter.com/hh6VNRpbDl— HawaiiPacificHealth (@hawaiipachealth) May 3, 2021
Medical crews were waiting at the airport in Honolulu to help get the mom and baby to Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children.
"I am just happy he is here and is doing well and feeling lucky and blessed," said Mounga.
The three nurses from the flight were able to visit Mounga and the baby on Friday and said it was an emotional reunion.
"We all just teared up. She called us family and said we're all his aunties, and it was so great to see them," Ho said.
Mounga has since been discharged, but baby Raymond will remain in the NICU until he's ready to go home.
"It has been very overwhelming," Mounga said. "I'm just so lucky that there were three NICU nurses and a doctor on the plane to help me, and help stabilize him and make sure he was OK for the duration of the flight."
A woman not knowing she is pregnant is not rare, a Utah doctor told KSL Newsradio. "I think sometimes there's some denial or sometimes a woman just thinks, 'well I was just putting on weight or I've got gas pains or something like that,'" said Dr. Douglas Richards, maternal-fetal medicine physician with Intermountain Healthcare.
"It is hard to explain, but not that rare," he said.
A GoFundMe account* has been set up to help with Mounga's extended stay in Hawaii until her baby is able to leave the hospital and travel safely.
*KSL.com does not assure that the money deposited will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit or donation you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.
Contributing: Lindsay Aerts, KSL Newsradio
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