Teen gives birth on SAA flight to NY

New York - A baby was born several hours after departure on board South African Airways flight 203 from Johannesburg bound for New York on Saturday evening.

The NY Daily News reports Fatawmatt Kaba, 17, of Angola went into labour four hours into the 16-hour trip. The newborn, Mamel Joella, was born about 38 000 feet in the air over West Africa and therefore will not be recognised as a US citizen since he was not born in US airspace.

According to the report, crew members hurriedly escorted the mom-to-be to the front of the plane. The pilot announced the medical emergency, calling for the assistance of any doctors on board. Pediatric anesthesiologist Dr Julie Williamson, 41, came to the aid of Kaba and was assisted by another doctor and a nurse also on board the New York bound flight.

“It was exhilarating,” Williamson said in the report. The baby was delivered in two pushes according to Williamson who had been returning from a week-long medical conference in South Africa when she was forced to swap theory for practice. The quick-acting doctor, who hadn’t delivered a baby since she was in medical school 15 years ago, described the little guy as “vigorous and healthy.”

“He nursed right away,” said Williamson. “And she was a very strong woman — never cried, never complained. It was amazing.”

Kaba and baby Mamel were doing so well after the birth that they were allowed to return to their seats afterwards and the doctors gave the all clear for the flight to continue.

One of the passengers on board Jamahl Winters, 32, said of the air-born experience, “You could see his little umbilical cord still attached. It was amazing. I didn’t think stuff like that really happened in real life. I thought it was something that happened in TV and movies.”

Port Authority Emergency Technicians boarded the plane when the flight landed at JFK around 05:30 and then took mother and child to Jamaica Hospital. A beaming Kaba, cradling her bundle of joy at the medical centre said, “I’m very happy, I’m fine. He’s fine.”

A statement from the airline said officials initially considered redirecting the flight to West Africa once it became clear early Saturday that there was “a medical emergency”  but after the doctors gave the all clear the flight continued to New York as planned.

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