Stories of women giving birth when they didn't even know they were pregnant are always a bit mind-boggling. Some people say they don't believe it's possible, but bodies are strange and some pregnancies really do fly under the radar.
Such was the case with Lavinia "Lavi" Mounga, who boarded a flight from Salt Lake City to Hawaii on April 28 with no inkling that she was carrying a baby, nor that he would make his grand entrance 35,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean.
"I didn't know I was pregnant and this guy just came out of nowhere," Mounga said in a video from Hawaii Pacific Health, where she and her newborn son, Raymond Mounga, were taken to after the plane landed. "It has been very overwhelming, and 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."
The doctor on board, Dr. Dale Glenn, is a family physician who practices in Honolulu. He told ABC 7 that an unusual emergency call came from the crew halfway through the flight.
"We've had calls like this before," he said. "Usually, they're pretty clear, you know, 'Is there a doctor on board?' This call was not like this. This call was, 'Medical! Um, help!'"
Glenn and three NICU nurses from Kansas City—Lani Bamfield, Amanda Beeding and Mimi Ho—responded to the call to help Mounga deliver and care for the baby. The nurses' expertise was particularly fortuitous since Mounga was only 29 weeks along and Raymond was tiny. Since both baby and mom needed to be cared for, having a whole medical team there was a gift.
"Basically, you need somebody to watch the mom, too, because we have two patients, not just one," Glenn told TODAY Parents. "So someone's got to help cut the cord, someone's got to help deliver the placenta, we've got to check vital signs on mom. Meanwhile we're trying to resuscitate baby, make sure baby's breathing, get baby warmed up. That's a lot of work to do, and we're all trying to work in a very small, confined space in an airplane, which is pretty challenging. But the teamwork was great."
That teamwork included using a shoelace to tie the umbilical cord, warming up bottles to use as baby warmers, and using an Apple watch to monitor the baby's heartbeat. Glenn
"The idea that this baby had a doctor and three NICU nurses is nothing short of miraculous," Glenn added. "It blows me away as a doctor. I don't think people realize how rare this is; there have only been about sixty babies born on airplanes in history. This is literally one in a billion chance kind of thing."
The passengers and crew aboard the flight did their part too. Glenn said people offered diapers, moved seats, and did everything they could to make the new mom and babe comfortable and safe during the three remaining hours of the flight.
At one point, Glenn left Mounga to take his sweater back to his seat and was greeted with a sea of concerned faces.
"I had to kind of stop and say something to them," he told TODAY Parents. "'Everything is alright, we're going to make it' and I could see the weight drop off people's shoulders. They wanted to know but were afraid to ask. The support we got from every person on that plane...there was so much aloha."
Aloha is the universal Hawaiian greeting, but it means more than simply "hello" and "goodbye." It's also an expression of love, compassion, sympathy, and kindness—a connected, harmonious way of life that was exemplified in people's reactions to the surprise birth.
Mounga and her son were visited by the nurses and doctor who helped them over the weekend, and it was a joyful reunion all around.
"We all just teared up," nurse Mimi Ho said, according to the AP. "She called us family and said we're all his aunties, and it was so great to see them."
"The experience here has been so good," Mounga added. "Everybody's so nice and the aloha spirit you feel here is very different from the mainland. It just feels comforting and everyone's willing to help and always checking in on us."
Congratulations to Lavi and Raymond, and thanks to everyone on that unforgettable flight for giving us all a boost of faith in humanity.
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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN
From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.
To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.
First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.
Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com
Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.
"The packages were personalized to each mother with their names, a hand-written love note from the nursing team and items based on their pregnancy stage (which trimester, pregnant/postpartum) including newborn items (bottles, pacifiers, diapers, wipes, toiletries), toiletries and maternity clothes from the mother, as well as self-care items (journal, uplifting reading books, aromatherapy). My favorite part of the care package was hand-made quilts created by an 80+ [year old] retired doctor."
Courtesy of CeraVe
Continuing with her service, Richards is currently working on starting a non-profit organization, Our Mommas Heal, an expansion of the work that she's already doing in the community. "Our goal is to be the advocates for these at-risk mothers by connecting them to the necessary resources to ensure they have a high-quality, safe, equitable, uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery: education, other organizations like nurse family partnership, vetted health care providers," said Richards.
As a dermatologist-developed brand rooted in the medical community, CeraVe® is committed to supporting and celebrating healthcare professionals like Nurse Richards. Richards' story is the first of four we'll be sharing in the coming weeks.
As part of its commitment to nurses, CeraVe® is also a proud sponsor of the ANA Enterprise and their Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ initiative, a movement designed to transform the health of the nation by improving the health of the nation's 4.2 million registered nurses. Through the initiative, ANA is connecting and engaging with nurses to inspire them to take action in five key areas: activity, sleep, nutrition, quality of life, and safety.
Additionally, over the past year, CeraVe® has donated more than 500,000 products to hospitals to help provide therapeutic skincare relief to healthcare workers and is continuing the product donation efforts. Nurses looking to engage with the brand and learn more about these initiatives can join the Shift Change: Nurse Essentials Facebook group, an online community hosted by CeraVe® where nurses come together for personal and professional empowerment.
To see more stories about nurse heroes, visit www.heroesbehindthemasks.com/.