Passengers rally to help woman who unexpectedly gave birth during a flight to Hawaii

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.

Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

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