NEW YORK CITY (KXAN/CNN) — Dr. Sij Hemal was just about to get some shut-eye on his flight from France to the United States when the call for a doctor came over the plane’s loudspeaker. A French pediatrician happened to be sitting right next to him.
“She heard the announcement in French and then she nudged me,” said Hemal, a second-year urology resident at the Cleveland Clinic. He was returning from a wedding in India on the Dec. 17 flight.
He and Dr. Susan Shepherd went over to the 41-year-old woman and discovered she was in labor at 35,000 feet, a week early, according to The Independent. Air France advises women not travel after 37 weeks, while other airlines won’t allow people past 36 weeks to fly.
“You just have a little bit of panic, but then you’re like OK, I’ve got this under control,” Hemal said.
The closest medical facility was more than two hours away, and meanwhile the woman’s water broke and the baby started to make his entrance.
“That was the moment when I thought we had to just do this on the plane.”
They moved her to first class, where there was more room. Then the two doctors and members of the Air France flight crew worked together — one holding the mom’s hand, one distracting her young daughter, one telling her to push.
The first cries of little Jake filled the cabin — probably one of the only times people on a plane welcomed a baby’s wails. He and mom are doing well back on the ground, Hemal said, adding that fate played a key role in the experience.
“I think all of this was possible because of God’s grace,” Hemal said, “and I’m very thankful to God.”