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Doctors deliver baby on Delta flight after woman goes into labor

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ATLANTA — A Delta Air Lines flight from Munich, Germany, had to make an emergency stopover in North Carolina after one of its passengers went into premature labor and two passengers who are doctors delivered the baby, airline and hospital officials said.
    Delta Flight 131 to Atlanta was over the Washington area when a woman about 32 to 36 weeks — or nine months — pregnant went into labor Wednesday afternoon, prompting an emergency stop in Charlotte, N.C., about nine hours into the flight.
    Dr. Robert Vincent, a pediatric cardiologist with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Dr. Dieter K. Gunkel, an adult cardiologist from Savannah, Ga. were on board the 192-passenger plane.
    Vincent helped Gunkel deliver the baby boy and then resuscitate him since he wasn’t breathing or moving and was blue at birth, Vincent said.
    ‘‘Delivering a baby in an aisle of a plane isn’t an easy thing to do,’’ Vincent said Friday. ‘‘I didn’t think the child would survive.’’
    The baby was born in front of the first seats after first class, one of the roomiest aisles in a plane. Using a stethoscope that was part of medical equipment onboard, the doctors realized the baby had a very slow or arrested heartbeat as the woman was in labor.
    As soon as the baby was born, Vincent started chest compression and Gunkel did mouth-to-mouth breathing until the boy ‘‘pinked up,’’ the Atlanta doctor said.
    ‘‘We were flying by the seat of our pants,’’ Vincent said, adding he was too busy to realize the child was a boy until his birth was announced later by the crew, to applause from the other passengers.
    He didn’t know the identity of the mother, who seemed to speak only German, but said doctors in Charlotte said the boy was ‘‘like a normal newborn’’ by Friday.
    ‘‘It was a heroic effort by our flight attendant crew and our customers on board who were fortunately doctors,’’ said Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton.
    About an hour after touching down in Charlotte, the flight continued to Atlanta.
    Doctors usually discourage pregnant women to fly at the ninth month, but Talton said Delta has no policy to deny boarding. Other airlines, including Germany’s Lufthansa, require a medical certificate for women who are at the 36th week of pregnancy.
    On the Net:
    Delta Air Lines:
    Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta:
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