As a Stewardess, we were extensively trained for all sorts of emergencies! Crashes, ditched landings (in water), fire, and first aid.
What happened one Autumn evening would tax my nerves, training and resources!
By now, dear readers, you are aware that I often flew the Convair 580 turbo prop to the northern peninsula of Michigan, namely from Detroit up to Sault Ste. Marie, by way of Traverse City and Pellston. I had grown accustom to the many commuters that traveled this route, and enjoyed touching base with them. Thus, even though the overnight was very short- I loved flying that route.
At that time, so many years ago, there was a Military Base in Sault Ste. Marie- called Kincheloe Air Force Base. In the late 1960's and 1970's I often had military personal and their families on my flights.
This one particular evening a young VERY pregnant woman boarded my aircraft in Detroit- heading up to Sault Ste. Marie. The best I could describe her when she boarded (outside of the fact that she was obviously pregnant) was that she looked frightened, like a deer in the headlights of a car!
After our takeoff and service, it was my custom to wander the airplane, checking on passengers and talking to whoever wanted conversation. This young woman was sitting by a window, staring out at the night lights below. I asked her how she was doing- and her only reply was that she could use another glass of water. She looked near tears. Delivering her beverage, I tried to reassure her that it wouldn't be long before she was at her destination. We just had a few stops to make first. She only silently nodded, not even taking her eyes off the window.
We landed in Traverse City, deplaned about half of our passengers, and took off for Pellston. I was toward the front of the aircraft, finishing up my beverage service, when a gentleman came to me and said something was wrong with that pregnant lady back there!
The poor girl was weeping. I sat down next to her and took her hand, asking what was wrong. She only shook her head and said she was anxious to get to her husband.
We landed in Pelston, deplaned passengers, and now were on the way to Sault St. Marie. Now the pregnant lady let out a small scream. (Sort of an ouch-ouch!!) I ran to her. Between sobs she told me that she had been flying all day, and that after landing in Detroit her water broke! ! (Oh NO!)
Now she was in hard labor! She just wanted to get to her husband, who was stationed at Kincheloe Air Force Base. I asked how far along she was, and she told me she was almost 9 months along! Oh My! She was now in REALLY Hard labor, her labor pains about 1 minute apart!
I made the announcement asking if any medical personnel were aboard. No one stepped forward! (Oh DRAT!) I then called the cockpit, letting them know we had a full fledged delivery about to happen! Strange- at that moment it felt like the plane sped up. Was it my imagination? Or wishful thinking?!
My mind was racing! What to do! Okay-- a place for her to lie down- so I put blankets on the floor of the galley. (All the while saying to myself-- please God- PLEASE God- don't let me screw this up!) My adrenalin was really pumping! This was one thing I had little training for! My mind was racing! I knew we would probably land before I had to cut the cord- if it came to that. Besides, where would I get a utensil to do that?! What about the after-birth? Oh my!
As I rushed to get the laboring girl and bring her to the galley, I saw lights outside the windows! We were coming in for a landing!! The poor girl had my hand in a death grip! The woman who was sitting across from her told her to pant like a dog. Don't push! PANT! I sat next to her as we landed- then said "Hold on! Don't Push! Help is here!" All the while this girl was panting then letting out a yell. (Ow-Ow!) We had come to a screeching stop- with an ambulance right next to us! She wouldn't let go of my hand- not that I blame her!
Thank goodness the First Officer came out of the cockpit and opened the boarding door and stairs. Up ran the paramedics! That's when I realized I was holding my breath! As the paramedics got ahold of her, I let out a deep exhale! Whew!
By now the other passengers were well aware of the situation. As the paramedics half carried her to the boarding area and put her on a stretcher- than carefully carried her down the stairs and into the ambulance- the passengers were shouting words of encouragement. She was crying- poor thing. My heart went out to her!
I looked around. Where were we!? I realized we had made it! We were in Sault Ste. Marie!! (The Captain said that was a record breaking flight- making it in about half the time it normally took! I wanted to kiss him!)
We closed the aircraft door and moved closer to the airport to deplane the rest of the passengers. Before we could even reopen the door, the Captain made an announcement:
"It's a Boy, folks! Mother and son doing well, I'm told!" Everyone cheered! (The crew too!) One man asked where the cigars were! Ha! I felt like a wet dishrag! Wow! That was about as close as I ever wanted to come to being a mid-wife onboard an aircraft!
Once we deplaned, we three crew members went into the airport. There stood an airman- in full uniform, looking for his wife. The Captain shared the good news with him. The young airman wept- with a grin on his face! Then we watched as he ran to the ambulance that was still sitting on the tarmac!. (Yes dear readers- there was a time you could walk out onto the tarmac without getting arrested!) What an emotional evening! Oh my!
I was so pumped, I couldn't sleep! I had a talk with myself that night. I realized that if needed, I could do what it took to get through the situation. That help was never far away. And that all's well that ends well.
For all my studying after that flight- so to be prepared for another possible delivery, it never happened again. I've had several emergencies in my 39 year career, some were medical. When push came to shove, the "Calm" took over every time.
I would like to believe that the "Calm" would've been there if I indeed had to help deliver that baby. But calm or not, nature has a way of getting things done anyway. Baring a major difficulty, all would've been alright.
Oh my! Life is indeed an adventure. And being an "almost" mid-wife certainly was an adventure that stays in my memory!
And- All IS well that ends well!