Lavinia Mounga boarded a Delta flight to Honolulu, expecting to have a relaxing family vacation. Hours later, Mounga would land in Hawaii with a newborn baby boy, named Raymond, in her arms.
The new mother had no idea she was pregnant and gave birth at just 29 weeks, according to The Associated Press.
On Wednesday, about halfway through the flight from Salt Lake City, a medical emergency was announced by the flight’s captain and four passengers ran to Mounga’s aid.
Hawaii Pacific Health family medicine physician Dale Glenn and North Kansas City Hospital neonatal intensive care unit nurses Lani Bamfield, Amanda Beeding and Mimi Ho helped Mounga deliver her son and monitored the baby’s health for several hours.
Glenn told USA TODAY that an infant’s first minute of life is vital and that without the intervention of the three nurses, the baby might not have survived. While in labor, Glenn said, Mounga passed out, most likely from shock.
“Myself and the nurses’ survival mode kicked in; we had to create an ICU unit within an airline,” Glenn said. “Plus, we didn’t just have one patient, we had two.”
The impromptu medical team was able to create makeshift medical equipment, in part thanks to Glenn’s wilderness training. Glenn said they used multiple shoelaces to cut the baby’s umbilical cord, and an Apple Watch was used to monitor the baby’s heart rate. To keep the premature baby warm, bottles of water were microwaved, and the nurses wrapped him in plastic.
Glenn said the passengers were “surprisingly calm” and offered their own diapers and blankets to help the mother and son. Glenn also applauded Mounga’s strength; he said she was up and walking minutes after her delivery.
A Delta spokesperson told USA TODAY that all crews are “well-trained” to manage on-board medical scenarios.
“Every aircraft is equipped with medical equipment and crews have access to expert counsel during the flight when an issue occurs,” Delta spokesman Anthony Black told USA TODAY.
The four passengers worked to keep Mounga and baby Raymond safe for three hours until the plane landed. Once they arrived in Honolulu, the mother and baby were taken to Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children.
In a TikTok video shared by Julia Hansen, passengers can be seen cheering and congratulating Mounga as she leaves the plane. The video has garnered more than 13 million views.
Hansen and a friend she was flying with, Siearra Rowlan, told The Washington Post the emergency initially caused a commotion, but other passengers were “casual” about it by the end of the flight.
“Everyone just kind of got up, got their carry-on and left,” Hansen said of the scene after Mounga and her son were escorted off first.
On Friday, Glenn, Bamfield, Beeding and Ho were reunited with Mounga and her son at the medical center.
“(Mounga) is an incredible person. She got on this flight for a vacation and instantly became a mother. But she’s handling it so positively, it’s great to see,” Glenn said.
Mounga has since been discharged, while her son, Raymond, remained in the neonatal unit.