Meet the baby born at 36,000 feet

Dr Balvinder Singh Ahuja narrates the miraculous delivery of a baby girl in a Toronto-bound Air India flight

In the wee hours of October 22, at the dizzying height of 36,000 feet, the passenger cabin of the Toronto bound flight AI 187 was turned into a makeshift delivery room for a truly miraculous birth.

For the emergency delivery, Dr Ahuja sterilised a pair of scissors in the first-aid box on the plane with some Scotch. The baby has been named Akashleen, to commemorate her unique place of birth

The man who beat all the odds and made the unique delivery possible was 45-year-old paediatrician Dr Balvinder Singh Ahuja, who rushed to the aid of eight-month pregnant Kuljeet Kaur, when it was announced mid-flight that she was in labour.

Herculean effort
Talking to MiD DAY exclusively from Ontario, a modest Dr Ahuja recounted the experience, saying, "It was wonderful and exhilarating.

It is not every day that a doctor gets the opportunity to deliver a baby at the height of 36,000 feet. To perform the task without the comforts and amenities of the labour room required Herculean effort. But I had the support of an accomplished team of crewmembers."

"In the early hours on Sunday, a crewmember announced that they were in need of medical help for a pregnant lady who would be giving birth on board.
Even before I could volunteer, the crew had made all the necessary arrangements and created a space for Kuljeet in the tail of the aircraft. We were flying over Kazakhsthan when the baby was delivered. The entire procedure took about 30-35 minutes."

"The only medical equipment on board was a first-aid box. We used a pair of scissors, which we sterilised with some Scotch. Luckily, the crewmembers also found some injections, which we used during delivery," Ahuja said.

Patience pays off

At one point in the journey, the pilot decided to divert the flight to the nearest airport, fearing that the high altitude and rudimentary equipment could harm the mother or her child. Dr Ahuja intervened at this point, and advised the pilot to exercise patience.

"The pilot wanted to land at the nearest airport. But I assured him that the situation was under control. I am happy everything ended on a positive note. I want to thank the Air India crewmembers who worked like a team to help the mother and her baby," Ahuja added.

And what did he take home, besides a bag of memories and a priceless feeling of having beaten the odds to bring life into the world?

The crew gifted Ahuja a bottle of imported whisky. "I got a small bottle of Black Label whisky from the crew. It was a lovely gesture," said the saviour.

Ahuja runs a childcare hospital at Hoshiarpur in Punjab, and he frequently travels to India to look into the affairs of the clinic.

The newborn's family has named her Akashleen, to commemorate her unique place of birth.  "I am very happy
and want to thank Air India, the doctor who delivered my granddaughter, and above all the almighty, who saved the lives of both," said Amarjeet Kaur, Akashleen's grandmother.

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