It was only three hours into a 12-hour flight from Ghana to Atlanta when flight attendant Susan Carnes heard the screams coming from the back of a Delta Airlines jet.
Carnes ran to find the source the commotion and came upon a slight, 27-year-old woman who was in the throws of labor.
"I know nothing about birthing babies," said Carnes on Monday, still beaming over the incident several miles above Africa. "I've never had to do this before."
Katherine Oyedoh, the Fresno woman and mom-to-be, told the flight crew she was due on April 15 but had been cleared by a doctor to make the March 23 Delta overseas flight. She was heading back home to Fresno to be with the baby's father, her fiancé.
"I said, 'OK, we're having a baby,' " Carnes said. Though a doctor was happened to be on board, modern birthing equipment and medical staff were not, and the airplane was nowhere near an airport for an emergency landing.
Improvisation was needed. There were no sedatives and the doctor had to do his job without anesthesia.
Carnes said the healthy baby boy was delivered at 3:24 a.m., some 36,000 feet above Africa.
"We didn't have a string to tie off the umbilical cord," she said. "A passenger offered his shoestring. We soaked it in vodka and tied off the cord."
They used a pair of galley scissors, also dipped into the cup of Skyy vodka, to cut the last physical connection between mother and child.
Carnes, 53, handed the child to the mother for that bonding moment, she said. Then she swaddled him a warm blanket and handed him to other flight attendants to put into a homemade bassinet made of blankets and newspapers.
"I was passing the baby across the seats, with his cord dangling and all, and I saw everyone was staring at me," she said. "It was a 'Lion King' moment. I held him up in the air and yelled, 'It's a boy.' The whole plane (about 200 passengers) broke into applause."
The airplane was diverted to Dakar, Senegal, and Oyedoh and her son were taken to a hospital. They remained there through this weekend.
A bureaucratic issue arose about citizenship, said the baby's father, Greg Idoni this week. All that has been cleared and he's hoping to see his first child, his brand new son, Ebosalume, by the end of this week.
"I've been talking to her every day," he said. "They should be leaving Wednesday and should be in California by Thursday.
"I am very excited."
Carnes has taken some time off since the airborne birth and has kept in touch with Idoni in California. She said she may fly to Senegal to accompany Oyedoh and Ebosalume home.
"I feel like I'm part of this family," she said.
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