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Thursday, April 1, 1999 Published at 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK


Safe landing for premature twins

Some doctors are critical of airlines' medical provisions

A woman has had the lives of her premature twins saved in an operation at 35,000ft.

Dr Halcyon Leonard describes her experience
Grace Ndanyu, from Kenya, went into labour about two hours after setting off on the Gulf Air flight from London to Abu Dhabi.

Luckily for her, there was a team of doctors on the flight, travelling to medical conferences.

They included three consultant paediatricians, a surgeon and a consultant in palliative care.

According to Hospital Doctor newspaper, palliative care specialist Dr Halcyon Leonard from Kingston upon Thames, in Surrey, delivered the first baby with the assistance of surgeon Mr Mammen Oommen, from Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Hospital.

The baby - named Joseph - stopped breathing during the birth and Dr James Gould, a consultant paediatrican from Ipswich Hospital, took 40 minutes to revive him.

Using a gas mask designed for an average-sized child, he brought Joseph back to life in the plane's toilet.


The second baby, Lucia, was in even more danger because she was in the breech position.

She too had to be resuscitated in another of the plane's toilets by Dr Leonard's paediatrician husband, Professor James Leonard.

The two-hour drama came to an end after the pilot made an emergency landing at Larnaca airport in Cyprus.

[ image: Dr Halcyon Leonard helped saved the twins' lives]
Dr Halcyon Leonard helped saved the twins' lives
Dr Leonard told Hospital Doctor: "We were absolutely shattered on arrival in Cyprus.

"You just work on adrenaline and automatic pilot to some extent. I think it is just a miracle the babies are still alive."

Dr Gould said: "It wasn't easy - particularly during landing when I had to hold onto the baby to stop him falling on the floor as well as holding the oxygen."

Dr Leonard and Mr Oommen both criticised the lack of medical equipment on board the plane.

Airborne medicine

Hospital Doctor has been campaigning for better medical facilities on airplanes.

Currently, there is no international body which oversees equipment levels. Standards are set by each country's Civil Aviation Authority.

The British say their standards are higher than average. They include a first aid kit, stimulant drugs, antiseptic and an analgesic.

Many British airlines carry more equipment, such as defibrillators and telemedicine systems so crew can communicate with experts on the ground.

Doctors are also concerned about the lack of data on airline medical problems, for example, some doctors have suggested a link between blood clots and long-haul flights.

Last week, a campaign called Mayday Medicine was launched at the House of Commons to press for more research into passenger health.

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