Frontier flight attendant Diana Giraldo knew something was amiss when the lights came on during the red-eye she was working from Denver to Orlando.
“She told me that she felt like she might be going into labor, but she was scared because it was too soon,” Giraldo said in an interview Thursday. The flight was in January, but Frontier just made the incident public in a Facebook post.
The passenger, 27-year-old Shakeria Martin, was in disbelief. At 37 weeks pregnant, she wasn’t expecting her baby for a few more weeks. Her first flight, a short hop from California to Colorado, had gone fine. Martin said she was flying because she was moving to Central Florida.
“I was like, ‘Oh man, this can’t be happening.’” she said. “I tried to wait it out a little bit. Then it just got to the point where it was unbearable.”
Giraldo suggested they make their way to the back of the plane to have more room. When Martin said she needed to use the lavatory, Giraldo tried to give her privacy — and then her water broke.
“It was very fast after that,” Giraldo said. She said the baby was born around 4:20 a.m., probably somewhere over Alabama.
“Two pushes and she was out,” Martin said. Giraldo grabbed the baby.
She and the rest of the crew went into emergency-response mode, gathering blankets, an emergency medical kit and oxygen. The captain, Chris Nye, arranged to divert the flight to Pensacola so the mother and baby could get to a hospital more quickly. Flight attendants prepared space on the floor and set up a barricade for privacy once Martin was able to leave the bathroom.
“The whole crew was just in motion,” said Martin, now a mother of four. “They were calm, and I was freaking out.”
At first, the baby wasn’t moving or breathing, Giraldo said: “That was the scariest part.” She asked Martin to put the oxygen to the baby’s face while she held the baby at an angle to help any fluids drain. She massaged the newborn’s back and did light compressions to stimulate her lungs.
“It felt like forever,” Giraldo said, but finally the baby gargled and started breathing. She used a suction bulb on the baby’s airways to help clear them.
After several requests for medical help went out — during a flight when most of the passengers would have been sleeping — a nurse who happened to work in a maternity ward came forward. She checked the baby and then turned to Martin, who delivered the placenta as the plane was landing.
Paramedics met the plane and took Martin to a hospital; Giraldo said she made sure the mom and baby had a flight to Orlando.
Frontier says pregnant passengers should consult with their doctor on flying, especially in their ninth month of pregnancy. Other airlines, including American and United, require a certificate from a doctor saying the passenger is fit to fly late in pregnancy.
Martin said her mother offered a prediction before the flight — or in her words, she “jinxed me.”
“My mom said, ‘What if you had this baby on the flight? You could call her baby Sky,'” Martin said. “And then it happened.”
She named the baby Jadalyne Sky.
Giraldo and Martin keep in touch; Martin sends photos of the baby, now four months old and doing well, her mother said.
Nye, the flight’s captain, commended Giraldo for her calm and “exemplary” handling of the birth. For her part, Giraldo praised the cooperation of her colleagues and Martin, whom she called “amazing.”
“Whatever I told her she needed to do next, she was on it," Giraldo said. While she has received some medical training, she also credited her actions to her upbringing and instinct. As the big sister to two younger siblings, she said she focused on taking care of passengers like she would want people to take care of her own family.
“We are extremely proud of our crew who came together as a team and utilized their training to do an amazing job of managing the situation,” Frontier said in a statement. “It was a happy and wonderful outcome for all.”