When Dr. Sij Hemal, a University of Michigan alum, boarded a plane on Dec. 17 in Paris headed to New York, he planned to watch the thriller “Side Effects” while sipping a glass of champagne before dozing off.

But Hemal was unable to indulge in his plan due to an unexpected request from the flight attendant asking if any doctors were on board.

Hemal is a second-year urology resident at Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute who received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan before attending the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

A reflection of his “Leaders and the Best” roots, Hemal offered his assistance and soon discovered passenger Toyin Ogundipe had gone into labor 35,000 feet up in the air off the southern coast of Greenland. Ogundipe’s delivery was the eighth delivery of his career.

“She was complaining of back pain,” Hemal told CNN. “At first, I thought it might be kidney stones, but after she told me she was pregnant, I knew she was going into labor.”

The crew considered making an emergency landing two hours outside the route at the U.S. military base in the Azores Islands, but ultimately the plane continued onward toward JFK International Airport.

Ogundipe was moved to first class and Hemal handled the delivery from start to finish with the assistance of crew members. An hour and a half later the plane had one extra passenger with the birth of Ogundipe’s son named Jake.

Ogundipe recounted how Hemal made her feel safe and applauded his efforts in an article published by The Cleveland Clinic.

“They did everything a doctor or midwife would have done if I was in the labor room in the hospital,” Ogundipe said. “Even better, if you ask me.”


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