By Dale Andrews and Romila Boodram
A pilot had to employ all his first-aid knowledge to assist a teenager in delivering her baby in mid-air while flying from Aishalton to Lethem, Region Nine.
This occurred on Saturday last on an aircraft belonging to the Rural Air Medical Services (RAMS).
The teenager, who is reportedly 14 years old, and her baby boy were transferred to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) last Tuesday, after the infant developed breathing complications.
The young mother is said to be “perfectly fine” while her baby is reportedly in stable condition, receiving the necessary care at the medical institution.
Kaieteur News was told that the first-time mother was placed on board the aircraft at Aishalton in an advanced stage of labour, with her sister accompanying her.
This was after medical personnel in her home village referred her to the better-equipped hospital at Lethem.
During the flight to Lethem, the teen’s sister reportedly noticed the baby’s head protruding and cried out for help.
With no other choice, the pilot was forced to turn his seat back a little and assist in delivering the baby in mid-air while attending to the plane’s controls at the same time.
“It is really a miracle…thanks to the pilot, he’s a real saviour,” a Lethem resident told this newspaper.
The heroic pilot is Paul Clarke, a British volunteer who has been flying locally with the RAMS. The organization has been operating in Guyana for the past 13 years, doing medical evacuation primarily in the vast Region Nine area.
Clarke has been flying locally for the past two years.
He told Kaieteur News that early Saturday morning they received a request to take the pregnant teen from Aishalton to Lethem. Clarke said that 10 minutes after taking off from Aishalton for the 45-minute flight to Lethem, it became clear that the teen was experiencing labour.
“I was hoping that she was going to wait until we got to Lethem…but she decided that she was going to have it right there and then,” Clarke said.
Ten minutes later the baby was ready to emerge.
Clarke explained that he decided to take his headset off and turn around in his seat to assist in the delivery procedure.
“The baby was already coming out, so there was no point in landing or waiting to get to Lethem. I wanted to make sure that the baby was all right, because it was coming out…so I just turned around and delivered the baby, and every now and then I was watching to see that everything was all right,” Clarke explained.
He said that he did not cut the umbilical cord, “since there was no need to do that…I just made sure that the baby was breathing and just placed it on the mother’s chest.”
It was the first time that Clarke has had to assist in the delivery of a baby, while in the air.
Throughout the delivery, the plane was flying at about 3,000 feet, and according to Clarke, it was pretty easy to maintain control.
“Oh it’s no problem!” he stated. “Planes fly pretty level and straight except for the odd gust and gentle turning…I only needed to touch it (controls) now and then to make that all was well. There was absolutely no danger or risk, it was absolutely fine. Of course my main concern at the time was that the baby was breathing and alive. The plane was all safe, we were high enough anyway,” Clarke explained, adding that the remaining 25 minutes until they landed at Lethem were uneventful.
When the plane touched ground at Lethem, both mother and baby were rushed by ambulance to the area hospital from which they were eventually transferred to the GPHC four days later.
While residents in Lethem have praised the pilot for the courage and great work he performed, they are questioning why the teen was placed on a flight without medical personnel to monitor her through the difficult period.
This newspaper was told that the young mother has informed hospital workers that the father of the baby is not around.
The Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA) is investigating the matter.
Teenage pregnancy is said to be a “norm” in the hinterland region.
Kaieteur News was told that there are at least two cases of teenage pregnancies in almost every Amerindian village.
Last month, social workers were forced to intervene in four such cases involving girls aged 10, 12 and 14 from Katoka, Aishalton and Yupukari.
A female source who is familiar with these cases told this newspaper that it seems as though village authorities, including Toshaos, do not see this situation as a major problem. She even alleged that the leaders seem to be hiding these cases from the police and social workers.
“Most of these girls are impregnated by a family member and their parents are covering it up. The village leaders too are trying to cover up things. The only time you know about these cases is when these girls are ready to give birth and they have to meet with health officials,” the source said.
According to reports, there are some residents who would lambaste the police for not doing anything to assist in these situations. However, a senior police source yesterday said that they can only intervene if a report is made to them.
He said too that in most cases, the girls do not reveal the names of the perpetrators, and in a case like that, the police cannot do anything.
Kaieteur News was told that young girls are being “schooled” not to reveal information to the police and social workers if such a case arises.
“These girls are told that they will be questioned by social workers and the police and they are advised to say they don’t know where the fathers of their babies are. One time one of these girls told me that the father of her baby was in Venezuela when in fact the man was right here in Guyana in the same village,” the source explained.
However, a senior official from CCPA said that she would not say that these children are being schooled, but she confirmed that when dealing with such cases, the girls are reluctant to reveal information.
“We do not get clear information on the identity of the perpetrators. There is a reluctance to disclose certain information. We have had a number of cases where we get girls and they all say the baby’s father is ‘Shawn and he in de bush’ but we never find that individual,” the official disclosed.
Last year, a total of 58 cases of teenage pregnancies were reported to the agency, most of which came from the hinterland region.
Currently, the Child Care and Protection Agency is working with 10 underage girls, some of whom have already given birth, while some are expecting.
Four months ago, a 12-year-old girl, who claimed that she was impregnated by her stepfather, delivered her first child at the GPHC. She is said to be from Caponarib in the Rupununi. That matter is still being investigated by the police.
Prior to that, a 15-year-old Amerindian girl gave birth at the Lethem Hospital. The man who was responsible for impregnating her was released on station bail days after she delivered.
In January of last year, an Amerindian Chief from Region One was remanded to prison after he was charged on two counts of rape allegedly committed on his own daughter who is just 10 years old. The man was arrested after medical officials in Region One realized that the girl was four months pregnant. She had gone to a community health centre complaining of feeling ill.
Because of the child’s age, medical officials had to abort that pregnancy.
Also, earlier last year, police in the North West District were hunting a man who impregnated an 11-year-old who had been living with him with the knowledge of her parents.
While the incidents are cause for concern, it is not too surprising, given the rate of teenage pregnancy in Guyana.
Local authorities have indicated that incidents of teenage pregnancy in Guyana are most prevalent in the Rupununi. The situation has led to calls from residents of Lethem for the establishment of a child protection office with more than one officer in that community.
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