Meet 'Chopper': Baby born 11 weeks premature in rescue helicopter

Author
Alanah Eriksen, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 17 Jan 2021, 9:49AM
Kora Lord was born onboard the Otago Rescue Helicopter. Photos / Supplied
Kora Lord was born onboard the Otago Rescue Helicopter. Photos / Supplied

Meet 'Chopper': Baby born 11 weeks premature in rescue helicopter

Author
Alanah Eriksen, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 17 Jan 2021, 9:49AM

She's already been given the nickname "Chopper" because of the unique way she entered the world.

Kora Lord was born 11 weeks early in a helicopter while her parents were on their "babymoon".

Christchurch couple Krysta and Marcus Lord were in the tiny settlement of Te Anau, Southland, where her parents live, for Christmas and to enjoy a break before their first child was due on March 10.

But Kora had other plans.

"She was in a big hurry to get here," Krysta told the Herald on Sunday.

"The midwife said not to push but there was no way I couldn't."

On Christmas Eve, Krysta had concerns about her pregnancy so she saw a doctor at the Fiordland Medical Practice. She was referred to an obstetrician in Invercargill - a 90-minute drive away.

Krysta and Marcus Lord look at their newborn daughter, Kora. Photo / Supplied

Krysta and Marcus Lord look at their newborn daughter, Kora. Photo / Supplied

She was cleared and went back to Te Anau where she enjoyed Christmas Day with family.

But on Boxing Day she started getting cramps. She took Paracetamol, used a warm wheat bag on her stomach and tried to go to sleep from about 10pm.

But the pains started getting stronger.

By 1am the Lords decided to drive to Invercargill's Southern Hospital to get checked out. But as they were about to leave, Krysta's waters broke.

Kora weighed two pounds, 10 ounces when she was born. Photo / Supplied

Kora weighed two pounds, 10 ounces when she was born. Photo / Supplied

Officially in labour with a premature baby, Krysta was in need of urgent care. But they were 150km away from the nearest hospital and, being the middle of the night, the medical centre was closed.

They couple still made their way to the centre with Marcus calling 111 on the way. An ambulance met them there along with a local nurse, Harriette Hamilton, and doctor, Stephen Hoskin.

Hamilton, who has a background in midwifery, told the Herald on Sunday Hoskin called her about 2am. She packed a tiny woollen hat, a plastic bag, two cord clamps and an instrument to cut the cord.

She assessed Krysta in the ambulance and decided she was too far along and a helicopter was needed in an attempt to get her to hospital before the baby was born.

Hamilton joined mother and baby on the Queenstown-based Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter, with St John paramedic Andy Lowes, intensive care paramedic David Chittenden and pilots Andy Clayton and Justin Gloag.

They started heading to Southern Hospital, a 40-minute flight.

Instead Kora Fay Lord was born at 3.01am on December 27 about 20 minutes into the journey at 29 weeks and four days gestation, weighing two pounds, 10 ounces.

Her birth certificate records her place of birth as Hamilton Burn, a tributary of the Aparima River, 52km southeast of Te Anau.

Hamilton said the paramedics were equipped should Kora need resuscitation but she was healthy and was placed on Krysta's chest for skin-to-skin contact.

From left, St John paramedic Andy Lowes, St John intensive care paramedic David Chittenden and Otago Rescue Helicopter pilot Andy Clayton. Photo / Otago Rescue Helicopter

From left, St John paramedic Andy Lowes, St John intensive care paramedic David Chittenden and Otago Rescue Helicopter pilot Andy Clayton. Photo / Otago Rescue Helicopter

"A woolly hat was placed on the baby's head and a plastic bag over the body to avoid hypothermia. My hand rested on the baby's chest to monitor - I thankfully felt the rise and fall of the chest.

"The pilot had turned the heat on full for us. It was impossible to hear any cry from the baby over the helicopter noise so it was a relief to see this tiny face scrunch up revealing another sign of life."

A pulse oximeter was attached to the baby's foot to read the heart rate and oxygen levels.

"Somewhere above the Takitimu mountains this new life began. An amazing calm mother kept this baby warm, safe and secure ... keeping baby's oxygen requirements down."

The crew were greeted at Southland Hospital and Hamilton was given a taxi chit to get back to Te Anau.

"The two-hour journey back past the Takitimu mountains in the waking of the day gave me time to reflect on a very special callout to have been involved in.

"It has been hard to wipe the smile off my face since."

Paramedic Andy Lowes said three or four babies had been delivered in-flight on Otago rescue helicopters over the years.

"We always hope with early pregnancy they won't deliver, we have access to medicines to help slow labour progression - sometimes nature takes over and things happen a bit faster than we would like."

Krysta said there had been no room for Marcus on the helicopter so he had to drive to the hospital.

"It was hard for him not knowing what was going on, driving down by himself.

"It was terrifying. The doctor had to call him and tell him he had a daughter."

Graphic: Herald network

But the couple know things could have been worse and are thankful with how it worked out.

"She could have been born on the side of the road on the way to Invercargill, where there was no reception, with Marcus delivering her."

Kora was later hooked up to oxygen but was this week taken off it. Mother and baby were transferred to Dunedin Hospital a few hours after Kora's birth and then Christchurch Hospital a few days later.

Krysta is back at home but Kora is expected to be in hospital for another six weeks.

Kora Fay Lord was born at 3.01am on December 27, 11 weeks early. Photo / Supplied

Kora Fay Lord was born at 3.01am on December 27, 11 weeks early. Photo / Supplied

"She's just perfect now," the new mother said.

"She just needs to grow and mature."

Because she came so early, the couple were still in the middle of house renovations, but luckily had the nursery ready.

"The house still looks like a bit of a building site. Her birth has given us the nudge to get it done a bit quicker."

They are not yet sure why she came so early.

"It could just be one of those things. Or it could be that there was an infection in the placenta."

Her advice to other mothers if they suspect something is wrong is to "just go with your gut".

She can't wait to tell her daughter her unique birth story but is hoping the name Chopper, given to her by an uncle, won't stick.