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Volume 9, Number 1Space holderJanuary 7, 2005

Airborne birth attended by Alaska rural physicians

Floatplanes are a common means of transportation in Alaska, but rarely double as delivery rooms. On Dec. 26, however, family physicians Eugene Hildebrand and Joseph Dente, Jr., found their newest patient couldn't wait to arrive at the hospital. She was born on a floatplane as it was about to land in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Hildebrand, who had done hundreds of deliveries in his practice, was visiting Dente in Metlakatla, Alaska, where Dente is a preceptor in the Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program for UW medical students.

When a patient went into labor earlier than expected the day after Christmas, the two doctors arranged a medical evacuation. They brought her by ambulance to the local dock, where the three boarded a seaplane piloted by Randy Sullivan of Pacific Airways. Metlakatla, a Tsimshian Indian reservation of about 1,400, is reachable only by water or air.

Though hampered by space constraints of the aircraft, Hildebrand safely delivered the baby in flight with Dente's assistance. Mother and daughter were taken to Ketchikan General Hospital, and are doing fine. News of the airborne birth traveled on the Associated Press wire.

Dente practices at the Annette Island Service Unit. He hopes that medical students continue to have an interest in the R/UOP rotation there, where Dente says anything can happen.

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