Flight nurse reunites with baby delivered in RFDS aircraft

Date published

05 Nov 2021
Chapman family and libby

Gratitude and tears of joy were shared when Katanning woman Chenoa Chapman reunited with the flight nurse who delivered her baby in an RFDS aircraft after landing at Jandakot Airport in May.   

In May this year, 29-year-old Chenoa Chapman who was pregnant with her third child, certainly did not expect the RFDS would help bring her son into the world - let alone deliver in an RFDS aircraft.

Katanning is a regional town located 277km south-west of Perth in the Great Southern region of Western Australia.

In what was a heartwarming and touching reunion at Jandakot Airport five months later in October, baby Spencer was back in the arms of RFDS flight nurse and midwife Libby Stearne who helped bring him into the world.

Katanning Airport

Baby Spencer is one out of five babies the RFDS has delivered this year. Most RFDS flight nurses are qualified midwives who in the past year retrieved 200 newborn babies across regional and remote WA to definitive care.

Chenoa says through this experience, she’s come full circle with the Flying Doctor – having being flown to Perth to deliver Spencer and her mum needing to be flown by the RFDS to give birth to her nearly 30 years earlier.

Pregnant with her third child and with plans in place to deliver close to home at Albany Hospital, Chenoa certainly did not expect the RFDS would help bring her son into the world.

Time was of the essence when Chenoa’s labour began to progress quickly and the local medical team decided the best option was to call the RFDS for help.

“We just didn’t want Ryan (Chenoa’s husband) to have to deliver the baby on the side of the road. We rocked up to Katanning Hospital hoping for an ambulance and got a plane,” Chenoa told 7News Perth.

Heather pic

Logisticians at the RFDS’ 24-hour Coordination Centre who received the call for help had advised crew that not only was the labour moving fast, but a heavy fog was quickly rolling in.

RFDS crew Doctor Owen Morley, flight nurse Libby Stearne and pilot Ross Andrews responding to Chenoa’s retrieval from Perth knew they were racing against the clock.

The crew worked seamlessly to get Chenoa and her husband safely on board and they took off just after midnight for Perth from Katanning.

Touching down at Jandakot Airport just 40 minutes later, it was clear Chenoa’s baby would not wait to reach hospital. 

baby Spencer

In what was an incredibly unique welcome into the world, flight nurse Libby Stearne supported Chenoa through the delivery inside the RFDS aircraft just minutes later.

“We landed at 12.40am and by 12.44am Spencer was born. Libby placed Spencer on my chest and from that moment, the RFDS became part of our family story forever,” Chenoa said.  

As Spencer took his first breaths, the team at the RFDS’ 24-hour Coordination Centre, who had been following the mission from start to finish and were overlooking the aircraft, erupted in cheers.

“We are forever grateful for the experience the RFDS provided us. We urge all Australians to make time to donate to this amazing cause because you just never know when you or someone you love will need the RFDS.”