Felix’s First Flight

Felix’s First Flight

When Mum, Zowie, got a tummy ache at 29 weeks pregnant she certainly didn’t think that she’d be meeting her baby so soon. But, with no space in Christchurch Hospital a trip to Wellington was an unexpected journey for them first.

It was June 2020. I was 29 weeks pregnant and didn’t feel well, I had a tummy ache that came and went, but I didn’t think much of it. Then I had what I now know is “the show”, I was worried and contacted my midwife. It was her weekend off, so I got her back up. She agreed it was probably nothing but arranged to meet my husband and I at Christchurch hospital for me to get checked just in case. So, we set off, no overnight bag, no nothing. It was fine as we wouldn’t be there long.

The doctor doing my internal examination looked up at me with a worried look “I think your cervix is open”. They took a swab to test for threatened pre-term labour. The hour wait for the results was excruciating. It came back positive – I was at high risk of having the baby in the next 2 weeks. Although high risk it was still only a low chance – just 3 in 10. “It’s probably just an incompetent cervix” I was told. I said goodbye to my back up midwife and was taken upstairs.

I was informed I would have to stay in hospital for a few days under observation. My husband went back home to get me an overnight bag. While he was gone, nurses gave me the first of two steroid injections to help our unborn baby’s lungs mature, inserted a cannula into my wrist and started me on a magnesium drip to help our unborn baby’s brain develop. Then they dropped the bombshell – they were transferring me to Wellington hospital because they didn’t have space in Christchurch NICU in the event our baby was born early. I was told an ambulance would be picking me up in 45 minutes to take me to the airport. I freaked out. My husband only just made it back to the hospital with my bag, and to say goodbye. He couldn’t come as he had to make arrangements to put our dog into kennels. It was fine as I wasn’t actually going to have the baby.

I was getting tightenings every 5-10 minutes so lying down on a stretcher was the least uncomfortable position. I had a nurse travelling with me. We arrived at the airport, but not the part I was used to – we drove straight into a hanger. It was late and dark, and I was disoriented, tired, and queasy from the drugs. A friendly pilot (or two?) met us and helped load me onto the Flying Doctor plane. We landed in Wellington around midnight. Most of that night was a blur of pain and fear. I was given tablets to try to stop the labour. They didn’t work, but they did delay the labour for long enough to administer all the magnesium and second steroid injection needed to give our baby the best chance of life on the outside. After that they just let things happen naturally, and that they did. Thankfully my husband got to Wellington in time, so he didn’t miss the birth of our son, Felix. He needed some help breathing, but we were told he was doing well, and was a good weight for his gestation.


We stayed in Ronald McDonald House over the road from the hospital. It was amazing but we were incredibly home sick, we were desperate to go home. But to do so Felix needed to be stable enough to transport, Christchurch NICU needed to have space for him, the Flying Doctor Service had to be available, as must two transport medical staff, and the weather must play its part. We had two failed attempts, our hearts ached with disappointment. But on the third attempt – the stars aligned! The exercise of transferring Felix was enormous and meticulously planned. It was only this time as I watched his tiny body amongst the mass of equipment that was keeping him alive being lifted up into the plane that I truly got to marvel at the incredible Flying Doctor Service.

After 75 days in NICU – 22 days in Wellington and 53 days in Christchurch – a day after Felix’s due date, we finally got to take him home with us. Fast forward 3.5 years and Felix is thriving. He’s meeting all his development milestones and doesn’t appear to have any long-term effects of being premature. Felix means happy and lucky. He’s certainly happy, but we’re the lucky ones. If it wasn’t for the Flying Doctor Service, he wouldn’t be here, and for that we will be forever grateful.