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Air medical team saves Mother and baby

Captain Linda Lampen-Smith with baby Polo after an emergency dash.
Photograph taken by NZDF

It was all part of the training, said Captain Linda Lampen-Smith (36) a Nurse with the New Zealand Army deployed with 3 Squadron in East Timor. An emergency call came to say that a local woman was giving birth to twins and was having difficulties. Linda and Sergeant Mike Cocker, an Air Medical Evacuation Medic, flew in the Iroquois and then drove along flood damaged roads to locate their patients.

They arrived 10 minutes after the initial call, to find one baby being cradled by its older sister and the other baby lying quietly attached by its umbilical cord and struggling. It was obvious to Linda and Mike they would have to work fast. Mike arranged stretchers while Linda tried to cut the umbilical cord. The umbilical clamp didn’t work properly, so Linda asked Mike to find some string. He came up with some para cord and suggested using his Leatherman tool and soon the job was completed.

Mother, Fatima Lopez, her husband and their two sons were taken by helicopter to the nearby New Zealand Army Forward Surgical Team in Suai, an eight minute flight. A team of surgeons and nurses were already prepared and waiting. The twins were named Polo and Gabriel. Unfortunately, Gabriel passed away quietly after a long struggle and was baptised by Chaplain Julian Wagg of the New Zealand Army. It was particularly moving for Linda as she has a twin sister, Carol.

Linda joined the New Zealand Army after qualifying as a Nurse in 1985 at Masterton Hospital, as she wanted to work outdoors and had a particular interest in air medical services. Linda has been attached to the Royal New Zealand Air Force for the past 9 years and is based at Whenuapai. Her husband, David, is a Pilot in the Air Force and they have two sons, William (4) and Joshua (2).


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