A Northland midwife has been hailed a "superhero" after saving a baby's life by inserting her hand into a mother's birth canal to hold the unborn child for 90 minutes.

First-time parents Naomi Facey and Neil Bolton, who manage Russell's Top 10 Holiday Park, say words can't express their gratitude to everyone who helped save baby Emilia.

The drama began on the evening of March 19, more than two weeks before the baby's due date, when Ms Facey felt her waters break.

She was expecting a breech birth so was under instructions to call midwife Sue Bree right away. The first call, at 8.45pm, was very calm, Mr Bolton said, with Ms Bree advising them to make their way to hospital in Kawakawa before the ferry stopped for the night.

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Labour hadn't even started when Ms Facey noticed part of the umbilical cord was hanging out. She had done plenty of reading before the birth so knew she had a prolapsed cord, a rare event that can cut off the baby's oxygen supply and be fatal within minutes.

At 8.51pm Mr Bolton called the midwife again.

"She told Naomi to get head down, bum up, to keep the baby's weight off the cord. Then I had to hang up and call 111."

While Mr Bolton was calling 111 Ms Bree, who lives in Opua, raced to the ferry. The skipper left straight away and she arrived at the holiday park at 9pm, a minute after Russell's St John Ambulance volunteers.

Ms Bree gloved up and took over from Mr Bolton, inserting her hand to hold the baby away from the cord while looking for a pulse and, using her free hand, calling the obstetrician at Whangarei Hospital. With no hands to spare Ms Facey's bottom was called into service as a phone holder.

Meanwhile, St John volunteer Janet Planet was on the phone to the Northland Rescue Helicopter. Moments later the town's fire siren went off and a firefighter came trooping through the door. There were now six people in the tiny bathroom.

While the fire brigade set up a landing site at the school Ms Facey had to crawl to the door - the hallway was too narrow for a stretcher - where the lights of the ambulances and fire engine had drawn a crowd of the curious and the concerned.

Ms Facey said the seriousness of the situation dawned when Ms Bree said, "If you are religious, now is the time to start praying".

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She was driven to the school, bumped across the field on the stretcher and loaded on to the chopper with her head down and Ms Bree's hand in position all the while. With no room left in the chopper Mr Bolton jumped in his car and raced to Whangarei.

In the meantime campground receptionist Shae McDonald hightailed it to the wharf, caught the last ferry from Paihia and ran the campground solo for three days.

Ms Facey said the flight was quick and the on-board paramedic "amazing". Hospital staff were waiting in ED to whisk her into an operating theatre for an urgent caesarean. Only then, more than an hour and a half later, was Ms Bree able to take out her hand.

"The doctors expected to do a full resuscitation but she coughed into life, she was perfect. She's a little miracle," Mr Bolton said.

He was still 15 minutes from Whangarei when he got the good news from Ms Bree.
"When I got there the doctors were still high-fiving. I realised what an emergency it had been."

Mr Bolton said Ms Bree was a "superhero". He had no doubt her advice in the crucial minutes before she got to Russell, then keeping pressure off the cord until they reached hospital, saved their baby's life.

The couple said they were hugely grateful to Ms Bree, the helicopter crew, the staff at Whangarei Hospital and everyone in Russell who had pitched in, from St John volunteers and firefighters to the ferry crew and campground staff.

"I don't know that they'll ever know how grateful we are. Words can't express it," Ms Facey said.

Ms Bree said many people and services were involved and all integrated magnificently.

"It was the car ferry, the ambulance, the fire brigade, the helicopter, colleagues at Whangarei Hospital . . . Northland did well. It wasn't any one person, it was all the services."

Emilia's entry into the world showed that Northland had the people and systems to deal with emergencies in the best way possible, she said.

Baby Emilia turns 3 weeks old tomorrow. She is in perfect health.