A PROUD dad has met his newborn baby girl for the first time after a mad dash to get home to Sunderland in a journey spanning more than 4,500 miles.
“It was amazing,” Dan Plant said of the moment he finally got to meet little Katie, who was born in the early hours of New Year’s Day, and be reunited with fiancé Vicky Sizeland, 34.
Dan, 28, was half-way round the world on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, where he works as a sub-sea engineer, when he was told Vicky would be induced early due to Katie’s small size.
“We had originally planned for me to get back on the ninth, as we thought it was going to be closer to then,” he told the Echo.
“I went for a coffee and checked my phone and I had four or five messages from Vicky’s phone. The last one just said ‘she’s coming’.
“There was a chopper at 1.30pm that day but you have to give 24 hours’ notice to get on it, so I thought I was going to have to wait until the next day. I went to see my supervisor who said ‘we’ll see what we can do’. They put a tannoy out saying ‘pack your stuff’. I had 45 minutes to get ready.”
The helicopter ride to Houma, in Louisiana, took two hours, followed by a one-and-a-half hour drive to New Orleans and then a one hour 10-minute flight to Houston, Texas.
Before boarding a flight to Heathrow, Dan received a message saying Vicky’s contractions were four minutes apart. “I knew it was imminent. I didn’t sleep a wink,” he said.
“I landed at Heathrow and switched my phone on and about a million messages came through.”
Having just missed a flight to Newcastle, he faced a four-hour wait. Dan finally reached Sunderland Royal Hospital at 5.45pm, nearly 13 hours after Katie arrived at 4.49am, by taxi straight from the airport. Dan’s other daughter Grace, seven, said of meeting her new sister: “It was really exciting.”
The family is now looking forward to spending the next six weeks together at home in Silksworth, before Dan returns to work.