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Flying with a newborn was nervewracking for this mom until a stranger helped her out

Linda Reddish was worried about flying with her newborn, but a woman who was a pediatric nurse made sure the flight went smoothly for Reddish and her baby.
Linda Reddish
Linda Reddish was worried about flying with her newborn, but a woman who was a pediatric nurse made sure the flight went smoothly for Reddish and her baby.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team, about people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.

In 2013, Linda Reddish was worried about flying with her newborn baby for the first time. She and her husband needed to get from Nebraska to Chicago on a Southwest flight, which meant they wouldn't be able to choose their seats. Reddish wondered how she would be able to breastfeed without elbowing the passenger next to her.

But as they were boarding the plane, a woman introduced herself. Reddish later learned her name was Karen Clemson.

"She had this really beautiful smile, just so warm," Reddish said. "And she had those glasses, like the librarian glasses that kind of like tucked down to the bottom of your nose. And Karen peered up over her glasses and looked at me and said, 'Oh honey, you're sitting next to me.'"

Clemson explained that she'd been a pediatric nurse her entire life, and she was used to being around babies.

"She said, 'I have no problem having a beautiful brand new mother and baby sit next to me,'" Reddish recalled.

Clemson's kindness made Reddish well up with emotion.

"I remember in that moment that I just wanted to cry," Reddish said. "Cry because I felt so much gratitude, cry because I did not feel beautiful right after giving birth. And I just remember feeling so relieved."

Reddish felt comforted by having Clemson next to her during the flight. At one point, when it was time for Reddish to breastfeed, Clemson offered to hold up a blanket, to give her some privacy.

"I just kept thanking her so much," Reddish said.

After Clemson said her goodbyes, Reddish thought she'd never see her again. But on their return flight home, there was Clemson, in the gate waiting area. Once again, Clemson made sure to sit next to Reddish and her husband.

"On our flight home, she held our baby, so we could take a nap," Reddish said. "And then later, snuggling the baby, Karen just looked at me and said, 'It's hard being a new parent, but you two are going to be alright.'"

If Reddish could talk to Clemson again, she would tell her that everything did turn out alright and that their child, Mar, is now in elementary school.

Reddish says she still thinks of Clemson whenever she flies.

"Every time I get on an airplane, if I have a chance to pick my seat, I pick it because of her, next to a family with children."

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Autumn Barnes
Laura Kwerel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]