25 September 2008

Pemba Medivac

"It's a go", crackled the voice on the telephone.

These were words that meant we could spring into action but three 'o' clock in the afternoon was now a bit late in the day.

We had been advised of the possibility of doing a medivac at midday and had got ourselves and the plane ready. The patient had been admitted to hospital and the doctors had suspected meningitis or cerebral malaria, either of which could lead to death within a day or two if immediate treatment wasn't given. But the patient was more than half way back to the equator from where we were and getting to them that day was now out of the question. Pemba is on the very north coast of Mozambique more than a thousand miles from Mercy Air and even in a plane that does over 170 mph, it was going to be a long way.

We have friends a third of the way up in Beira and a quick phone call secured us a lift from the airport and a bed for the night - we were very grateful. We arrived after dark and were up again before dawn to continue up to Pemba. The patient in question was actually a friend of ours from previous mission trips and had asked for a nurse to come along to monitor him during the flight. In a way it was good to see him again although not quite under these circumstances. After airport paperwork and waiting for the patient to arrive from the hospital we were back in the air and on our way home, this time loaded up with his wife and two kids, one of which was just nine months old.

There's not much you can say about seven hours of flying at 10,000ft, and the haze from the bush fires meant that the view was only slightly more interesting than the hour and a half of dark after the sun went down.

We landed safely in South Africa last night just after 19:00 and they rang us this morning to say that he had been kept in hospital till two in the morning after extensive tests. So far things are looking good but they will stay here for at least the next week for observation and treatment if necessary.

So, it was another of those occasions where your whole day is changed by a single phone call. We were privileged to be the ones who were able to practically offer assistance but without the prayers and support of people like yourselves, Mercy Air would not be in that position.

Thank you.

Mercy Air team

13 September 2008

The Perfect Romantic Coup

Fly your wife to Mozambique for our anniversary and have a candlelit dinner in the evening.

And that's exactly what happened for one of Mercy Air's pilots, although as you might guess, that was only the tip of the iceberg as far as the story was concerned.

The reason they were actually flying to Mozambique on their anniversary was to take a doctor team to Marromeu on the Zambezi River. The candlelit dinner was courtesy of the fact that the missionaries at whose house they found themselves that night don't have electricity, and candles were the only way to light up the rice, beans, chicken and green veg they had for dinner.

It was apparently still romantic, and a very worthwhile trip. We have flown this group many times before and they had asked Cathy to accompany them as she knows about a lot of things that many doctors from the US haven't even heard of. The missionaries there have been working into the Delta region of the Zambezi for many years. They used to travel three days by dugout canoe to get there, stay a week, and then three days back often traveling at night to catch the tides. Our helicopter does the trip in 20 minutes and so each day it made a number of flights in order to get the doctors and translators to the remote village of Ibo. Paul stayed in Marromeu to fuel the heli each time it returned.
Whilst walking around in Ibo Cathy spotted a two month old baby which had diarrhorea and was severely dehydrated. The mother had died during childbirth and a young girl of 15 was looking after it. The team were able to put up an IV and give antibiotics and the next day the heli bought the baby to a care centre in Marromeu where it will stay until it is strong enough to survive. If this baby had not been seen and treated it would likely of died in a day or two.

The work in the delta is a pressing one. There are huge amounts of people who don't have access to any medical care whatsoever.

It is your prayers and support that help us go back to bring Christ's love to those people in need.

Thank you.

Mercy Air team


"I have a flight permit number for you." These were good words to hear over the satellite phone when we called to give our regular half hourly position report. We had less than an hour to run to Beira International Airport in Mozambique which was our first port of call on a flight taking people up who were involved in a re-development project. The trip had been arranged at relatively short notice but a national holiday in Mozambique the previous day had prevented us obtaining the official permit number. The only way forward was to set off early in the morning and have the Mercy Air office phone whilst the flight was taking place. Being armed with this short assortment of 'official' letters and numbers would potentially avoid a lot of hassle and red tape on our arrival at Beira.

We were met by a Christian friend who lives and works in Beira. Knowing we were coming his way he had asked us to buy some 'hard-to-obtain' groceries in South Africa and bring them up. He was glad for the small stash of luxury we could provide. He is also a pilot and introduced us to Hans, a German friend of his who was refueling his plane just in front of ours. Hans was doing a low level game count survey flying and two days earlier had been taking off after refueling at Cuamba, a military airfield two hours flight to the north. He had heard a 'rat-ta-tat' and after years of flying in the Congo recognised it as machine gun fire. He quickly banked and flew at tree top level away from the airfield. On landing back in Beira he found two bullet holes in his aircraft. One had gone through the wing and missed the fuel tank by less than 30cm, the other had hit the belly of the aircraft, entered a tool box and had destroyed a monkey wrench. Had it of gone further it might well of hit his wife who was sitting in the back seat. We looked at the bullet holes and exchanged stories. Mercy Air had been in Cuamba only two weeks earlier in the very plane we were flying and we had also taken a mission team up there the previous year.

This is a very isolated incident but it just got me thinking that when we ask you to pray for safety, it doesn't just cover weather, good decision making and the mechanical integrity of the aircraft.

Next week we are off to Moz with a team doing a medical mission in the Zambezi Delta. Likely another short update then.

Thanks again for your prayers and support.

Mercy Air team