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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year!

Last week the boys and I were transplanting some papaya trees when we dug up a giant worm. Worms are always a huge hit with them, but this one was just unbelievable. It had to be nearly a foot and a half long when unstretched. It got even longer when it stretched out--crazy! You could have fried that puppy up and made a meal of it.

I had a busy couple of days flying leading up to New Years. Tuesday was a pretty rough one. I started out with a long schedule--most of which never happened. I was just ready to take off from my first stop interior, already loaded up with a sick patient, when I got a call from another village for a critical medivac--a young pregnant lady who needed to go directly to the hospital in Tarakan. Within 30 minutes I was there, and we had offloaded the first patient to make room for the young pregnant lady.

The initial patient wasn't as critical and would have to wait until later in the day to go to the hospital. First look at the young pregnant gal, and it became obvious that she was very critical. They said she had already journeyed half a day by motorized canoe, just to get to the airstrip. She was hemorrhaging, had lost a ton of blood and wasn't breathing well. But she was still talking weakly and conscious as we loaded her into the plane. Sadly, I never got to take off. Her condition rapidly deteriorated making it impossible for me to take off with her gasping for breath and the accompanying husband and "nurse" in a state of total panic. I was so utterly frustrated, as there was nothing I could do to help her physically. The "nurse" had brought an oxygen bottle with her...but it was empty. That was only one of several things that so frustrated me about the situation. I kept thinking, if this was in the U.S., she'd have been receiving oxygen, blood and first-class medical care from an ambulance crew right then and there.

However, within a half hour she had died, right there in my plane. It's certainly not the first time I've seen someone die--and not the first time that one of "my" patients has died. But that's the first time I've lost one in my plane. Up to now, with the Lord's help I've always gotten them to the hospital alive. This time all I could do was pray for the young lady, and try to offer some comfort to her grieving husband. After it was all over, the local airstrip agent saw I was a bit discouraged and frustrated. He said, "you know, this is how they would all end up (referring to the critically sick patients) if you weren't here. Because of MAF, this is rare. You take many, many pregnant women and others to the hospital, and they live only because of MAF. Before, they would all have died."

It's true you know. As I thought about it, over the past two years I've carried dozens and dozens of medivac patients out to Tarakan, many of whom would have probably died if not for the help of MAF. I praise God that we have so many opportunities to help so many people in such a tangible way. And even when it doesn't go like we had hoped, I trust that He can still use us to be an encouragement and light for Him.

The rest of the week was more "typical," if you can say that. I got a kick out of the women at Long Sule. These are some seriously tough women!! I've seen it in action before, but this was a prime example. I showed up with an entire load of "barang" (supplies) and there wasn't a single guy waiting to huff the load down to their village. It was all women, eager to strap massive loads into their woven backpacks and lug it down the mountain to the village.

Trust me, this stuff isn't light! I helped get it out of the plane. These women are used to hauling their kids around all the time, and working very hard in the rice fields on the mountains. They could probably take most of you guys (o.k., and me too) in an arm wrestling match, not to mention a foot race. Anyway, I just thought you might get a kick out of it. Incidentally, the guys are even tougher. Their upper bodies look like rippled race-horses! But for some reason, they don't usually carry anything from the plane down to the village. I'll have to try to find out why that is. :)

On New Years Eve, I got to fly to Mekar Baru, a strip that we rarely go to--an hour and a half from Tarakan. I got to pick up Pak Firman (one of our awesome, long-time Indonesian office workers here) and his family, and bring them back to Tarakan. We had flown them into his old village the week before in order to be with his parents for their 50th wedding anniversary. Isn't that awesome? 50 years!! They are an amazing Christian family, who love the Lord and show it. I was blessed to be able to help them out in this small way.


theda said...

That's amazing!! I was sad about the pregnant lady. How awful for you and her family. You are very brave and obedient. You're exactly where you're supposed to be.

Anonymous said...

You must have felt so helpless watching this young women die and not able to help. I'm thankful God had that man there to encourage you when you needed it so desperately. Think of all the ones you have helped to save. Thanks for sharing this with us.


carl said...

Your story brought back memories of some of my work in Haiti which took place in similar circumstances. Once I was called out late at night to pick up a young lady in labor with complications. I drove up a mountain ravine about 10 miles, then we hiked down the ravine , across a raging stream, and a ways up the mt. on the other side. After securing her to the stretcher, it was precariously back down the mt., across the stream, and up to the waiting makeshift ambulance. Then 10 miles across roads like a wash board and finally to the hospital. That patient made it and recovered. Like your's this week, some had a different ending and it was tough. Like the man, that I brought in which died within 1/2 hour upon arrival at the hospital. Cause--starvation. I'll never forget that one.
Dave, keep up the great work. What a ministry!

hondacubber said...

I think part of the reason the women carry the loads in Long Sule is the men can do other work, like look for sandal wood in the jungle, to get money. But the women stay at home but can make a quick trip up the hill to haul a load and make some spending money.

Unknown said...

Dave....saw a brief report on BBC news the other night about MAF in Mongolia...and they said the same thing....without MAF these people would die...and they praised MAF for the service they are rendering to people living in remote was a very good report and we are so proud of you guys

Auntie said...

Dave and Joy. . . I am so glad you are where you are. Thank you for the opportunity to look into your world.

Jennifer said...

Dave - what a post. Thanks for sharing. Loved the worm, very saddened by the story of the woman. Nice description of the ladies carrying things.

Alan said...

Thanks for being God's man...for faithfully carrying out His unique and important assignment for you.

I'm sorry for the sorrowful loss of that precious woman.

I just had the opportunity to view the movie trailer about MAF in Borneo. I was overwhelmed. Truly overwhelmed.

I'm so proud of you and Joy, so very proud.


Dave Downing said...

I know how helpless you felt as you watched the young lady die, I've been there. Even though you are saddened by the loss of one you must remember those whom you have saved. Keep up the fantastic work you are doing, my prayers are with you and the family.