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.