Night Flight Medivac
The plan for the day was pretty simple in principle… Pick up a load of cement and food for the Paramakatoi church project, and 10 gallons of gas for the Chenapau chainsaws, load up the airplane, and fly 3 1/2 hours to deliver both. Simple right? I wish… Rarely is a flying day simple, and this particular day was no exception. In fact I didn’t even get off the ground until nearly 2pm, which meant I didn’t have a lot of extra time to spend on the ground at either destination village.
Halfway to Paramakatoi to deliver the cement, the health post at Philippi village called me on the HF Radio and requested a medivac flight. They reported that a 55 year old man was running an extremely high fever and had gone unconscious. They had tested for malaria, but the test was inconclusive. Since the day was late, and the river extremely low because of the long drought, they were requesting that I divert and fly the patient to the Kamarang hospital.
Because of the lateness of the hour, I realized that I wouldn’t make it back to Georgetown by sunset. Most likely I would have to overnight in Kamarang village where the field hospital was located. I also realized that I wouldn’t have enough fuel to make it back to Georgetown unless I used the extra gas in the back.
After dropping off the cement at Paramakatoi, I turned the airplane North toward Philippi to pick up the patient. Enroute, I tried in vain to contact Kamarang hospital to see whether we could go directly from Philippi to Georgetown so we could perhaps make it just after sunset.
Whenever you pick up a really sick person from a village there is generally quite a bit of emotional drama. The villagers know that when extremely sick people leave in an airplane, they often times don’t come back alive. In this particular situation two daughters openly cried as we loaded their unconscious father into the plane and buckled him in.
When we landed at Kamarang the two medex’s met me at the runway to assess the condition of the patient.
They took one look at the man and informed me that he needed to be immediately transferred to Georgetown. Ok! 25 minutes before sunset, I knew that it would be fully dark by the time I arrived back in town, assuming that I could get permission to make the flight. Furthermore, the only airport with runway lights was the international airport 45 minutes away from Georgetown city. I called Joy on the HF radio and asked her to call up the Tower in Timehri to request permission for the flight. Joy called back in five minutes to give me the initial thumbs up. She then spent the next 45 minutes on the phone working out the details with the ambulance, and getting permission for them to pass through security at Timehri to pick up the patient.
On the flight back to town, the radio was quiet. Usually the frequencies are humming with commerical traffic, but at this late hour everyone was on the ground, and I was the only local aircraft still in the air.
The air was smooth, and the sunset beautiful. Except for a few lights from an occasional mine, everything became pitch black. Sometimes it’s best not to see the broccoli that you’re flying over! The lights of Timehri were a welcome sight, and we gently touched down and taxied over to the international ramp to wait for the ambulance. About 20 minutes later the ambulance arrived, and together we requested the airport duty officer to allow them to drive airside to pick up the patient. After loading the patient, the ambulance driver patiently waited for me while I moved the airplane to the general aviation parking area and locked up it for the night. I caught a ride back home in the front seat of the speeding ambulance. Yesterday I received the sad news that the patient passed away. Evidently he was hemmoraging in his brain, perhaps from hemmoragic malaria, or an aneurysm, and there was nothing that the doctors could do to stop the bleeding. I always feel sad when I hear that a patient that I carried in the airplane has died. I wish I could write a fairytale ending to this story and tell you that the man has made a complete recovery and is anxiously waiting to travel back to his family. Some cases do in fact turn out like this. But sadly in this particular situation, this is not so. The Bible says in Isaiah 55:8,9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I don’t know why the Lord opened so many doors for us, and the patient still passed away. But I know that we did everything humanly possible to help. There comes a point in which we have to leave the outcome with God.