When we are asked to do a medical evacuation, the report often says the person is “sick on the inside” which could be anything. We never know what state the patient will be in. Usually the person is very sick.
I always look forward to a long weekend together with my family. However the last long weekend I was on call for emergency flights. On Saturday I had to fly several medical emergency flights. The first one was to the Nduga tribe where I picked up Weduen, a very pregnant woman. She was way overdue, but the baby didn’t want to come out and she was in a lot of pain. I flew Weduen and her family to Walkama where we picked up a sick woman named Derena. 23 minutes later I landed at the hospital in Wamena and the nurses took care of the two patients. Weduen went on to give birth to a healthy baby and I could fly her back to her village.
From Wamena I flew directly to the Yali tribe, to a small village on the side of a steep mountain. The small helipad is at 6000 feet above sea level and I had quite a strong tailwind which makes for challenging flying. When I landed a local man told me that the patient had given birth to a healthy baby 4 days earlier, but the placenta was still stuck insider her. Her hut was further down the mountainside. He assured me that there was a place to land close to the hut, so he came in the helicopter with me to show me the new landing spot. Unfortunately, it was way too steep for a helicopter to land, so we flew back to the village where I waited for the half dead woman to be carried up the mountain. After 40 minutes several men had carried the patient to the helicopter and I was able to fly her straight to the hospital where the nurses again took care of her. Back at the hangar I had to clean the helicopter of the blood the patient.
On Monday, my son asked me if he could come on a flight sometime. I said, “Yes but it won’t be possible in the next couple of weeks.” Just minutes after this conversation I had a phone call for an emergency flight and there was room for my son to come with me. Since the patient was in a village in the Lani tribe that we hadn’t been to before, I flew to Mamit to pick up a local man who could show me the way. After an 8-minute flight we reached the patient and loaded him and his companion into the helicopter and flew them to the hospital in Wamena. Unfortunately, this man’s life could not be saved. Life and death go hand in hand. We could help several people and save a few lives on this long weekend.