31 December 2008

Merry Christmas and a Busy New Year

We got a call between Christmas and New Year to do a medical evacuation off an island in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of Mozambique. We couldn't go straight away because of the weather but went at first light the next day.

The cloud that lifted just enough for us to get the plane to the local international airport on the Monday afternoon, enveloped it on Tuesday morning and we took off with minimum visibility. First stop was Maputo where the cloud was at a 1000 ft but adequate for an instrument approach. We did customs and immigration and were soon on our way back up through the cloud for the island of Bazaruto two hours north.

After landing there, an old door less Land Rover doubled as an ambulance labouring along a heavily sandy track to where the patient was and where we spent an hour with her before she was ready to make the return trip to the plane. It was then only a 20 min hop to Vilanculos, the small international airport on the mainland. A satellite phone call here revealed that the weather back in South Africa was still grim and that the airport was closed. Our only feasible option was to divert back to Maputo where there was medical help. Our flight was relatively straight forward although we did have to alter course slightly to the west for an hour to avoid a shed load of thunderstorms that had ganged up to form a system about 100 miles long. In Maputo the patient was taken to the local hospital for further checks and we had to find alternative accommodation for the night. The next day dawned slowly through the overcast and it wasn't until mid morning that we received word that the cloud had lifted enough in Nelspruit for us to attempt an approach. The patient joined us again and we flew right down to minimums before landing back home just after midday on New Years Eve.
The ambulance and plane after landing back in Nelspruit.

Thank you to those of you who pray about these things for us. In the conditions we had the last few days, we certainly notice the difference.

Mercy Air team

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