15 February 2009

Zimbabwe Medevac

A week ago Friday we got a call that a man was ill and needed air lifting out to receive urgent medical attention. Although he didn't need medical attention during the flight, it was important that he got some treatment as soon as possible.

Nothing hugely unusual in that, but the situation was complicated by the fact that he was in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and the medical help he required was in Cape Town, 1100 miles away.

Permits were hurriedly obtained, a stretcher was loaded and the plane readied to leave the following day. He was, however, Zimbabwean and an emergency visa was not granted for travel the following day so we delayed our departure until we had word of the visa. This was finally granted on Tuesday, so we flew up to Francistown, Botswana, for fuel and then on to Bulawayo that day.

Our plan then of course was to fly out early the next day but just before we drove out to the airport we got another call to say that although the visa was in the passport, the passport was still in Harare, and Harare was five hours drive away – but no one had any petrol, or transport. So, a day of planning and waiting ensued with regular phone calls for updates, with the passport finally arriving via a delayed internal flight at nine o clock that evening.


We were back at the airport, one day late, at seven o clock the following morning to get the plane ready. The patient arrived two hours later on a mattress in the back of a small truck, we were almost ready to go except… immigration hadn’t yet arrived at the airport (they said they would be there at 06:00). Their phones were down but we eventually managed to get a message though and after a small bout of negotiation we were told that if we put the paperwork under their door at the airport, we were free to leave.

The six hours of flying to Cape Town, with a stop in Johannesburg for fuel and customs, was now relatively straight forward with only about two hours ‘weather’ to deal with. It was still a long way but we were at our destination by five in the afternoon where a minibus was waiting to take the patient to the hospital. We were very tiered and ready for some food and very grateful to the couple who opened up their house and put us up for the night.

But now Cape Town and Nelspruit, where we live, are at opposite ends of a big country, so the next day still meant seven hours of sitting looking out of the same Perspex window at the ground slowly slipping past underneath us. More weather caused us to divert, adding to the journey, but we finally made it home after four days, over 2500 miles (4100 km) and 16 hrs of flying.

Again, thank you for your prayers and support that help make a difference to people like this.

Mercy Air team

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