19 July 2011

Doing Something Usefull

A moderately productive day in the office was interrupted by a call to get a couple out of Mozambique who had been in an accident. They were part of a 21 strong group from churches in Cape Town and Rustenburg in South Africa, who were at the end of what had been a very successful three week mission trip. They had left Mocuba at 04:00, to get an early start for the first of a three day drive home.

Whilst it was still dark one of their minibuses hit an unmarked and unlit parked lorry in the middle of the road. Two people were killed instantly whilst another, the minister of their church, suffered serious head wounds rendering him unconscious and the drivers wife, Beryl, broke her femur. They were transferred to a local hospital but obviously needed to get back to SA as soon as possible.
The minister had international heath cover and so was medevac'd out later that same day. Beryl's medical insurance, however, only covered her in SA and so Mercy Air was asked to repatriate her and her husband. We quickly prepared the plane and obtained flight permits so that Paul and his wife Cathy could set off as soon as the local international airport opened the following morning.
To give an idea of scale, we flew further than Land's End to John O Groats (the length of the UK) just to get to where we had to pick them up.

As she didn't need any medical attention during the flight she could technically travel as a normal passenger, but of course due to her broken leg she had to lie on a stretcher which she wouodn't be able to do on scheduled airlines. Driving three days back to Johannesburg was obviously out of the question.

On our arrival we found out that the hospital hadn't got the patient ready for travel and also hadn't got a trolley or stretcher available for transport, so she was loaded on an old mattress into the back of a pickup truck and driven to the airport. We then had to pay $12 to allow the truck onto the apron to get near to the plane.
On top of that, and despite pleas on compassionate grounds, the police, who had detained her husband, would not release him as they still wanted him for questioning about the accident. This was very upsetting for them, but it was best that she at least traveled with us and so we began the long flight to Johannesburg.
We arrived in Jhb just before dusk where a proper ambulance met us and whisked her away for surgery.
Paul and Cathy made time for a quick burger and cup of strong coffee before flying back to Nelspruit in the dark.

So, 1700 miles and over 9 hours of flying but the weather was good and it was nice for Paul and Cathy able to spend the day together, doing something useful.

Mercy Air team

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