Born in the air

MAF plane at Manamaneng, Lesotho

16 March 2012

Based in Lesotho, MAF pilot Justin Honaker discovers he needs to be ready for anything.

Report by Justin Honaker:

Leatherman has a slogan: ‘Leatherman. Now you’re ready.’ Around the hangar we joke about it, as if a multi-tool would suddenly make you ‘ready’. When I get a new one, the guys tease me a bit as I leave for my flight: ‘At least you’re ready now.’

Mamolise and her mother Matseliso are waiting at the airstrip. Mamolise has been in labour for two days. The nurse assures me she is fit to fly the 15 minutes to the district hospital, and hands some surgical gloves to the backseat passenger M’e’ Mathabo, a research scientist.

Justin and Amanda Honaker, MAF

With Mamolise strapped in our new harness stretcher, we depart for the district hospital in Manamaneng, Lesotho. But things in the back are getting frantic.

M’e’ Mathabo signals to me she wants to take off Mamolise’s harness. I’m hesitant, but agree to remove it – even though it took five minutes to get it on! M’e’ Mathabo leans forward, apparently ready. A tiny head is visible now.

‘Doesn’t this thing go any faster?’ I ask myself! Then I see M’e’ Mathabo sitting upright, holding a newborn baby in her arms! There are smiles all around.

Thankfully, the ambulance is waiting for us when we arrive. Before they go, Matseliso wants to cut the umbilical cord. She spots the Leatherman on my hip.

It’s the second day I’ve had it but, with no other instrument and no apparent concern on the part of the ambulance staff, I relinquish the unused multi-tool and struggle for the Sesotho words for ‘Go with God’! The healthy boy is whisked into the ambulance, the doors close and they are gone.

Although I can’t really say I was ‘ready’ for a baby being born on my plane, I’m delighted to be part of an organisation that is ‘ready’ to respond to medical emergencies 365 days a year. I’m also thankful for having M’e’ Mathabo along to deliver the baby in the backseat of my plane!


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