Little Ojiya has had three lots of surgery in her short life (credit: Jenny Davies)
HealthMedevacWomen and Girls

MAF medevacs 3-year-old Ojiya to hospital for more lifesaving surgery

12th October 2023

Little Ojiya has had three lots of surgery in her short life (credit: Jenny Davies)

Little Ojiya has had three lots of surgery in her short life (credit: Jenny Davies)

Thanks to MAF, Ojiya from Juba in South Sudan has just undergone another lifesaving operation in Nairobi, Kenya, avoiding a gruelling four-day road trip to hospital. Born with gastroschisis – a hole in her tummy – Ojiya’s bowel formed outside of her body in her mother’s womb. MAF’s Jenny Davies brings us the latest

Yesterday, Ojiya underwent a further nine-hour operation to correct her condition known as gastroschisis.

Following successful reconstructive surgery, Ojiya is now recovering well in the High Dependency Unit at Aga Khan University Hospital in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

MAF’s three-and-a-half-hour flight from Juba to Nairobi enabled the little girl to arrive swiftly and safely, ready for surgery.

The alternative? A dangerous and exhausting four-day inter-country overland trip on inadequate roads, which would have been out of the question in Ojiya’s fragile condition.

According to Forbes, South Sudan has the highest rate of poverty in the world and does not have the advanced medical capabilities to accommodate such a complicated procedure, unlike its neighbour Kenya.

A private medevac is beyond the means of Ojiya’s parents Boniface and Charity (credit: Jenny Davies)

A private medevac was unaffordable for Boniface and Charity (credit: Jenny Davies)

Neither do Ojiya’s parents – Boniface and Charity – have the financial means to pay for a private medevac.

For them, MAF is the only way to access lifesaving medical treatment for their little girl.

‘I would like to thank MAF and the AMI Clinic for the genuine support that they gave me in the transportation of my daughter from Juba to Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi. I thank everyone who participated.

‘MAF – you are truly doing God’s ministry in South Sudan. Thank you very much for your service. May God’s blessing rain upon you abundantly as you continue to save people in South Sudan.’

Boniface – Ojiya’s father and MAF passenger

Fighting to survive following failed surgery

Soon after she was born, Ojiya had some surgery to address her condition, but it was unsuccessful.

Nearly three years later, she was admitted to AMI Clinic in Juba after her health began to deteriorate. AMI’s Emergency Medical Technician Cole Tideswell was amazed Ojiya had survived thus far:

‘It was an extraordinary and unique situation that she survived up until this point and didn’t catch severe septicaemia.’

Ojiya would have been ’stuck’ without MAF said Dr Ilirjan Bashllari (credit: Jenny Davies)

Ojiya would have been ’stuck’ without MAF said Dr Ilirjan Bashllari (credit: Jenny Davies)

Since AMI was unable to carry out such advanced surgery, AMI’s Clinical Lead Dr Ilirjan Bashllari, approached Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, which has specialist paediatric surgeons who would be able to undertake Ojiya’s operation:

‘Aga Khan University Hospital agreed to do the operation and from our side, everything was in place, but the transport proved challenging. We had to work out, how do we connect this place with that place? We were stuck!’

Dr Bashllari’s colleague – Advanced Support Paramedic Ingo Müller – had a friend who worked for MAF South Sudan. MAF Pilot Tobias Meyer! MAF’s small planes were the perfect solution!

Important link – AMI’s Ingo Müller (2nd left) is friends with MAF’s Tobias Meyer (far right) (credit: Jenny Davies)

AMI’s Ingo Müller (2nd left) knows MAF’s Tobias Meyer (far right) (credit: Jenny Davies)

This door-to-door service meant that Ojiya would be picked up from home by ambulance and transported to MAF’s plane in Juba. Another ambulance the other end would meet her at Nairobi Wilson Airport for a direct transfer to Aga Khan University Hospital.

That way, the risk of infection – otherwise potentially caused by a busy commercial flight -would be mitigated.

On 15 June, Ojiya was medevacked to Nairobi, which took three-and-a-half hours – a fraction of the time by road.

Dr Bashllari explains the first phase of the operation in Nairobi, which took five hours:

‘They had to reconstruct the guts to close the fistula (hole) and repair the abdominal wall. It was a long, complicated and difficult surgery, but at least Ojiya would have a fighting chance.’

But it was Ojiya’s initial care in Juba, which made a big difference says Cole Tideswell:

‘Credit to the AMI nurses in Juba who first cared for her and dressed the wound to prevent sepsis. If they hadn’t done that, the risk of sepsis and death within the next year would be quite high.’

Access to surgery impossible without MAF

After the first phase of surgery, Ojiya received specialist aftercare in the paediatric intensive care unit at Aga Khan University Hospital until she was strong enough to be discharged.

On 7 July, Ojiya and Boniface boarded MAF’s return flight to Juba to be reunited with the rest of the family.

Boniface wore a beaming smile as he stepped off the plane in Juba with Ojiya in his arms.

Ojiya’s father Boniface is happy with her recovery (credit: Jenny Davies)

Ojiya’s father Boniface is happy with her recovery (credit: Jenny Davies)

A few days later, he reported that his daughter was recovering well from phase one:

‘Her operation was a success and she’s getting better and better every day.’

Dr Bashllari offers his sincere thanks to MAF:

‘Ojiya is one step closer to a full recovery. MAF offered the possibility of surgery to that family. Your services are extremely valuable and without MAF, the surgery would not have become a reality. MAF gave Ojiya the opportunity to have the best treatment around. Sincere thanks.’

Dr Bashllari – AMI’s Clinical Lead and MAF partner

Dr Bashllari continues to provide advice and support to Ojiya in Juba to help her establish normal bowel function post-surgery.