Bags full of Blessings

Bags full of Blessings

MAF women in Papua New Guinea come together a few times a year to pack Care Bags for women we fly for emergency hospital care. Madeleine Bischoff, wife of MAF pilot Markus, shares the joy of blessing two new mothers, with bags and shares their stories.

Mothers that need an emergency medevac flight usually board the MAF plane with little more than the clothes they stand up in. Poverty means people have few resources to fall back on, even if they had the time, to pack a bag.

So a small 'Care Bag' of essentials like soap, a towel and some clean clothes are warmly welcomed and appreciated by expectant mothers.

Women medevac’d out to hospital by the MAF plane are the fortunate ones. Sadly, childbirth is still often a death sentence for many mothers and their children:

  • Just over 50% of women in Papua New Guinea (PNG) give birth in a health facility or with the help of a skilled birth attendant - contributing to a lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy of 1 in 20. (In the UK it is 1 in 6,900.)
  • Equally high rates of infant mortality mean 1 in 20 babies will die in their first year of life.

Precious lives are lost because of poor healthcare and isolation.

Telebe’s twins

With seven children already, Telebe’s husband Tukane knew that something was badly wrong with her latest pregnancy.

Together, they walked for hours through the jungle to Mogulu Health Centre where nurses quickly diagnosed a twin pregnancy and scheduled Telebe and her husband for the next available flight with MAF to Rumginae.

It was just as well they did. Telebe experienced severe birth complications including massive blood loss during labour and one of the twins, a little boy, had to be resuscitated.

Had she remained in her village, Telebe and her babies would certainly have died.

Working and blessing

Telebe’s and Madeleine’s (wife of MAF pilot Markus) paths crossed when Tukane appeared on her door step and asked for work. 'The medical evacuation flights in the Rumginae area are usually paid for by the health centre that requests the flight,' explains Madeleine, 'but the return flight cost needs to be met by the patients.

‘We gave him some work and a few days later I also got to know Telebe and the twins. I knew immediately that she would be a candidate for one of these MAF Medevac Care Bags. I added a couple of used t-shirts that were left behind by one of our volunteers to the bag. The other MAF family next door also contributed a few baby things their boy had grown out of, and so I was able to present the parents with a very generous bag of items for newborn babies and some clothes for the mother.’

Serah's story

‘Another Care Bag,' continues Madeleine, 'found its way to Serah, who a few days earlier gave birth to a little girl. Serah and her husband and their first born daughter Franzi are from Honanabi.’

‘Franzi’s birth had been difficult and the village women, who had helped with the delivery, were worried that Serah would not survive a second birth.

Concerned, the family caught the return flight of an aircraft bringing rice to Honanabi and travelled from Kiunga to Rumginae by road.

The decision to come to Rumginae was a lifesaver. After a very serious breech birth the little girl had to be resuscitated. Thankfully, mother and child recovered well.

Only the clothes she was wearing

‘Serah also only had the clothes she was wearing,’ Madeleine recounts. 'My SIL neighbour gave her a meri blaus (a loose dress worn by PNG women) and I was able to supplement the prepared Medevac Care Bag with a skirt, some second-hand t-shirts and baby clothing, which was very much appreciated by the family.’

The MAF ladies are happy to pack these Medevac Care Bags, especially when they see them put to good use and gratefully received by the people our pilots serve. For them, the Care Bag is another way for MAF to show God's love and care for the mothers and babies.

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