Critical decisions, correctly made = lives saved

Critical decisions, correctly made = lives saved

Paul Woodington, a pilot with MAF Papua New Guinea, recalls a medevac flight which happened just before Christmas 2017. Thanks to quick thinking, good decision-making and trust in God, Paul managed to help two severely ill patients, including the son of a missionary partner, reach the medical care they needed.

Jesse Pryor is a second-generation missionary in Papua New Guinea (PNG). His family have built a clinic and on many occasions, MAF have helped him medevac seriously ill patients to receive treatment at far away hospitals.

Yesterday, I received a request to medevac Jesse’s son out of Samban. It was one of the most difficult and complex decision-making tasks I have undertaken. But, we did our utmost to help.

Paul Woodington, Pilot in PNGIt was late. I was already flying a medevac from Edwaki to Wewak, for a man with a broken leg who was lying down in the plane in considerable pain.

The Caravan was over half full and heavy. Yet, the task was to divert for an hour very late in the day, land in Samban, pick up the family of four, which all adds weight to the plane. I had to think about the weight and tail-wind for takeoff. Factor in a draggy surface penalty and recent rain. How low was the fuel? What reserves did I have? How close to last light? Could the man with the broken leg manage another hour in the plane?

Not many planes would have fuel for an hour-long diversion or the capacity to lift this load out of a marginal airstrip.

Aerial shot of village along the Sepik river

On the surface, it seems I would not be ticking many boxes so I declined. After a rethink, I found I could tick all the boxes if I diverted directly to Samban, not via Wewak. Jacob (base agent) was invaluable, acting as an intermediary between myself on the radio and the very concerned father.

So, we lifted 10 people out of Samban, one a small baby. The GA8 struggles to lift just two out of here. The Caravan with a four-knot tailwind became airborne half way along the strip, passing 200 ft over the fence.

It was such a gratifying performance. It made me realise how fantastic this plane is and to thank God for His wonderful provision for the Sepik. As I engaged the autopilot and looked back at the load, I felt a pang, a tear-jerking sensation. I experienced a real community feeling on board.

Elijah, their son with a burst appendix, was throwing up in a bag, being comforted by his big sister. Another woman was attending to the man with a broken leg which was badly swollen. Katie, Jesse’s wife, was showing another lady their newly adopted baby from PNG. I shared what was left of my lunch and passed around water, and gave pain killers to the stretcher patient.

Aerial shot of village along the Sepik river

I want to share this with you because this plane makes a real difference to people’s lives. The Pryors needed us, and are thankful for the help we provide for their family and ministry. We were able to help in the most difficult of circumstances. Not many planes would have fuel for an hour-long diversion or the capacity to lift this load out of a marginal airstrip.

This week I have done a medevac every day. Despite the difficult times we are all living, the mission community here is pulling together!