International rescue

International rescue

Medevacs are always urgent, but crossing borders with an unconscious patient can be a challenge.

It was Friday afternoon a few weeks ago when the request for an urgent medevac came in from the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek, South Sudan.

An urgent flight was needed for a Ugandan staff member working at their hospital, the Mary Immaculate, in Mapuordit.

He had suffered a serious stroke and indications were that he had sustained significant neurological damage. 

There wasn’t time enough to carry out the evacuation before nightfall, so MAF pilot, Florian Poinstingl flew out of Juba early the following morning. 

‘I am writing on behalf of our Hospital Administration to thank you and the MAF team with heartfelt gratitude for the very wonderful service you have rendered to our staff, in repatriating him back to Gulu.'

An hour later, on the airstrip in Akot, a vehicle reversed up close to the aircraft and several people lifted the unconscious patient carefully into the plane.

The stretcher was fastened tightly to the floor and the Ugandan nurse, Victor Adyaka, embarked to monitor the patient’s blood pressure and other vital signs.

The plane remained low during the flight to limit the effects of altitude on the unconscious patient.     

Crossing borders

The aircraft had to stop to make before the in Juba so the two passengers could get exit clearance before travelling to Uganda.

A member of the dispatch team accompanied the nurse to the airport’s immigration office where some additional confusion arose.

The aircraft was supposed to cross the border at Arua in Uganda to get clearance for the passengers. Valuable minutes, maybe hours would be spent on this detour.

Thankfully Florian was able to get confirmation from the airport in Kampala that it would be possible to get immigration clearance in Gulu instead.

An hour later the plane landed at Gulu airport. The patient was quickly lifted into the waiting ambulance and the medevac was completed.

Heartfelt thanks

In the evening, MAF’s contact at the hospital in Mapuordit wrote, ‘I am writing on behalf of our Hospital Administration to thank you and the MAF team with heartfelt gratitude for the very wonderful service you have rendered to our staff, Mr. Matthew Okello, today, in repatriating him back to Gulu in Uganda.

‘I heard from Br. Claudio, who had accompanied the patient up to Akot Airstrip today, how kind and caring your pilots were. We were so relieved to hear that the flights had gone so well and that they reached Gulu in good time. Now our staff member is receiving treatment in Lacor Hospital, and his relatives are with him and also very grateful to have him back home. We now all pray that he will recover.’

A sad ending

Alas, Monday morning MAF received this message, ‘We were very sad to receive the news that our staff member passed away last evening in Lacor Hospital, but remain so very thankful for your rapid response and the fact that he died in his home place with his family around.’

‘I heard how kind and caring your pilots were. We were so relieved to hear that the flights had gone so well.'