MAF rescues boy bitten by a snake

MAF rescues boy bitten by a snake

A boy in a remote mountain community in Papua New Guinea is glad to be alive after being bitten by a death adder

Time was tight for Naha. He needed urgent medical help after the venomous snake bit him - but such healthcare isn't available in his home village of Owena in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

To travel for days overland wasn't an option. There are no roads. The people of Owena - as with many villages isolated by PNG's rugged landscape - depend upon MAF as their lifeline.

MAF pilot Jason Marsh got the emergency radio call having just finished serving his wife Melanie breakfast in bed at our base in Goroka. It was their wedding anniversary and they had plans to celebrate.

Their plans changed, but the couple could still be together as there was a space for Melanie to join the 24-minute medevac flight to Owena.

As they flew, Melanie prayed ‘that the little boy would be able to hang on until we could get him to a hospital, that the airstrip would be clear for landing, and that my breakfast would remain where I’d put it that morning!’

The airstrip at Owena is one of the steepest (12.5% slope) and the shortest (380 metres) that MAF flies to anywhere in the world. It is imperative that the weather is co-operative.

'As we came around the last mountain to do a fly over to check out the airstrip and wind sock,' says Melanie, 'I was surprised at the length of the clearing we would be putting down in. As we touched down and rumbled our way up to the top of the airstrip, people came from all directions to meet the plane.'

Having unloaded the supplies we’d flown in for the people there, Jason prepared the aircraft for the patient and his caregiver.

A missionary who had been working in the area for 30 years told Melanie they have frequent problems with snakebites and, because they don’t have reliable refrigeration to store the anti-venom safely, no supplies were available.

Fortunately, the snake had only bitten Naha’s finger, so the poison hadn’t made its way into his bloodstream by the time the plane arrived.

Because of this and the quick response from MAF, the little boy could be flown to hospital to receive treatment – giving Jason and Melanie yet another reason to celebrate!