Shot in the mouth

Shot in the mouth

A remarkable story came back to us recently of a man who had been a victim of violent cattle thieves.

A call came in asking for a flight from the village of Ankavandra to hospital in the capital Antananarivo.

The details were sketchy, but what was known was that it was a gunshot victim with a bullet having travelled through his mouth.

Pilot Becky Dillingham said: “The man would be accompanied by some family members, but we were unsure if any medical staff would be available to join the flight.

God's timing is perfect and just as the caravan was being prepared for the flight, in walked Dr Sylvain - a doctor who regularly joins us for our medical safaris.

Thankfully he was willing to come along for the ride! This was a double blessing as he could also act as a translator in a region where little French is spoken.”

Becky, fellow pilot Josh Plett and Dr Sylvain flew in 144 miles from Antananarivo to Ankavandra, a journey that took them 52 minutes.

There they found Ledadaky and it soon became clear he had fallen foul of the Dahalo – the Malagasy word for cattle thieves – in the area. He had been carried to the village, where he received initial first aid treatment, and then the further three miles to the airstrip on the other side of the river.

Becky takes up the story: “Located beside the river at the base of the high plateau, the area looked beautiful as we flew in. In the hot, dusty conditions on the ground it was a different story.

Ankavandra is located in one of the 'zones rouges', where police and security are scarce and the Dahalo roam freely.

The larger groups of Dahalo have assault rifles to protect their herds of stolen cattle. The bullet had knocked out Ledadaky’s bottom teeth and left a path of destruction from his cheek, down his neck.

“Ledadaky and his family members boarded the aircraft with some cooking pots and bags of rice they had brought with them. Your family must provide food for you while you stay in hospital and rice is more expensive in Tana than where they live in the bush, so they came prepared.

We flew back to Tana, arriving shortly before sunset and the patient was soon strapped into the waiting ambulance and taken to hospital.”