Medevac 5: A spear in the back
An urgent call had come from Balimo Hospital asking for an immediate medevac.
But MAF pilot Markus Bischoff knew there was a big problem: Balimo airstrip was closed.
Two men had been out hunting in this swampy area, and as dusk descended Gawak’s friend mistook him for prey and accidentally speared him in the back! It wasn’t until the next morning that Gawak was taken to the hospital in Balimo, only to be told they did not have a doctor there. He would have to be urgently relocated to Kiunga Hospital.
But even an emergency flight with MAF posed serious risk, as blood and other fluids from the wound had collected in Gawak’s chest cavity, restricting his good lung from fully functioning. Once at high altitude, he would barely be able to breathe. His only option was to have minor surgery and drain his lung before he even took flight. The only doctor available who could perform this surgery was Dr Sharon, who was away visiting outstation clinics.
Markus re-routed his flight to pick up the doctor, who also brought Dorothy with her, a woman who was suffering from a tubal pregnancy which was close to rupturing.
After landing at Kawito – the nearest airstrip to Balimo – they waited for Gawak to arrive up the river by boat, along with another patient from the hospital. Abilo had suffered a knife stab wound and would also need to be transferred to Kiunga Hospital for treatment.
Finally, after performing the emergency surgery under the dilapidated roof of Kawito’s open air terminal, Dr Sharon and the three patients left for Kiunga. As it turned out, Dr. Sharon had to perform emergency surgery on Dorothy the next day, just as the fallopian tube burst. If Markus had not picked her up along the way, Dorothy would not have survived.