Monday, April 4, 2011

RFDS (Rumginae Flying Doctor Service)

The 320 horse power (turbo version) Australian made GippsAero GA8 Airvan can be used with 8 seats, but also converts quickly into a great option for transporting sick patients. MAF operate Airvan ‘MFJ’ from Rumginae. It is, in fact, the 100th Airvan built and last Thursday it was very well used.

Rumginae hospital admitted 34 patients in 2010 with ‘snake bite’. We also know of a number of snake bites treated in our aid posts and health centres. The true number of snake bites in this province must be in the hundreds and I don’t know how many snake bite deaths occur in the bush. Most of those admitted to Rumginae would have been death adder bites and only some would have needed precious antivenom. Thankfully most poisonous snake bites in our area are ‘only’ death adder bites which cause reversible paralysis and have little effect on the blood or kidneys. South of Kiunga can be found the more deadly Taipan… as one young Lake Murray mother found out on Wednesday night…

Many villages in Western Province have rubber trees. People ‘tap’ these, collect the sap and send it to Kiunga for further processing. Working in the rubber block near the end of the airstrip on Wednesday night, A** was bitten by an unidentified snake. The nearby government health centre had a shortage of vital equipment including snake bandages, resuscitation breathing equipment and antivenom. I left behind a lot of things from my emergency box!

On Thursday morning, a radio call told us about A**. Pilot Matt made immediate preparations for a medivac and we set off. It was soon clear that she was very unwell, almost completely paralysed from the Taipan venom.  Her eyes were closed and she was having trouble breathing. I gave her one vial of antivenom and put some in the health centre fridge for ‘next time’. I also needed to put a tube (laryngeal mask) in her throat and assist her with her breathing. It is always hard to say, but I don’t think she would have still been alive if we had landed 20 minutes later.

It all sounds very clinical so far, but to get the real picture, you need to also imagine the heat and humidity, see a hundred people gathered around looking in windows, crying and upset. A** is lying on a wooden bed. There are no beeps or bings, in fact no electricity to power any machine that would want to beep anyway. No phones. No stretcher… we put her on a smaller bed and carried her out the door, over the small creek, across the airstrip to the waiting plane, with an escort of hundreds.



With death adder bites, the antivenom reverses the paralysis, but with Taipan the nerve terminals are actually destroyed and the patient remains paralysed until the nerve terminals regrow 5-10 days later. Practically, this means patients need to stay on a ventilator for a week or so. A ventilator is not something we have at Rumginae, so we chose to fly direct to Tabubil. The medical team at Tabubil (Ok Tedi Mine) hospital are always very supportive of the work at Rumginae and they happily agreed to take this patient. She still has a long way to go and may develop other complications of snake bite, but I would love to update you in 2 weeks time with a photo of her returning home. Please pray for her recovery. Please also pray for her family at Lake Murray.

… but that is not all…

Captain Matt kindly dropped me back at Rumginae (with some other patients who had come from Lake Murray) and started his usual Thursday run to the East. About an hour later, we needed him to fly even further south to Balimo where a young lady had been trying to deliver her first baby for more than 24 hours. The light was becoming dim as the sun set and the leaves in the trees were rustling from the approaching thunderstorm as Matt landed.

It was obvious that the best thing for this young lady would be a caesarean section. That would require having blood available for transfusion… but for a combination of reasons, we had no lab man at Rumginae that day. Dr Daniel put on another of his many hats and 90 minutes later the cross match was ready.

One stressed little baby boy was delivered close to midnight. The operation went well. Mother and baby are now doing well.

We continue to praise God for the partnership we have with MAF. Three lives were saved with one plane on that one day. Please pray for MAF. Pray for more pilots and engineers, for enough finances to do this life saving work, for safety and for the people they serve to realise that MAF fly to bring glory to God.

Please pray for the medical team at Rumginae. Pray that we would use our time wisely as we serve. Please pray for us as we address some of the issues which this story raises – equipment, resuscitation skills, maternal and child health and much more.

Praise God that we have heard of a couple interested in coming to serve with maintenance. Please pray for them as they seek the Lord’s will for their lives.

love and prayers

Daniel, Tammy, Tom, Rosie and Sam

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col 3:12

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