One of our local Indonesian pilots, Dyro, and I had just returned to our base in Wamena, when our local flight planner, Lendy, ran out and told us there was a little girl in Hutkima with a broken leg who needed to be taken to hospital.
Dyro quickly prepared the flight plan and I refueled the helicopter. The weather was very challenging, so we were unable to fly directly. Low hanging clouds blocked our way over the passes. Twice we had to fly a detour before we finally arrived in Hutkima. We kept the helicopter running because we did not want to lose any time due to bad weather. We quickly found the little patient, Fina, and her uncle carried her to the helicopter in his arms. He lifted the blanket covering her “broken” leg, and it was almost more than I could take: her poor leg was mangled, everything was showing. As soon as Fina and her uncle were in the helicopter we started our journey home.
The weather on the return flight was even worse and clouds forced us to fly a detour, so we had to refuel at an airstrip where we had previously placed drums of fuel. We barely made it over the pass to land with our patient directly in front of the hospital in Wamena.
The hospital takes care of medical needs only. Bedding and food are provided by relatives. Helimission always tries to make sure that “our” patients are well taken care of. When we visited her, we found out that Fina’s right leg had to be amputated above the knee. We brought her a care package with bedding, dishes, soap etc. and a few stuffed animals. Fina was still very drugged from surgery. She has lived in the village her whole life; she only speaks her tribal language and had not had any encounters with “white people”. Our presence scared her, so we left quickly so she would not feel uncomfortable.
We shared the situation and the need for crutches with our friends. We immediately received encouragement and promises of financial help and were able to get adjustable child size and standard size crutches Fina can grow into. When we headed back to the hospital, she was gone! We were very surprised. Just two days before she had major surgery. No extra comforts, no physical or emotional therapy here. Moreover, nobody knew where Fina was in the town, only a date a week later when she would come in to clean the wound and change the bandage.
A week later we were able to track her down. The house was made of wood and metal sheeting. We entered this humble, and very crowded home expecting to see a frail and weak patient. But Fina was sitting up with all the other people and was delighted to see us. Her bright eyes spoke volumes when our daughter Grace showed her how to use the crutches. Although Grace and Fina could not communicate verbally, they instantly became friends. Hugging and smiling and joking together.
Once a week Fina had to go to hospital for wound treatment and to get her bandage changed. Fina spent three months in Wamena. We often went to visit her. Our children played with Fina and we were happy to see how she recovered and how quickly she learned Indonesian. When the time came for Fina to return to her village it was a “bittersweet” farewell. There were also lots of tears when she arrived in the village – tears of joy. It made our hearts happy to see this amazing moment, and to see Fina so accepted and loved. It’s hard to put into words how this experience has affected our family. We are so thankful that Fina’s wound never got infected and that we can use the helicopter to do such a valuable service. Thank you to all of you who make this possible! We look forward to seeing Fina again.