Saving Lives Is Not Easy

On a Tuesday morning, we were asked to fly a seriously injured forest worker from the west coast to the capital. The man had several serious injuries to his head, upper body and leg and needed oxygen. In this condition, he could not be transported long distances by car. Helimission is the only organization on the entire island of Madagascar that can carry out such medevac flights. We immediately started preparations. A medical team was called in to take care of the patient in the helicopter.  

But there was a problem. Because security measures at the airport where we are stationed had been increased, the arrival of the two doctors was delayed. Unfortunately, after two hours the doctors had still not arrived at the helicopter. So at 1 p.m. I had to cancel the flight because we would not have made it back before dark. Helicopters are not allowed to fly at night in Madagascar. I was frustrated! How could the entrance control at the airport delay a medevac mission so much that people’s lives were endangered because of it? These checks were supposed to be for safety and to protect lives. Coming from a western country, there are things that are hard for me to accept. I prayed for the seriously injured man and promised that we would try again early the next morning, hoping that he would still be alive.

Thanks to some good connections, we received permission to land at a private airstrip in the city and pick up the doctors there. The patient was still stable that morning and the weather was good so that we could start the flight to the west coast. After a fuel stop, we landed in Belo two hours later. The injured man was brought to the helicopter in a pickup truck. We were told that the young man was in charge of a forest area (he was a forest warden) and had been attacked and badly beaten by bandits. When I saw the injured man, I was reminded of the story of the good Samaritan. An ambulance was waiting for us at the landing site in the city, and it brought the injured man to the hospital. 

Nick, pilot