It was Good Friday morning, Michael and Judith Dupuis were enjoying some quiet reflection when a phone call from the Deputy Flight Operations Manager, Brad Venter, interrupted them. Then their morning took a different turn. A medical evacuation flight (medevac) was needed for a man who had been brutally attacked by a wild pig the day before. Michael and Judith quickly changed into their MAF uniforms and went to the Mt Hagen airport to get ready for their Good Friday medevac mission. The following are the morning’s events told by Judith.
Although the man’s injuries were not considered to be immediately life-threatening the patient was unable to walk the almost 30 km through the bush to the nearest hospital in Kompiam. Dr. David Mills, Medical Superintendent for Enga Baptist Health Services working at Kompiam District Hospital, inquired if we could also do another landing at the nearby airstrip called Pyarulama. Our quickly prepared flight plan had us overflying that airstrip on the way to the hospital anyway, so we agreed to pick up an out-patient who needed some follow-up medical attention.
Our flight this day was a rare opportunity to sit alongside each other serving His purpose. While Michael completed his preflight inspection and arranged for the Cessna Caravan to be refuelled I grabbed a few different ‘medevac care-bags’ supplied and prepared by MAF-PNG wives’ support ministry and threw them into the plane’s cargo pod.
As the aircraft seemed to leap into the air with extra resolve, we climbed into the unusually clear blue skies hoping that the wind would cooperate at the very short, one-way airstrip where we were heading at maximum speed. As we took to the skies and saw the glorious scenery that is usually shrouded in cloud we recognised this was another of God’s blessings we could experience together as a couple.
Navigating a track of 337’ from Mt Hagen it took a mere 20 minutes before we were aiming for the earliest touchdown point at Megau’s very short 420m steep runway. The aerodrome chart cautions the rising terrain of 8% upslope give the visual illusion of being too high.
On the ground the aircraft rapidly decelerated with the assistance of reverse thrust and the steep upslope. ‘My‘ Captain landed skillfully and uneventfully. From our cockpit window, we could see many people gathered near the top of the airstrip where there is a crude parking area just large enough for the MAF Caravan.
Our patient, was sitting on the grass among family and obviously suffering in silence. One could only imagine the excruciating pain he was experiencing as we could see several large gashes in his side, thighs, lower leg and foot. The need for care was well beyond the capabilities of the basic medical aid-post which had been built only a few months ago. Even with bandaging, Maku was still bleeding from the attack the day before. Within minutes, we had our 20 year old patient in the aircraft along with his wasman (helper). Outside of the major hospitals in the capital city of Port Moresby, smaller hospitals and clinics are not able to feed, bathe and offer much more than standard medical treatment. When a person goes to a hospital, usually someone will accompany them to take care of food and other basic needs. Our patient’s wasman was his uncle.
Overflying the lush, dense bush below, one could not help but consider the impossibility of our young patient traveling the 30km to the Kompiam Hospital with his severely injured foot and open wounds. Maku would have had to be carried along narrow trails through dense jungle, up and down steep mountain passes and across countless streams and rivers in deep valleys.
Shortly after arriving in Kompiam, our patient was carried, piggy-back style to the ambulance that was waiting to drive the short distance to the hospital.
After the patient got off the aeroplane I noticed a blood stain on the floor where Maku had been sitting. It reminded me of the blood shed by Christ on Good Friday some 2000 years ago. For a moment I imagined the difficulty of Christ’s walk to the cross, whipped and beaten. Jesus probably would have struggled to walk.
Praise God the Good Friday story didn’t end there; three days later, the only begotten Son was resurrected from the dead, proving His divinity. The Bible tells the story in Luke 24 of how two disciples, walking on the road to Emmaus that same day, did not recognise the resurrected Jesus. Later, only after Jesus broke bread, were their eyes opened to the truth. He lived!
My thoughts drift back to verses from Luke 24:33-40, “They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread. While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you. Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.“
The wounds of Jesus’ hands and feet were proof to the disciples that Jesus, the Christ, was indeed resurrected and alive.“
We completed the short flight to Mt. Hagen. Our flying day ended and we resumed our Good Friday holiday at home, but my heart felt full and at peace. Maku would receive the medical attention he needed.
Three weeks later, Michael returned Maku and his uncle back to their village. The airstrip at Megau presents many challenges but not as many challenges as the two happy passengers had faced since they were now returned from Kompiam Hospital.
How wonderful it is to be able to do this work and be the hands and feet of Jesus in PNG and see the difference MAF aircraft make in people’s lives as we wait for His return.
Story and photos Judith and Mike Dupuis