03 January 2011

A Vacation Day Flight

This morning, we got a call from our flight scheduler that a man in Port-de-Paix (Port duh PAY) needed a medical flight. David needed some help fueling up and pushing the plane out, so I got to go along. Do I look excited? I was. I wore my MAF hat and my badge to look official (and it totally worked, by the way).

The traffic was surprisingly un-busy. As we drove, David told me more about the patient...he'd had cholera, but was getting better, and then suddenly began to lose feeling in his arms and legs. They were able to get in contact with an organization there in Port-de-Paix who agreed to pay for the MAF flight. I watched David as he drove, weaving in and out of traffic, and in our haste, he'd forgotten to shave. He grinned at me. "Sorry to drag you along--I'm sure this isn't what you want to be doing on a day off." Was he kidding? Rescue missions may be old hat to him by now, but they're still exciting to me.

I tried my best to be helpful when we got to the airport. I checked the fuel for him to make sure it was aviation gas and pulled out a tow bar, so we could get the plane out of the hangar. We had to fuel the plane by hand, so I also got to hand the fuel cans up to him, while he sat on the wing. David had to dump water on the cans to discharge the static, so that made things a bit slicker, but we managed. The plane was dusty from the vacation we'd all had over New Year's, but of course, I figured that wouldn't matter much to our passenger.

David took out two seats while I searched through the storage container for the stretcher he wanted. He'd never used one with a passenger before, and he was a bit nervous, understandably. I told him I'd be praying for him all the way.

After a short briefing on how to use the radio, it was just me and the ants in the office. Our office and hangar storage are made out of metal containers, like you can put on the back of a truck. For their sake, I can't wait until we have more space for all these hard-working guys, someday. Also, if you've never sat inside a metal box in a tropical country, you should try it sometime. I think the inventor of air conditioning might have found some inspiration there.

Thinking that I might be bored waiting for him to return, I brought along a book...but I didn't get much chance to use it. By the time I called B to tell her not to come today, lent a tool to another airport worker, signed for a port-a-potty cleaning, talked on the radio a few times and called the ambulance service, they were back.

The Americans who showed up to take him to the hospital were long on medical knowledge and short on Creole, so I was glad to be able to help them get a little history. I stood so that my body shaded his face from the sun, knowing that he couldn't do much about it himself. His arms were folded unnaturally across his chest, and he looked...scared. We talked with his sister and his dad--Was anyone else sick? No. Was he still having diarrhea? No. (Although I think you could have told that from the plane's cleanliness, but maybe not.) He had cholera before? Yes, but he was getting better.

The Haitian driver they'd hired wasn't interested in touching our passenger...and I can't really blame him. They got him strapped onto a new stretcher and whisked him away, just as a large jet started to power up. I waved at the family to say goodbye; they looked at us as if to say, "Oh, you're not coming?" They had already thanked us profusely. The dad raised a fist, as if to say, "We'll keep on fighting," and the sister just waved. "Great job," I told David. "For what?" he asked. "All I do is fly airplanes." Right, David. All you do is fly airplanes...to help save lives. In moments like this, I realize even more fully that the grace to do what we do comes from God, despite our unworthiness to be part of it.

Thanks for helping us share God's grace with one guy who really needed it. Please be praying for his recovery.

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