IT’S never easy when it comes to repatriation of mothers that we airlifted into Lae from rural villages. 1st of September was so sad and quiet for our staff, as we see off the helicopter, repatriating a newborn baby, and his deceased mother.
On the 1st of August 2021, our medevac team received a call from local leaders in the Huon Gulf District of Morobe. It was a request for medical evacuation of a mother via helicopter.
The young mother, who had just given birth in the village hut to her second child, succumbed to multiple illnesses that locals were unable to establish. They were more worried about the newborn, who was so tiny, because of the premature birth, and also the delivery outside a hospital.
Because the mother’s deteriorated condition was related to child-birth, the same day, MedEvac Nurse Sr Naomi and pilot Jan set out in P2-HOT to evacuate the mother. It was best that doctors find out what the sickness is, so that she can get the right treatment.
The flight was authorized by the local MP of Huon Gulf, and in less than 30 minutes, the mother, her newborn and a guardian were picked up at Selebop Village in the Salamaua local level government area. They were safely airlifted into Lae and brought to Angau Hospital for proper diagnosis and hospital management.
During an interview on the day of repatriation, according to the grieving aunt (name withheld), who was the guardian, the mother was sick for a few years.
“When she got pregnant, she developed all kinds of symptoms, she lost her appetite, and wasn’t feeling well every day.”
“After she gave birth, that’s when the symptoms worsened. We didn’t know what made her sick. She was too weak and she needed help.”
The husband (name withheld) was speechless and still in shock. When asked if he had anything to say, he just shook his head.
According to the mother’s clinic record, she was diagnosed with Pulmonary Tuberculosis. Pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious bacterial infection that involves the lungs. It may spread to other organs, and makes the body weak quickly.
PTB is not a new disease in the rural areas of PNG, many people are diagnosed only when they reach the hospitals or the nearest Health Centre.
In 2020, our medevac team airlifted a total of 5 patients suspected to have TB. They are listed as “suspected cases of TB” due to the fact that there is no health worker to assist and give the correct diagnosis over the phone, or when locals describe symptoms to medevac nurse. The “suspected case” is then confirmed at Angau Hospital after test results.
Despite her treatment and efforts by health workers at Angau to help her, the mother died on 18th August 2021, leaving her newborn son, the aunt, and the husband, (who joined them at Angau, few days after the medevac on August 1st).
The Manolos Admin Veranda was filled with an atmosphere of sadness, as staff loaded the coffin of the mother on the trolley, to be transferred to the helicopter. Her baby was tucked in her grandmother’s arms.
They boarded the aircraft and the helicopter took off. It’s not often that we see a mother we medevaced leave like that, and it broke our hearts.
We send our condolences to the family and well wishes to the newborn baby as he grows up with his father.