By Stewart Sarieng Pau*
I recall it was a Sunday, the 16th of August 2020.
The Morobe Provincial Disease Surveillance and Rapid Response Team was at the Manolos Aviation Ltd helipad and office located at Downtown Lae, to send off a team member to Hengiapa Village via Menyamya station, to pick up certain health workers and drop them off, so they can attend to a cough outbreak which claimed the lives of villagers.
After the helicopters’ first trip from Kabwum, we were asked to wait until the helicopter gets to Komakwata Village for a MAMA Medivac in the bush of Menyamya on the Aseki side.
The case was said to be a retained placenta. A young mother gave birth two days ago and the placenta got retained and she bled for the past two days.
Since the Manolos Medivac team was not around and was to come in later, I was called up by the helicopter pilot and chief executive officer of Manolos Aviation Ltd, Mr Jurgen Ruh.
He asked if one of us can go with him since we are clinicians too and can assist patients when there is an emergency. As the team leader, I offered to assist.
The pilot and I set off for Komakwata, which is surely a new location, because the pilot has only the estimated coordinates for landing. We landed at two wrong locations. At the second location, a villager was asked to come on board to give directions to the pilot on where to land. He directed the pilot as we flew into Komakwata. A PNG flag was tied at the tip of a long bamboo and the villagers were waving the flag as we flew in. We landed on an awkward position, in a very narrow space…. the mothers were crying!
The village children were curious to see the helicopter. All the men were there too. There was no privacy for the mother. I quickly assessed the mother and the child. The mother was conversing well, and there was no active bleeding but the mother was already pale and needed blood transfusion urgently.
The baby was still attached to the cord and the placenta. It was premature (quite small for its age) and was moving spontaneously. I gave thumbs up to the pilot. But I couldn’t cut the cord. There was no privacy, therefore we let the baby attached to the mother and we flew back.
On the way back we dropped off the person who helped us locate Komakwata Village, and we came back to Lae.
Upon the arrival in Lae, the medevac team was on standby, the baby and the mother were transported via a small ambulance from the helipad to Angau Hospital.
Two days later, I found out from the Obstetrics team at Angau Hospital, that it was very fortunate that I never cut the cord. If I had, the child would have died from hypothermia and hypoglycemia because it was premature.
After that Komakwata medivac flight, our trip was made and the COVID-19 samples were taken from Hengiapa Village and brought to me for transfer to Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR). All results came out negative.
It was truly a great and wonderful day and experience for me.
*Stewart Sarieng Pau is a health extension officer (HEO) and the COVID-19 Rapid Response Team leader for Morobe Disease Surveillance and Rapid Response Team, at Angau Hospital in Lae, Morobe Province.