Medevac of two pregnant mothers
Photo: Kirstein Combrink

Pilot Kirstein Combrink recalls a day of unscheduled medevacs.

“Last week I flew teams for mobile clinics in the Haydom area. After dropping off the first team, I was just about to start the plane to go for the second team, when a guy approached on motorbike and signalled that he wanted to talk. He explained something about a mother and baby who needed a lift to Haydom. I didn't understand exactly what the problem was, but I told him to bring them and that we would talk with the nurses.”

Movement confirmed a life in my hands.

The Youngest Passenger

“While waiting for them to return, one of the nurses came to the plane saying there was a lady who had started labour more than four days ago and needed to go to Haydom. When the others arrived, the patient was a premature baby born during the night at 24 weeks of pregnancy! The smallest little person I have ever seen and the youngest passenger I have ever flown. In Haydom I held the bundle of material in which the baby was wrapped and could hardly feel any weight, but some movement inside confirmed that there was a life in my hands.”

Baby delivered by C-section after medevac
Photo: Kirstein Combrink
Baby delivered by C-section

"I completed the rest of the day's flying, taking two more teams out to villages for clinics and back to Haydom at the end of the day. Then I went with one of the nurses to find the patients we had flown in. The lady with the prolonged labour had a caesarean section and the baby and mother were both doing well. Some family from the village made it up to Haydom by that time (more than six hours later), a journey that would not have been easy for her or survivable for the premature baby." 

Valuing All Life

"We also found the premature baby in the neonatal unit, wrapped up in blankets with warm water bottles and connected to CPAP machine for breathing. Looking at her chart, she only weighed 700 grams and had extremely low oxygen levels and pulse rate when she arrived. They were only able to record a measurable temperature on her by 3pm. Over the next few days, we checked up on her and there were positive signs, but it would be a long recovery process for her. I left Haydom on Friday, but one of the nurses would stay in touch with the family, monitor her progress and keep me updated.

When my phone rang on Monday morning with a call from the nurse, the news was that the little one had passed away. It's hard to understand these things sometimes and evaluate what difference we actually made, but it's safe to say that the transfer by plane gave this baby the best possible chance of survival. We showed to the mother and family that we value them and the chance of life of the baby."