‘Mrs B’ was involved in a nasty road traffic accident way out in Mongu in the Zambezi valley, not far from Angola. She sustained a neck injury which caused her right hand to be paralysed though there was no other paralysis. The family and medical staff were concerned that if she took the 9 hour drive back to Lusaka, Zambia, she could well sustain further injury to her spine and become quadriplegic.
Flying Mission Zambia partners, Mercy Flyers, were requested to fly her back to Lusaka to get her urgently to the orthopaedic surgeon at the Zambian Italian Hospital.
It was already late so we (MF) elected to head off early on Friday morning. Dr Craig (FMZ pilot and emergency doctor) took Pelile (trained Intensive Care Unit flight nurse) to collect Mrs B. The ambulance from the hospital arrived shortly after we landed in Mongu and we were able to transfer her onto a special spinal protection stretcher (borrowed from a private ambulance firm in Lusaka).
After strapping her securely and making sure there were no other missed injuries, we gave her an IV anti-emetic so she would not be nauseous for the flight. (Vomiting while strapped in that stretcher would be really dangerous for her.)The weather was not ideal so the ride back was slow, due to a 20 mile per hour headwind, and rather bumpy. Thankfully the drugs did their job and she wasn’t sick. On landing back at the International Airport in Lusaka we found that the ambulance that had promised to collect her was not there. Finally, after 2 hours, we managed to get an ambulance to transfer her to the hospital – the 4th ambulance service we phoned. Life in Africa can be challenging even for the theoretically well-organised!
I am pleased to say that when we phoned her 4 days later, her neck had been treated by the hospital team and the weakness in her arm was much improved.
Because of the aircraft and the flight crew she was moved swiftly, in complete safety, to the urgent care she needed – this potentially saved her life and certainly saved her arm.