Oh, Baby!

It was not just an ordinary Sunday in Botswana. It was Boipuso, Independence Day. During his greeting, our pastor remarked that many babies born on Independence Day are given the name Boipuso. Mark tried hard to think of anyone he knew who was born on the 30th of September, but his mind drew a blank, and the thought of babies born on Independence Day passed out of his mind.

When church was over, Mark joined the guys in his discipleship class who were sitting at a picnic table under some trees. Just then his cell phone rang. It was a doctor at the hospital in Hukuntsi, a village in the Kalahari Desert. “We need a mercy flight,” the doctor said. “We have two patients. One is a maternity case with complications. We need to get her to Gaborone for a C-section. The other patient has gangrene.”

Mark left the picnic table and walked over to Travis Weaver, who was standing in the parking lot. “Let’s go to Hukuntsi!” he said. They discussed who would pre-flight the airplane and who would file the flight plan, and then they headed to the airport. A short time later they were in the air, and an hour and ten minutes later they were flying over the strip at Hukuntsi. After checking the winds and ensuring that the strip was clear, they landed on the gravel strip and taxied to a stop.

The ambulance with the patients on board was parked outside the airstrip gate. Because it was a holiday, there was no airport attendant on duty to unlock the gate. This has happened before, so Mark knew just what to do. He took his Leatherman tool off his belt and headed for the gate. In less than two minutes he had taken the nuts off the bolts that secure the gate and had removed the gate from its post. The ambulance was then able to drive the patients up to the airplane, and the two paramedics helped the patients onto the plane. The maternity patient lay on a stretcher on one side, the man with gangrene sat on the other side, and the paramedics worked in the aisle between them.

When they took off for Gaborone, the paramedics were expecting a routine transfer. They were quite surprised when, a half hour from Gaborone, the maternity patient began to deliver. Up in the cockpit, Mark and Travis heard a noise. Travis turned around to look and then looked back at Mark. “We have a baby in the back!” he announced. Mark turned around to see one paramedic holding the baby and the other paramedic attending the mother.

Upon landing at Gaborone, they taxied to the FMS hangar where an ambulance was waiting to receive the patients. The lead paramedic carried the baby boy off the plane and set it, wrapped in a bundle, on the ground. When he began holding oxygen up to the baby’s face, Mark asked, “Is he okay?” “He’s just having a little trouble breathing,” said the paramedic. After the baby’s breathing stabilized, the paramedic handed the oxygen to Mark, who continued holding it to the baby’s face, while Travis helped the two paramedics get the mother off the plane. It was a very special moment for Mark. He has flown thousands of hours over 27 years, but he has never had a baby born on one of his flights. It was a first for Travis, too. When they heard our pastor talk about babies born on Independence Day, little did they know that they would play a special part in such an event on that very day!