Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Lengthy Evacuation

On Saturday, January 31st, while on home assignment here in the US, I received a call from Gabon.  It was Dr. Renee, one of the international workers serving at Bongolo Hospital.  For four (4) days they had been trying to execute a medical evacuation (medevac) for a short term worker that had fallen off scaffolding.  Thanks to a great connection via Skype, I was able to get the story from Renee.

Lavon was working on the roof of this mission house, the "foyer", a building
we use for group events.  This is a picture from 2010, when the US
Ambassador to Gabon paid a visit along with the Deputy Chief of Mission.
The injured man, Lavon, has served annually at Bongolo, on short term trips, for many years.  He and some friends partner with local workers to do some of the larger projects that are a bit too much to handle for our maintenance team that handles the day-to-day stuff.

He was working on the roof of the foyer, on a scaffolding and fell 5 foot to a hard, concrete surface.  His pain was intense and his ability to move was very limited.  Bongolo Hospital cared for him, but soon realized that he would need to be evacuated.

Unfortunately, our normal tool for evacuation, our trusty Cessna, was parked in Cameroon and our chief pilot and myself were both out of the country attending a training course in North Carolina.  So, plan B is typically transportation by car to the capital city- sometimes up to 10 or 11 hours!  Well, Lavon was not able to go over the bumpy route- air evac was the only way.

Gabon teammates, Barry and Paul, taking Lavon from Bongolo to the
pickup site.
Renee and other hospital leaders started reaching out to their connections, but were running out of options.  So, by the time I received her phone call, 4 days after the fall, there was still no solution.  Thankfully, I had my trusty iPhone 3 with all my Gabon contacts.  I put them in contact with an agriculture company as well as a union of helicopters serving the oil companies out by the coast.

Ultimately, ALMOST A WEEK AFTER his fall, he was being loaded into a mission vehicle and driven to a soccer field near the hospital where the Gabon military had dispatched a helicopter.   They took him to the capital city of Libreville where he stayed at a hospital there for an additional 2 WEEKS (!!!) before arrangements were made with a commercial airline to evacuate him from there back to the US, and eventually to Indiana where he lives.

I'm pleased to report that, following successful surgery to fuse 3 vertebrae together, he is at home resting.  Upon arrival in Libreville, a hospital there, thought to be one of the best in the region, did a CT scan and said there were no broken bones.  However, back in the US, it was discovered that he had, indeed, broken his neck in 5 places!

Please join us in praying for Lavon's complete recovery and a return to Bongolo for many years to come!

This event highlights one way that our aircraft plays a critical link in supporting the Gabon team.  Thankfully, our aircraft will be back in action soon.  Thank you for your prayers and support!

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