Friday, December 25, 2015

The Rest of the Story

“Please don’t leave me here! I have nothing here, and I know nobody here! Can you fly me back to Guayaramerin tomorrow? How much do I owe you for the flight?”, the woman sobbed. We were on the general aviation platform at the international airport in Santa Cruz. They were loading the body of her son into an ambulance. He had died as the sun was setting over the Andes Mountains half an hour before we landed.
                I told her that I could fly her the next day and that she did not need to worry about money because we had enough money to cover the cost of the fuel for the flight. They had spent all the money they had, and racked up a debt trying to save their son. The last thing they needed was somebody else telling them that they had to pay more money. We want to thank everyone who has been supporting us and made it possible for us to help people. I had not written about this for a while because I was emotionally and physically exhausted. Helen send out an email called “Sad Medivac”, but now I’m going to tell you as Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story.”
                The day started with a trip to the market at five in the morning to buy food. While at the market Herman told me there was a medical flight and asked if I could make the flight. On the way home there were people protesting and blockading the roads. Then the flight was 440 nautical miles long with a quick stop in Trinidad to drop Herman off where the T182 was. I made it to Guayaramerin about 3 in the afternoon.

                When I landed the ambulance was there waiting at the airport. I parked the plane and told the doctors to wait a few minutes while I filed a flight plan back to Santa Cruz. Then I went back and fueled the plane, added some oil to the engines, and did a walk around. Then we got in the plane. When they took the boy out of the ambulance they forgot his IV hanging in the ambulance and ripped the needle out if his arm. The boy was conscious and talking when we got in the plane. He was asking for his brother and his father. There was only room in the pane for the boy, the doctor taking care of the boy, and his mother.
                By the time we got in the plane and started the engine the control tower told me that it was too late in the afternoon to head to the domestic airport in Santa Cruz. They told me I would have land at the international airport. I taxied out the runway and took off. Then once I had the plane in a steady climb on course I had some time to think. There had been many distractions at the airport; the doctors had been asking questions and I now could not remember if I had put the engine oil dipstick back in the engine or if I had forgotten it sitting on top of the engine cowling while I added oil to the engine.
                At that moment as the plane climbed over unbroken jungle the stress level rose really high. Turning back possibly could mean the death of the boy because of delays. However, continuing with the engine possibly losing oil out of the engine could mean the death of all in the plane. Some times in this sinful world we are faced with situations where there is no good answer, all the options are bad, you have to pick the best option.
I had one last resource to check before I had a bad situation. If I had forgotten the dipstick on the cowling then it would have fallen on the ground where the plane had been parked when I started the engine. So I called the control tower and asked them to go check the ramp for the dipstick where I had parked. They told me there was no dipstick on the ramp. The stress level dropped, I had put the dipstick back in the engine.

Halfway through the flight back to Santa Cruz I contacted Trinidad and gave them my estimated time of arrival in Santa Cruz and told them that I would need an ambulance to meet the plane at the airport. At this point the boy’s condition had gone downhill. He was no longer conscious and the doctor had him on oxygen. At that point I told the doctor that we were 20 minutes from Trinidad and 1 hour 20 minutes from Santa Cruz. He told me to continue to Santa Cruz.
Half an hour from Santa Cruz the boy died. The doctor tried to help him but could not. The boy died at about sundown. Here they only allow instrument flights at night. As the boy was dying beside me I had to concentrate and prepare for an instrument approach in case I had to fly an instrument approach. However, the weather was good and an instrument approach was not needed. When we were about 70 miles out I contacted Santa Cruz control I advised them that I needed an ambulance to meet the plane at the airport. So when we were handed over to the control tower they cleared me direct to the downwind leg of a visual approach and sent an airline jet approaching the airport out on a DME arc.
After landing, parking, unloading, and securing the plane the experience was only half over. There was the return flight the next day. That is another story in its self to be continued next time, when I will tell, “the rest of the story.”
God bless,


Monday, December 14, 2015

Plans to Move 

Plans to Move!

        Our family is soon planing to move to Guayaramerin, Bolivia, (which is very close to Riberalta on the map) to expand the aviation project there. We will be based at the Richard Gates High School, and will be building a house and a hangar there. The director of the high school has already done a lot of work on getting a runway cleared and graded right there at the school. Our house and hangar will be right beside the runway.
An aerial photo of the runway at the school. 
       Why are we interested in moving to northern Bolivia? The two most northern departments of Bolivia, Pando and Beni, are part of the Amazon basin. Parts of the Beni and all of Pando is very thick jungle and very wet during rainy season. The roads are dirt and are flooded for months. 
     Pando, especially, only has one dirt road going into it. The rest of Pando is accessible by river or air. There are many rivers and many runways along the rivers. Traveling by river takes a long time because they are very winding and the boats are slow. That is fine for normal travel, but what happens when there is an emergency?
     Helen has traveled into the Pando, and it was by boat. It took 5 days to reach the village we were going to, sleeping on the sandbars at night, being told not to bathe in the river after dusk because the caiman (a type of alligator) and the anaconda come out to hunt after then. There were some who had heard big jungle cats calling out at night on a previous trip.   The village that the boat was going to was not very far into Pando, but it still took 5 days. A couple of nurses were in the group and started giving medical aid as they could because the Doctors that serve the region have such large districts that they can not visit each village more than once every three months or so. There were post nurses who served smaller areas, but were not able to be in each village more than once every week or two. The clinics out there had little more than one small suitcase of supplies that was expected to cover all the needs encountered.
    So what happens when there are labor complications, or a snake bite, or some other serious emergency? The boat takes many days to get to the nearest hospital. Sadly, the reality is that many people die in these situations.
      And that is where the plane comes into the picture. You know that village that takes 5 days by boat to get to? Guess how long it takes the Cessna 182 to go from Riberalta,  which is 60 km by road from where we will be based, to that village?            Twenty minutes.   (Riberalta and Guayaramerin both have hospitals) Within a short time a plane can go and get the patient and deliver them to a hospital.
      Most of the villages of any size (more than a dozen families) have HF radios to call out with. We plan to put an HF radio in our house and so we can be contacted by the people and respond quickly.
     People are touched when someone shows they care, and the goal of the Richard Gates High School is to also train the students in service and evangelism. Students learning basic nursing skills can practice on people with real needs. Students learning to share the gospel can spend a weekend helping with spiritual needs. All soon possible because the villages will be less than an hour away by plane.

  So here are some pictures of what we have been able to do lately to get the plane ready to give medical service to the jungle people.
One of two light weight aluminum stretcher we were able
to buy thanks to some generous donors. 
The stretcher all folded up
We were also able to buy quick release hinge pins for both of the Cessna 182's. Pull two pins and the door is off allowing easier loading of a
stretcher into the plane .

A view of the stretcher in the plane and Steven and
Timothy doing a functionality test.

Just a few weeks ago there was a real medivac where they used the stretcher.
     There are a few projects Steven needs to finish before we can move. He is in the process of inspecting the Cessna 182, and has been guiding willing hands helping him get it airworthy. They also have to seal the Mooney's wing tanks and do some maintenance on its landing gear.
     Much progress has been made and it looks like it won't be long until we will be making the move! 
Thank You!
We want to thank all our generous supporters for all their prayers and help. It has meant food to eat, student loans payed, parts for the airplane purchased, and also extra improvements to the planes that help make them more useful in service. I also have half the funds needed for a propane stove for our new house :) (No hauling and splitting firewood in rainy season)            
           All this was possible because of you.
Please keep these things in prayer...
-Funds to overhaul the engine and propeller of the Cessna 182 that we will be flying in Pando
-The Bolivian registry of the 182 to allow it to fly into uncontrolled airstrips
-Our plans to move and set up a new home, especially with my growing belly (baby is doing fine!) Life at our new location will be a lot less plush, as laundry is done by hand in the creek, and we will be starting with just a roof with half walls to live under. We will need to put up more walls and netting and buy a stove, kitchen sink, etc. An outhouse and some running water will hopefully be soon be installed.
-For courage to keep going when Satan keeps trying to stop all progress. Satan does not have to stop a project that is making no progress, so I guess we are moving in the right direction.
                                               The Wilson Family
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