A broken femur, a missing ambulance, unusable airstrips…it’s amazing what it takes
to get help when you break your leg in Uganda.
story Andy Swanson
A gruelling drive
While running a children’s home in Kitgum in the remote north of Uganda, Lois, an elderly New Zealand lady, slipped on some wet concrete stairs…and broke her femur.
To avoid the gruelling 6-8 hour drive along rough roads, MAF were asked to fly her to a hospital in Kumi where an orthopaedic specialist is based.
However, the airstrip in Kutgim had fallen into disrepair, and Lois would have to endure the 2-hour drive in a 4×4 ambulance to the closest airstrip we could fly into, Kalongo.
We cleared out the seats in favour of a stretcher and set off.
Things don’t always go according to plan
One thing I have quickly learned in Africa is that things don’t always go according to plan. It wasn’t a surprise for us to learn on arrival, that the ambulance hadn’t left Kutgim. Unfortunately, being the only ambulance available, it was sent out on a call during the night to another remote location, and hadn’t yet returned to Kitgum. This meant Lois – in a great deal of pain – needed to wait. And so did we.
Lois eventually arrived and we were soon airborne on the 45-minute flight to the hospital in Kumi.
The next thing on our minds was whether or not we could make the landing.
Working through the night
In recent months the airstrip in Kumi had become unusable. Aware that MAF would be flying Lois there, a team had spent the whole night working with machete style “slashers” to cut the grass on the strip and dig out the termite mounds that dotted the runway – quite a feat!
After a low pass to confirm the condition of the runway, it was deemed safe and we made the landing.
It would be an extreme understatement to say that Lois was grateful. She continually expressed her deep appreciation to MAF and to the donors who help make flights like this possible.