Should you call the helicopter?

NTM missionary Brian Schaadt shares perspectives from his aviation ministry.

Imagine yourself living in a small, remote village. So remote, in fact, that the nearest medical facility is eight hours away by foot or boat. You are helping a woman who is in labour and having complications and there is nothing more you can do for her.

A friend of yours has a helicopter and can be there to medivac the woman in less than thirty minutes. It will cost you $220 to call in the helicopter and you know that the villagers cannot afford this. Of course it’s worth it to save the lives of the mother and baby.

The only problem is, this is the third time in a month you have called the helicopter for a woman in labour. This is getting expensive. Do you even have the money? Are you setting an unsustainable precedent in the village? You certainly don’t intend to call the helicopter every time a woman is in labour, but the people in the village may be starting to think so.

You wish you had time to really think this over, but time cannot be afforded as each passing minute increases the risk to the mother and baby. These are real decisions tribal missionaries who we serve make routinely.

Just this week, we responded to a request from one of our missionaries in a remote village to medically evacuate a mother in labour. This was yet another lady with birthing complications. The missionaries struggled a bit over whether or not to call, but didn’t waste time and quickly decided to request the flight.

The mother’s water had broken the day before, the baby was still high, and there was no sign that he was going to come soon. We arranged for an ambulance to meet the helicopter at the airport as we had done before with great results.

However, this time the ambulance was not there. I called my wife, Katherine, who had been following the flight, to come to the airport and transport the lady and her husband to the hospital. Katherine met and transported them and spent most of the day at the hospital.

It was a tense situation. On arrival at the hospital they could hear no heartbeat from the baby. They ended up doing a C-section and, to everyone’s surprise, the baby was alive. At birth, the baby boy had some trouble breathing, but was revived. He stayed in NICU to be treated for potential infection.