We received a call from Walagi HC at 3.30pm on Monday 20th June.
A young first time mother had delivered a healthy baby at 1pm after a 30 hours in labour. The placenta failed to deliver and staff broke the cord trying. She was bleeding a small amount and could we assist.
Wailagi is 50 nm north of Gurney situated on Mud Bay, Goodenough Isl. We have a sea plane base there. I flew there the day before with the builders THOR is engaging to construct a new labour room.
I saw the mother there having mild contractions and asked staff if she was progressing normally and they indicated yes. I thought for a minute that we should take her to Alotau as this was her first baby but she was already in established first stage of labour. Besides you can’t take every first time mother to Alotau unless there are some other risks factors such as baby coming breech or twins or mother is short stature – This mother was a strong healthy young woman of above average height and had her mother there for support. Where was the husband?
Back to the story. It was 4pm by the time we had all the information about her condition and vital signs. We pulled the Beaver out of the hangar in readiness for departure. The skies over Gurney were black with heavy cloud and intermittent rain showers. Satellite photos of Walagi 1 minute ago were heavy rain and low cloud.
We had 2 hours of daylight left but this was diminished by the widespread low dark cloud. We decided to hold off till the morning as the mother appeared to be stable and the weather was marginal. By 5pm the clouds had lifted and rain showers had disappeared and one always regrets the earlier decision. However end of daylight was now fast approaching.
At 6am we received a radio call from staff at Wailagi. Our mother is still bleeding, her Pulse is 151 and blood pressure is 90/60 mmHg., are you coming doctor ?? This rang the alarm bells. Kila and I wasted no time. he Beaver was prepped from the previous afternoon so it was a matter of pulling her out of the hangar and get going.
I ran out of phone credit so couldn’t submit a flight plan This would be done over the HF radio in flight. We departed at 6.47am, crossed over the Owen Stanley Range before I called Moresby and informed them of our medivac. Our plan was to scoop and run.
We arrived over Mud Bay at 7.14am and landed on a smooth sea with no wind. We kept the Beaver on the step until close to the pontoons and coasted into the dock to two staff awaiting to catch the ropes. Not the usual crowd of school children as it was too early.
Kila went immediately to the labour room while I secured the Beaver and unloaded 20 baby dishes for the health centre. I quickly followed. The mother of our patient came out holding her daughters baby and I knew at once it was her mother I had had thoughts about on Sunday, 2 days earlier. My inner voice was right yet again I thought.
Our mother was looking a bit anxious but we had time I thought Kils had our mother ready in minutes. I took her mother and baby to the Beaver and buckled them into the co-pilot seat, cargo into the float compartment. Kila and helpers arrived to slide the mother into the cabin. A hurried thank you and good by’s and doors shut.
Kila connected the Oxygen while the dock staff pointed the Beaver out to sea, we taxied out and began our run up the Bay in between fisherman in their canoes. he surface was smooth and sticky and on reaching takeoff speed the Beaver was held by the surface tension and refused to become unstuck . A quick maneuver to lift one float then the other is required to release the waters grip. We lifted off and headed back to Gurney. Our scoop and run plan took just ten minutes.
Heavy rain showers on out track home were welcome after a water landing and would reduce our wash-down time back at the hangar. We arrived back 8.10 am. No hospital ambulance waiting so our landcruiser would do the job.
Once in the labour ward at Alotau our mother became a little unstable. She had massive post partum hemorrhage and her Hb dropped to 4g%. She would receive 2 units of blood and undergo a manual removal of retained placenta the following day.
Mother and baby well but the next delivery will be in Alotau Hospital.