Family in mercy flight

2013-12-20 00:00

AN Amanzimtoti family had to make an emergency return home yesterday with their two critically ill children, a boy and a girl, from a Mozambique holiday jaunt.

Adding to an already frantic family, who due to language barriers at a Mozambican hospital could not really figure out what was wrong with the children, was an intricate organisational nightmare.

KZN Emergency Services air ambulance was dispatched on the eight- to nine-hour mission to the country’s capital, Maputo, to transport the children back to Durban.

But late yesterday, when the emergency medical rescue plane touched down at King Shaka International Airport just after 5.30 pm, it was with expressions of relief from the parents and paramedics alike.

Details of the nature of the children’s illness could not be confirmed last night, as the patients were rushed to the Nkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital for an urgent medical examination.

EMS spokesperson Robert McKenzie said the children were initially admitted to the Mozambique’s Icor Hospital in Maputo. He said details about the illness were not readily available by yesterday.

“Several factors, including language barrier, led to the decision to bring the children back to South Africa,” said Mckenzie.

It is not clear when the children fell ill, but McKenzie said plans to have them brought back to the country started on Wednesday.

Due to night landing restrictions, the medical crew could only leave for Maputo yesterday morning.

A local doctor and paramedics left prepared with all the required medical equipment.

The planning and logistical requirements for this kind of mission are extensive, McKenzie explained. First arrangements were made with the flight crews. The pilots, J. Linde and W. Bretteton, had to assist with the logistics regarding the flight, flight plans, and fuel consumption during the trip. A doctor from Luthuli hospital joined the normal flight paramedics, who had been planning for the medical requirements like additional medical oxygen, medical equipment and everything else they might need.

Special clearances from several authorities were also required. Authority had to be given by the civil aviation authority for the aircraft to leave the country. SA Port Health had to give authority for the patients to be brought into the country. The immigrations and customs departments are also involved and had to check the aircraft before it left and met the flight crews and patients on their return.

Arrangements for the pilots to be issued with U.S. dollars and the ordering of the correct type and amount of fuel at Maputo and ambulance transport between the airport and the hospital also had to be arranged.

“The crew was issued with aircraft cabin insecticide, which they need to spray in the cabin of the aircraft when they return to King Shaka International. This will happen before opening the doors of the aircraft, in case any insects from Mozambique managed to get on board the aircraft and were brought into South Africa on the flight,” said Mckenzie in a statement before the plance returned.

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