Aviation (BW)

Aviation in Botswana

Flight of Compassion

Every week FMS does a flight for Airborne Lifeline Foundation, taking a team of doctors out to village clinics throughout Botswana.  Last week Tammi from  Airborne Lifeline called Mark Spicer and inquired about chartering a small Cessna to take a patient from Gaborone to Maun.  When told how long the flight would take in a Cessna, Tammi said she didn't think the patient could cope with a flight that long.  She then asked about chartering the King Air, a faster aircraft, but when Mark told her how much it would cost, she said it exceeded their budget.  When Mark told her that FMS would subsidize the flight, Tammi was elated.  Here is the story of that very special flight ...

As told by Captain Matt Cressman:

Recently I was eating dinner with Jeff Burnham at a great Indian restaurant that we know and love.  He asked me if I could take a medical flight to Maun on his behalf the next morning as he wanted to catch up on some work in the office.  I was thrilled, as I had just returned from a visit to the States and had completed only one flight since coming back.  I was itching to fly some more!

Air Ambulance Pilot "On Call"

Nearly all my flying over the last week was for the Flying Mission Services air ambulance mission. FMS has a contract with the Botswana Ministry of Health to provide 24-7-365 air ambulance service to the people of Botswana. Anytime, day or night, FMS has at least one aircraft and one crew (two pilots, a fully qualified medical doctor, and a fully certified paramedic) on call to be airborne in less than an hour. Our mission is to respond anywhere in the country to transport critical patients from remote areas to fully staffed and equipped hospitals. It sounds important, but it's actually much more.

Mercy One - A Light in the Emergency

Written by First Officer Adrian Gut.

"Mercy One". This is our call sign for Air Traffic Control (ATC) when we fly our medical missions for the Ministry of Health here in Botswana. If several of us are flying, it can sometimes be "Mercy Two" or "Mercy Three". Mercy is translated here as grace, compassion, or blessing. I find all of these translations really suitable for this work we are doing here at Flying Mission Services (FMS).

On December 30, 2012, at 2:18 am, a phone call launched one of my busiest days in the service of FMS, and as it turned out, it would be like several to follow.

Mercy flying in Botswana

Submitted by Pete Weiseth:

The couple were sleeping peacefully in their tent.  They had camped in Chobe National Park several times before, and their experience gave them great respect for the wildlife around them - particularly elephant, which are found here in the greatest concentration of anywhere in Africa. Nothing prepared them for what was to happen next.

At about 5:30 in the morning, they started to hear the rustling, breaking branches, and heavy footfalls of an elephant herd approaching.

All in a night's work - and then some!

Submitted by Pilot Pete Weiseth.Pete the pilot

"Honey, your phone is ringing."
"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is! That thing six inches from your head on your side of the bed is your phone, and it's ringing."
"That's not my phone."
Smack.
"Mercy! Okay, okay. Hello?"
Thus begins another day, or in this case night, of medevac flying.

Praying through the Storms

A story from Colin Brown, Maun pilot:

At home, tinkering with an electric motor, I am startled out of my concentration as my cell phone rings at my side, it is 3:45 pm. The clinic in Seronga, a village ninety miles away, needs a mercy flight to transport a severely injured woman to the hospital.

Behind the Scenes

Mark on phonePilots, paramedics, doctors and patients are probably the key players that come to mind when you think of an air ambulance flight. But on the ground, another key player, the Flight Coordinator, is orchestrating events to make the flight happen. During weekday hours, Bojelo Marari, fills the role of Flight Coordinator for FMS air ambulance flights. During non-office hours, Mark Spicer and the pilots on call take over.

At three o'clock Sunday afternoon, the Maun hospital called requesting an air ambulance flight. Roger Weaver and Ryan Cole flew to Maun with the paramedics and transferred a premature baby to Francistown. Shortly before ten o'clock Sunday night, Roger notified Mark, who was "flight-following", that they were back on the ground in Gaborone. They said good night, and Roger went home to bed. Mark went to bed, too. At 11:44, his phone rang.

An evening in the life of . . .

I'm not privy to many days in the life of Mark Spicer, but I have a ringside seat at night. Mark took some vacation days during the holidays, and toward the end of his time off, it occurred to me how quiet our evenings had been. Usually our evenings are monopolized by his cell phone. Take yesterday as a case in point:

Mark got home from the hangar at 6:15 p.m., just as Kg and I were sitting down for supper. I served Mark a plate, too, but as so often happens, his cell phone rang shortly after he sat down. A doctor at the Ghanzi hospital was calling to request a mercy flight. The patient was an 11-year-old girl who had swallowed a 2-pula coin (larger than a quarter). The doctor said that it was lodged in her throat so tightly that saliva couldn't even get through; it was pooling in her mouth.

Rotary Club Donates Ambulance

What happens to someone in Botswana who becomes critically ill or injured far from a Referral Hospital? There is a good chance that person will be transported by air ambulance to Gaborone or Francistown by Flying Mission Services.

FMS recently entered into an agreement with the Botswana Ministry of Health to provide air ambulance services, carrying on a 28-year tradition of transporting Batswana patients.

Oh, Baby!

It was not just an ordinary Sunday in Botswana. It was Boipuso, Independence Day. During his greeting, our pastor remarked that many babies born on Independence Day are given the name Boipuso. Mark tried hard to think of anyone he knew who was born on the 30th of September, but his mind drew a blank, and the thought of babies born on Independence Day passed out of his mind.

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