You might wonder, why the need for LFDS? Let me share a bit of what happened this past Thursday. The doctor team (myself, nurse, and pharmacy tech) went out to Matekane village for a regularly scheduled LFDS visit to that health center. The clinic falls under the supervision of Quacha's Nek health district in South Eastern Lesotho. It is staffed by nurses and is over 6 hours by truck (and another 6 hours from there to Maseru). As it has no doctor we go there every three weeks. It took us about 1 hour by plane to get there as we stopped to deliver a staff member back at another mountain clinic and drop off supplies. We arrived around 9:30AM and began seeing patients.
I diagnosed a variety of problems in both adults and children that day, but three were very sick. The first was a 4 year old who had developed paralysis of his legs and hands over the previous two days. He very likely had a complication from a recent infection that then resulted in an immune system attack of his own nerves. The danger was that this could quickly progress to involve his breathing. He needed to get to a hospital soon. Not long after that I saw an 8 month old girl who was being taken care of by her grandmother. Her unwed mother was working in South Africa and had left the baby in the village, with no support for the old grandmother. The baby was underweight and was HIV infected (30% of untreated HIV mothers will have HIV babies). The baby was breathing badly and dehydrated. We didn't have IV needles for babies so we had the grandmother spoon feed the baby normal saline IV solution by mouth (you can use a salt/sugar solution - ORS - but we didn't have that either). The baby needed IV antibiotics, IV fluids, and oxygen, hence the hospital. We did have injectable antibiotics to get her started. The third kid was a small 13 year old girl that had been diagnosed with suspected meningitis 10 days prior but the father had not understood the danger and had kept her at home. He had given her the oral meds (following the first injection), but had not taken her to the hospital. Now she was presenting with complications of inability to talk and paralysis of her right arm (complications of meningitis). She needed to be admitted for two weeks of antibiotics.
So what do you do? Or should I say, what did we do? Well, Matekane HC doesn't have cell phone coverage or a radio so we had to wait for the plane to return. The health center is about a mile walk from the airstrip so we told the mother with the four year old and the grandmother with the infant to start walking. There wouldn't be room for the third patient so the father said he would ride his horse with her to the hospital. That would men riding till dark, sleeping along the way, and continuing the next day for about 6 more hours to reach the hospital in Quacha's Nek!
Meanwhile, MAF pilot Melvin Peters arrived around 3PM expecting to pick up the doctor team. He had come from another airstrip with a patient with a broken leg and instructions to stop and get another emergency at another mountain clinic. That's four emergencies (what we call Code-1) in one day plus the one going by horse. So we loaded up the 4 year old and mom, the 8 month old and grandmother, and the pharmacy tech. They would have to stop off to get the other emergency patient (a 70 yr old man with pneumonia) on the way back to Maseru. As they took off I took time to ask God to give them safe passage and that God would spare the lives of the sick. I especially appreciate the logo on the tail of all the MAF planes depicting a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit. It would be by His mercy that the patients would live...
So that left the nurse and I without a way back to Maseru. But no problem. The clinic has a small guest room (for visiting nursing students) that I could sleep in as they had no students. And the nurse stayed in the house of the nurse that lives at the clinic. It was my first night to sleep in the mountains at a clinic. I walked over to the village store, got some sorghum instant porridge, milk and some cookies and had supper. The clinic had sheets and two heavy blankets for me so I was set for the night.
The next morning I got up at 6, had some left over porridge, had time for bible reading and prayer, especially remembering the Code-1 patients. The earliest the plane would be there would be around 9:30. Melvin arrived and flew us back to Maseru via another clinic where we dropped off supplies and picked up a staff member.
Later that day Sally and I went over to the hospital to check on the sick kids. Both were alive and doing OK. The baby was better on IVs and oxygen and the 4 year old was no worse (the paralysis had not progressed). It will likely be a week or so before the kids will be ready to fly back to their village. We thanked God for protecting and healing, and for the LFDS program. That's a long answer to the question, but gives you an idea why LFDS exists. If you will, take time to give thanks for God's provision of safety and that the kids will heal. Thanks...