Getting a call to pick up a man who has been shot always sparks speculation as to how such a thing has happened, and this time was no exception. Especially because of the area it was in. There have been many attacks by the LRA around Bangadi so one always suspects them. It was hot and dusty by the time I got there in the Cessna 206, “ndege kidogo” as it is often called by the locals using this plane; the “Little airplane”. And the 40 degree Celsius temperature was physically draining.
As I landed and parked with UN troops all around, one of the soldiers came up to the door and said their supply helicopter was coming in right then and would I please move. I looked through the windscreen and, sure enough, a big MI-8 was coming toward us, and not far away. I got on the radio, told the Russian pilots that I would move the plane down to the end of the strip and started up again.
The MI-8 landed right where I had been in its’ usual enveloping cloud of dust as the nurse and I walked back to try to find our patient. As we got there a couple of motorcycles, or piki-pikis, drove up, one having 3 people on it. The driver sat in front, of course. The patient sat in the center, dressed in camo shorts with a hole in the crotch, a short sleeved red shirt with bandages sticking out each shoulder where he had been shot and slops for shoes. The man in the back sandwiched the patient in so as to keep him from falling off on the bumpy trip from town. He looked like he was in pain as he sat with hands placed gingerly on his lap. His head was also bandaged from another wound. We pointed them toward the plane and walked back again.
It always surprises me the level of pain and discomfort the average African will tolerate, and this man was no exception. Trying to help him into the back of the plane where I had taken out the seats and placed a mattress, I took his feet and the motorcycle “ambulance” driver took him under his arms. The patient grimaced in pain and said he couldn’t stand that because of the bullet holes in his shoulders and asked him to please take him by the head instead. Whereupon, the man was grabbed by one hand behind his neck and one under his chin and lifted into place on the mattress! This got a smile out of the patient and what must have been a very curious look from me.
We took off as the big MI-8’s rotors started turning and bumped our way in the heat back to Dungu and the hospital there.
I got back to Bunia around 2:20 and since our other 206 was still out and didn’t have time to do one more leg after his return, I took his last flight to Mambassa. The burning grass fires around Bunia were so bad that it was almost IFR until I got a bit further out over the forest. Africa is burning this time of year and the sky is just full of smoke. I look forward to the rains and some clearer skies. But it was an interesting day at the office none the less.
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