31 December 2018

Welcome to Paul and Cathy's blog . . . . . please scroll down for new posts

Let us introduce ourselves.

Our names are Paul and Cathy Middleton.

That's us clinging to the top of an engine on one of the planes we used to fly.
You can find out about how we got to be where we are in the 'A short history of us' on the right (quite an interesting story if we say so ourselves).

This blog is basically a collection of the e-mail updates we have sent out since we joined Mercy Air in 2003, as well as some of the personal family activities we have got up to. Click on a year and read from bottom to top and it should give you a good idea of what we do.

20 February 2018

Moz Medevac

After the big 16 hour day that was the cataract flight two days before (previous blog post), I was expecting a catch up in the office day on Monday.

That plan changed when the phone rang early on Monday morning with a request for a medevac out of Beira, Central Mozambique.

Brian, a mission doctor at a teaching hospital in Beira, said his daughter Eden had a suspected ruptured appendix and needed surgery in South Africa. Scheduled airlines couldn't take her and it was a two day drive on less than impressive roads. Could we help?

We've been flying to Mozambique for almost 30 years so we had the contacts to get the necessary permits. It didn't take too long before we were on our way. Even with the official paperwork, fueling and having to clear customs and immigration, we still managed to land in Beira by early afternoon.

On the descent we noticed quite a lot of flooding.
We met Brian and Eden and arranged for her transport out to the aircraft. We were on the ground less than an hour with the Moz paperwork and fueling done, before setting sail again back to South Africa.

Brian, being a doctor, took care of any medical needs Eden had during the flight.

There's always room for a pic of range and terrain information we have available to us during the flight.
500 miles later, Eden went straight to hospital for surgery after we landed in South Africa.
The following photos were taken in the hospital by Brian

 And this one soon after discharge a few days later.
Thank you.

Paul and Cathy

18 February 2018

Sight Flight SA

Mercy Air recently resumed its association with MAF and Flying For Life.

MAF South Africa created Flying For Life in 2011 to meet the needs of isolated south Africans living in rural areas.

Today countless people in South Africa don’t just live in poverty but they are also cut off from the institutions that exist to address their needs, by difficult or dangerous terrain. It's not just that they are born into less-fortunate circumstances, but their location deprives them of the opportunity to change that.

Mercy Air and Flying for Life enable medical professionals, early childhood development trainers, social development specialists and other non-profit organisations to reach communities in need.

On this occasion we picked up a team of volunteer ophthalmologists in Johannesburg and flew them to a rural hospital in Thohoyandou in the Limpopo district of South Africa to perform cataract surgery on 18 patients. This saved them a 12 - 14 hour round trip drive over what would probably have been three days.

It still meant a very early start for Paul though to get to Jhb in the first place.
On landing on Thohoyandou a minibus was waiting to take us to the hospital 45 mins away.
On our arrival we 'trollied' all our equipment into the theater.
Out in the corridor the support staff prepped the patients...
... and did a few tests to work out what prescription implant lenses they needed.
In the theater each cataract procedure took about 20-30 mins, and it was pretty much a day long non-stop procession of people in and out for surgery.

Very interesting and quite a privilege to get this close to some life changing moments for many people.
I was even able to help a bit - under strict supervision!

A sobering sign on one of the noticeboards in the corridor. Please never let me need a black sticker for a very long time!
We left a little late in order to fit as many procedures in as possible.

The strip in Thohoyandou was tar but hasn't seen much regular use for a long time. The main activity it seems were the local kids who danced for us on the threshold as we prepared to take off. Health and safety - for who!
One of the guys who flew with us had his PPL and aspirations to use aviation in a mission context in the future. It was good to chat 'all things flying' on the way back.
 I dropped the team off in Jhb just at sunset and therefore had to fly back to Nelspruit at night.
The bright lights of Jhb - soon gave way to the blackness of Mpumalanga
Thank you.

Paul and Cathy

28 November 2017

ASAM Mucombeze, Mosambique

Last week we took a team up to the ASAM mission base just north of Chimoio, Mozambique. As we went in our Kodiak aircrat we were also able to offer a couple of seats to Hands@Work to enable some of their guys to visit their own projects.
The standard 'here's us on the way up' photo.
I do forget just how big Africa is at times - till I look out of the window on flights like these.

Landing at ASAM in the bush in the middle of almost nowhere.
Unpacking the aircraft. Its load carrying capacity is pretty impressive.
Sharp teeth, lethal sting, lightening reflexes and the appetite of a raging carnivore are all things the African Killer Snail does not have. Still flippin' big though.
There were various aspects to our visit but the main one was for some of our group to help with the twice yearly intensive pastor training that ASAM has been running for many years. There are only so many interesting 'action' photos one can take of a meeting so I will leave it at the introduction shot at the beginning of the course. Safe to say that Nigel and Erin delivered twelve talks during the week and were well received by the pastors, some who had travelled up to three days to attend.
Meanwhile, it was litchi harvest time! That meant for the rest of us picking and sorting about 10 tons of the fruit into various categories for sale. ASAM inherited a small litchi orchard when they moved onto the farm ten years ago and now harvest the fruit to raise some capital to fund their education and medical projects.
Cathy and I walked to the airstrip in the 'cool' of the morning one day and came upon this dung beetle with it's - well, dung I suppose! Fortunatley this wasn't the African Killer variety - just a normal one!
So, we were all happily beavering on with various jobs when one morning we got a call to say that a 70 year old Brazilian missionary, Josiah, had been taken ill and needed urgent transport to the capital Maputo for surgery. They knew ASAM had a small Cessna 182 and wondered if they could possibly help. As the patient needed to lie down and would also be accompanied by his wife and a translator this was obviously not an option.

But, it just so happened that we were there at just the right time in the Kodiak and had enough fuel to easily do the flight. When the patient arrived we had the aircraft ready and were able to get going almost straight away.
Loading Josiah at ASAM
Josiah holding his wife's hand during the flight.
We got to fly down the border of Zimbabwe on the day that political history was made.
Zimbabwe about 10 miles away.
Less than three hours later we were in the capital Maputo, a journey that would have taken up to three days by road.
Downtown Maputo and the harbour.
Cathy and I helping to unload Josiah on the apron at Maputo.

We were too late to fly back to ASAM the same day so we had to overnight in Maputo with a friend we hadn't seen since our Lesotho days - it was good to catch up.

The next day it was quite toasty on the ground in Maputo...
 ... but it soon cooled to a more manageable 10 deg C at 13000 ft.
While we are singing the praises of our Kodiak aircraft it might be worth mentioning its range. We tanked it up out of Maputo and this pic was taken just under an hour into the flight and shows its range and endurance - the dotted green circe with 45 mins fuel left and the solid green circle when it becomes a glider.
Back at ASAM, normal bush life continued. If you want internet, go and sit outside the office during the hours the generator is running.
Help feed the pets in the evening. I believe this is a Duiker - or something similar!
The week ended and we headed back in what ended up being rather inclement weather. This was the first we saw of the ground and the airport four miles away (about two minutes from landing) after over an hour of flying in a cloud.
Thank you.

Paul and Cathy.

17 March 2017

I heard that - pardon!

Recently we flew a second time to northern Kwa-Zulu Natal. We again worked with Wilderness Safaris who are keen to look after their staff and the communities they come from. The previous flight had seen an ophthalmic team test and distribute over 100 glasses. This time we took Hlolo and Jade from Kind to Hearing as well as a doctor and some nurses - Cathy being one of them.

 Again, the flight was only an hour long but saved a nine hour road trip.
Paul and Jenze looking excited at the prospect of flying off into the 'wild blue yonder' on yet another Mercy Air mission trip!
We spent two days working into some of the same areas as before.
Driving to the village we experienced 'rush hour' and a bit of a traffic jam.
Patients came early in the morning, young and old, and waited eagerly to be seen
Paul was excited to meet up with this gentleman again, he had his eye sight screened on our last visit and came back today, wearing his glasses, for a hearing test. The good news was that he didn't have excessive hearing loss and no hearing aid was required.
Roger, an emergency room doctor, gave all the patients a full check up of their hearts and lungs while they waited for hearing tests.
Katy, a registered nurse, checked ears for signs of infection or wax build up, some needed wax to be removed so drops were inserted and wax scooped out.
This is the same guy who got excited about being able to see the world "so colourful" after our sight flight. He came back for a hearing test and apart from some wax that  had to be scooped out he was fine. Katy showed excellent 'scooping skills' with the use of this little gadget. No further treatment required!
Cathy checked ears for any foreign bodies, sometimes people clean their ears with a stick or grass. She also looked for wax build up and infection, which we could treat if found.

These lovely ladies were waiting for us when we arrived along with another 70 people. Phyllis, the lady in the blue dress, had been suffering from hearing loss for many years. She was seen in a clinic a year ago but was not given a hearing test or any treatment.
Cathy checked her ears for any obvious reason for the hearing loss but there was no sign of infection or wax build up.
She was then tested by Hlolo, one of the audiologists from 'Kind to Hearing' and it was found that she had profound hearing loss in her right ear and reduced hearing in her left ear. A mold was taken of her ear canal and a hearing aid will be made for her in Pretoria.
Phyllis was very happy to finally have the possibility of being able to hear again!
Samuel could hear very little in his left ear and not so well in his right ear either, he'd had many years of being unable to hear his families voices and be part of conversations.
His ear canal was measured using this handy gadget, light included.
The hearing tests required careful concentration, for most people listening to beeps and sound was a new experience, although those with hearing loss had difficulty hearing some beeps
During the hearing test patients had to indicate when they heard a sound from the head phone by raising their hand or finger. This was challenging at times as there was a lot of other noise around.

Hlolo carefully fitted  the earphones and explained what Ntembela should listen for.
She had to indicate when ever she heard a sound by raising her hand on the side that she heard the sound.
Waiting patiently for many hours in the hot sun, good that she came with this colourful umbrella.
This guy had quite a bit of wax in his ears and could hear much better once it was flushed out.
Around 60 children had hearing screening, and although we found quite a lot of wax and other goop including some bits of stick, none of them needed hearing aids.
Some of the children had nasty skin infections, this young lad reported that some sap from a tree dripped on his ear and caused these sores. He was treated and hopefully will improve soon.
This little girl had healthy ears and no hearing problems.
This lady was very happy to have her hearing checked as she had difficulty hearing for a long time, she was found to be deaf. 
So our audiologist got busy making a mould for a hearing aid. She should receive it in May on our next hearing and sight mission.
Here is Jade, one of our audiologists using his skills to test one of the children.
This girl was very happy to be tested and could hear perfectly.
Samson was found to be having hearing loss and needed a hearing aid so here he is with a successful mould and a hearing aid will be made to exactly fit his ear canal.
The process involved inserting a thread into the ear canal that could be used to remove the mould once it was set. Having things pocked into your ears required trust and it was great to have skilled audiologists to perform the task.
Sticky blue gunk was squirted in to the ear canal and the patient had to sit nice and still while it set in about 10 minutes.
Hlolo doing what he does best.
This lady experiencing the strange sensation of having 'sticky stuff' squirted into her ear, she's reassured that it will all be worth it in the end!.
Cathy and Katy did some general heath checks including checking blood pressure, we found some cases of un-diagnosed hypertension and and treatment could be started.
On the way home on the second day we could see an African storm brewing on the horizon, which is always exciting but especially when your vehicle has no window!
We arrived back at camp a little bit soggy but on the up side we jumped in to the 30C pool and enjoyed some fun and games!
Later, on the path on our way down to supper we met this mama and her nine babies, she was carrying them 'African style' on her back while she caught supper, which was some quite agitated ants! Paul was walking bare foot so good job his wife spotted this lady!
So time to go home after a successful mission, great to work with these amazing people!
Paul flew us back in style in Mercy Air Kodiak, and Jense flew in the co- pilot seat and enjoyed some trivia and patter from Paul!
Back at Mercy Air, thank you for your support and interest!
Thank you

Paul and Cathy