PCM News

News and updates from Paul and Cathy Middleton, serving in southern Africa.

27 July 2021

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 July 2021

Ingwavuma KZN - Relief

After the recent unrest in South Africa which left 350 people dead and shops and malls looted and burned across the country, Mercy Air received over forty requesting for transport of food and supplies to the area of Ingwavuma in KZN.
The town was badly affected during the riots. The only supermarket was destroyed along with all the other smaller shops and the petrol station. Street vendors were afraid to work and even if they were brave enough, they could no longer get supplies.
You can see by the blue line in the top right corner of the map above that, compared to where we normally fly, the distance wasn't that great - 225 km in fact, and in the end the flight took less than an hour. But Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) had borne the brunt of the unrest, with even the provincial capital Durban struggling for food and fuel. In the end 60 pharmacies, 1400 ATM's, 300 banks as well as 1000's of other stores were destroyed.
Ingwavuma was a long way from any help and if the only road serving the town was blocked by further trouble, there would be no hope of bringing supplies in.

Interested parties were quick to act with funds being raised in Cape Town for both the food and flight costs. 900 kg of supplies were bought near to where Mercy Air is based in White River and delivered by a cheerful Pick n' Pay driver shortly after dawn.

We were soon on our way across the mountainous country of Swaziland...
.. and back across the border into northern KZN where we had been given permission to land at the Zulu King's airstrip, where we immediately began unloading.

Apart from the local communities and churches being affected, there is a hospital and the Butterfly Home, the only infant palliative care home in KZN. They were both running out of food and supplies.

The palliative care home offers care for up to six infants between the age of birth and six years.

 Butterfly Home is in the process of building to enable them to offer care to another ten infants.

 It was beautiful to see these precious children being so well cared for and happy!

The father of one of the little girls was the local snake bite expert, and of course she has some snakes as pets.

The day after we did the relief flight, we got this message from the care workers:

"We are all a bit on edge as we are receiving so many rumours from community members of instigators planning to start the riots again tomorrow and barricade the road. We’ve even been warned by some Zulu friends to pack bags in case. We don’t want to submit to fear, but we want to be prepared and wise when it comes to protecting our friends and family.

If push comes to shove, can we arrange for you to evacuate us by plane? I trust it won’t be necessary"

We are waiting to see what happens next.
Thank you
Paul and Cathy
Just before departure out of Ingwavuma

11 June 2021

Limpopo Dental and Womem's Health

The week after we got back from Mozambique, we were off again to the Vhembe district in the Limpopo province for a few days with a larger than normal Flying for Life medical team.
Vhembe (red) in Limpopo (yellow)

On this outreach we also took one of our helicopters to enable the team to get to more clinics in the time available.
The team included Cathy and Corianne who dealt with womens health issues...
..as well as a couple of dentists, a GP and a number of other support personnel - such as a fixed wing and helicopter pilot!
In total they saw 63 dental patients, 72 screened for women's health and 45 general medical consultations by the GP.
Paul went with the dental team.
Flying in to Tshipise...
..where we landed on the local football pitch...
From where the clinic was only a short walk away.
Quite a number of patients were already waiting for us.

The dental assistant gave some practical tooth-brushing advice to a crowd of locals.
At another clinic a 17-year-old girl’s life was saved. She came in for medical care complaining of fatigue. The GP, who was actually a cardiac specialist, diagnosed her with rheumatic heart disease and heart failure and she was referred to the hospital for an urgent heart-valve replacement. 
Thank you
Paul and Cathy

06 May 2021

Mozambique Maintenance

It's hard to sum up the activity involved in planning and executing a two-week trip to Mozambique.

The need for the trip had been evident for a good while. Mission bases that had been established over 10 years ago were suffering from fatigue. The first was our own forward heli-base in Marromeu at the end of the Zambezi River. We converted five shipping containers into accommodation and storage before driving them up to central Mozambique (pcm-mercyair.blogspot.com/2012/04/accommodation-in-mozambique.html). They have served us well, but Mozambique is a hot and humid place, and this had taken its toll on the structure and electrics.

One of the team, Steve, had flown up to Marromeu the week before with the helicopter to get some local supplies sorted. Paul then flew the rest of the team up to join him and we set about effecting the repairs. The main targets were the roof, pluming and electricals, including the air cons. We thought that going in the winter would be a clever idea but looking back, we're not sure how well that worked out!

There are only so many interesting pics you can post of people working up ladders and the three bellow are probably two too many!
Fixing a roof and replacing an air con

Replacing another one

..and another one!

So, after a warm week of roofy electrical aircons, it was time to move north to even warmer tropical climes.
We crossed the Zambezi...

..and flew two hours to Nampula where we fueled and collected Cathy who had flown up the previous day. It was then a relatively short hop to Nacala where we were met by Martin before the two-hour bumpy dirt road drive to where he lived in Memba.

There are a few impressive hills near to Nampula - that are well worth missing.


Fortunately, the Kodiak comes with a handy 'hill missing app' on its Garmin 1000 that shows you exactly where they are and what they look like - so you can avoid them.

Martin and his family live in the coastal town of Memba.

So near the coast in fact that 20 meters walk to the left of the photo above, you get the photo below. Not too shabby! On a number of Paul's previous visits he has seen whales breaching in the bay.

The day we arrived coincided with the Champions League final. No problem - there's always someone's back garden you can cram into with 300 others. Watching from the back was equivalent to watching it on a cell phone at arm's length.

Buy there was work to be done - and quite a lot of it as it happened.

This was Paul's seventh trip to Memba. The first two he helped with construction and most of the others have involved maintenance of various sorts.

On the menu this time were ceilings, plumbing and electricals - and anything else we could find to do.

Water is scarce for nine months of the year, so martin has many tanks to collect runoff from the roofs. A new one needed to be plumbed in.

This would also allow for an upgrade from a bucket, to a cistern flush for the loo. Just had to fit the cistern.

Steve is an electrical sort of bloke and got the local workers helping him rewire almost everything it seemed.

Paul spent most of his time helping replace the ceiling...

..and when there was a lull in that, there were a few floor tiles that needed replacing.

Cathy came along to help feed everybody...

..but also got involved with some pregnancy and medical issues, so for now I will just include the photo below of her with one of her 'patients'.

Amongst the many supplies we bought up were a number of boxes of audio bibles. These are little solar powered Mp3 players with the spoken bible recorded on them in a local language.

Martin gave one out to a guy he'd got talking to because of Cathy's involvement with the above lady at the local hospital.
Martin explaining the use of the audio bible

I think it would be wise to focus on Cathy's side of the trip in a separate blog entry. We can then include much of the work she does in clinics in the area where we live in South Africa.

On the last night we had a barbecue on the beach - a whole 25 meters from their garden. The stars were brilliant.

After a pre-dawn start for the two-hour drive to the airport, all that was left to do was to fly home.

That was still six hours of flying and covered over 1600km. It takes Martin about a week to do the same distance when he drives it - a reminder of why we use aircraft in this part of the world.

Thank you

Paul and Cathy