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.

30 October 2018

Flying For Life - Eye Cataract Surgery - Limpopo

Paul was again privileged to take an eye cataract surgery team up to Thohoyandou in the Limpopo province, to work at a hospital for the day.

We pick these volunteers up in Johannesburg every two months and this was the fourth trip we'd done this year.

Catching the sunrise just after take off out of Mercy Air.
Picking the team up in Jhb.
Beautiful clear views from 11000' on the way up to Thohoyandou.
Getting to work in the hospital.

The day was about as perfect as they come weather wise from take off just before dawn, until the flight back. The clear skies and excellent visibility...
.. gave way to an impressive sunset just before landing back in Johannesburg...
.. and then the still darkness of night on the flight back into Nelspruit.
All in all, a very long day. There is a 400 people waiting list for cataract surgery as it is not hugely prioritised by the department of Health. The little we can do does go a long way towards helping a few people who would otherwise have minimal hope of a better life.

At the end of the day we landed at an airport with runway lights in the next town from Mercy Air. What better idea then to cycle to that airport the following day to retrieve the plane.
It was 50km away and took us two hours to cycle there but only 10 mins to fly back!
Thank you

Paul and Cathy

06 September 2018

Flying for Life - Limpopo

Cathy and I did a flight recently with Flying for Life, based out of Johannesburg, but working into the rural Limpopo area of South Africa.

Mercy Air have been working with them for a number of years (see previous posts) but went this time to meet with the authorities who govern the various projects to find out how they think we are doing, and to see what else we could get involved in next year.

Again, the 1h10 flight up over the escarpment to Tshikondeni saved an eight hour drive.
Even with the saving by flight time, there were still plenty of rural dusty roads to negotiate.
After meeting with members of the local Tribal Council our first visit was to a primary school where class sizes are often 60+.

The kids were happy to see us
The school kitchen and the cook. It used to be a classroom.
Not very exciting from a photo point of view but most of the visits involved sitting down in meetings to review the last year and plan for the coming one.
Primary school meeting
Next stop was to the Takuseni special needs school where volunteers look after children to enable their parents to go to work. We had visited here a number of times in the past, on one occasion taking a dental team.

Cathy in their kitchen
After a number of other visits including a clinic and a secondary school we flew to Thohoyandou (toy and oh) to spend the night before visits the following day. On the way we passed over the area we had just visited.
Whilst waiting for our lift there were a few curious guys desparate to see and sit inside an aircraft for the first time.

Everybody wanted their picture taken
The next day we went to a hospital where we fly the eye cataract team every two months. Again more meetings and a quick tour of the facilities.

as good as they were, we are still quite fascinated by signs such as these!

After lunch it was time for the flight back to drop Flying for Life in Jhb...
The only shade on a 37 deg day!
...before the return to Nelspruit.
Landing at Mercy Air
Thank you

Paul and Cathy

25 April 2018

Flying For Life - Eye Cataract Surgery

Paul was once again privileged to fly an eye cataract surgery team on behalf of Mission Aviation Fellowship and Flying For Life to Thoyohandou in the Limpopo province of South Africa.
This is a recurring trip which we do about every two months and which provides a much needed service for people in the the rural Venda district in the north of the country.
An early morning start was required to collect the team from Jhb
Some of the faces we knew from the last flight
The patients had been readied for our arrival but there were still a few checks and tests to be done before surgery.
Then the procedures took place, one after another for the whole morning and afternoon.

I'm not a doctor but I'll take a look!
Waiting patiently for the 20 min operation to be finished
Another one complete
The sun set on out flight back to Johannesburg.
And after re-fueling there was the just the 1h30 journey back to Nelspruit for Paul.
Another very worth while exercise and again, the flight saved a three day round trip and allowed 16 people to receive live changing surgery.

Thank you.

Paul and Cathy

24 April 2018

Cathy's Shoulder

A quick update on Cathy's shoulder.

The result of a rare moment of operator error early January, Cathy had a shoulder opp in Pretoria at the beginning of May.

Six weeks in a sling and six months without any weight-bearing these photos hide the pain, sleepless nights and three times a week visits to the physio of the last two months.

Brave girl!

The cause. An awkward double step in a local single track section known as Oliver's Twist.
We hoped it was just a soft tissue injury that would just sort itself out. After a while and after a few visits to specialists it became obvious that more professional intervention was required.

Surgery was therefore scheduled in Pretoria in early March.
Moments before the big event
A while after the general anaesthetic had worn off
Cathy was in hospital for a couple of nights.
Despite the smiles, the operation has left Cathy in considerable constant pain which a whole arsenal full of pain killers has only managed to dent. It was a good five weeks before she managed to sleep through a full night.

The other downer was having to wear a sling 24 hrs a day for six weeks and then face six months with no weight bearing. This has obviously put a major dent in her nursing and baby delivering activities.

Physio three times a week and exercises three times a day is necessary but seems to aggravate the pain.

Some friends have been very good at helping out with exercises though.
She even tried some Kriotherapy - with mixed results.
Paul had to up his game in the kitchen if both of us were to survive, but some things have to happen regardless of the odds.
A joint effort haircut
Thank you

Paul and Cathy

13 April 2018

Flying for Life - Dental Project

Mercy Air recently continued flying in support of Flying for Life with Paul taking a dental team up to a special needs centre in a very rural part of the Limpopo province in the north of South Africa.
Again, a very early start was required
Although the team was mainly dental Patrick, an artist, also volunteered his time to work with the children.
Getting to know Patrick on the flight up
The team on landing at Tshikondeni
The centre was reached after a two hour flight and a 45 min drive through the drizzle and low cloud on muddy dirt roads in an old taxi. It still saved a three day round trip by road from Johannesburg though!
Parents bring their special needs children to the centre daily, while they are at work. Funding is being sought to upgrade the centre, which is barely large enough for the children they look after.

The dentists work through "Smile of Joy', an organisation founded to work with the underprivileged and special needs children.

First the children had a check-up to see what work needed to be done.

 Before the dentist saw them.
As the dentists were setting up, our resident artist Patrick started painting the outline sketch of the centre on the wall for the kids to 'colour in'.
 Meanwhile, in the dentists chair....
Eish, makes you shiver! But lasting relief is not far away

The waiting kids getting some colour on the wall
All the equipment was taken up in suitcases, which were then just opened out on a couple of chairs to work from.

A picture of the team with the kids and the wall painting at the end, perhaps giving some idea of the cramped conditions there was to work in.
We flew back at night to a local airport and collected the Kodiak the following day. This did allow for a photo-opp with our 310 showing the matching paint scheme.

Thank you.

Paul and Cathy