We don’t just do eyes

We are now half way between Mere Lava and the north east corner of Gaua (or Santa Maria) island.  We left the wonderful hospitality of Mere Lava this morning after conducting a second film night – this time in the village we first landed at back on Sunday 12 July.

Full details of the two clinics conducted will be covered in the next few days, but I’m rushing to get this message out because the anchorage we are going to, Losalava, has a mountain between it and Australia and history suggests I’ll have problems later tonight or tomorrow.

We were supposed to be away this morning at 6:00am for a sail to the south west corner of Gaua, but one of the patients who presented at the clinic is very pregnant, due in around 2 weeks, and her only option is to have a cesarean. (They were Dr Graeme’s words – I know nothing of these things)

While the movie “Ice Age 2” played in one of the village shelters, (we’d already played the original Ice Age movie an hour and a half before) with the gentle hum of Harry Honda round back, I had a discussion with Richard, the village nurse, and a couple of other locals about this case and the issue of transportation.

“What did they have planned?” I enquired.  “Nothing” said Richard.  “And they knew she had to have a cesarean?” I asked further.  “Yes, but there hasn’t been a boat for awhile and the only motor boat on the island has no fuel” said Richard.

“You mean that small runabout we saw on the rock ledge?  You mean they’d drive that 30 miles to Gaua across the open sea?”

The discussion went on for some time as all the possible alternatives were fully explored and tested.  But we kept coming back to this one issue … here we had a woman, due to go into labour, who wasn’t able to have a natural birth, who needed to get back to Santo ASAP.

I called Graeme back on the yacht via CB radio, “Yes, she definitely needs to get to the Santo hospital within 2 weeks”.

I repeated this back to Richard and he suggested we rearrange the clinics on Gaua so that we could take the woman and her mother direct to the village closest to the airport on Gaua.

By now the rain was pouring down and it was pitch black.  We were at the village, a collection of terraced areas in the forest, 20 minute walk up an extremely steep path from the sea.

“Where is the girl?” enquired Richard.  “She has walked back to her village.”  someone said.  “Where is her village Richard?” I said in a dumb kind of way.  “Over 2 hours walk, Aota, on the other side of the point where we anchored Sunday and Monday”.

It just seemed to get more and more … interesting.  Although, I’m sure you’d agree, “interesting” is a tad inadequate to describe this situation.

So to cut a long story short, and a story that still has a few chapters to be written, …

Auntie, (who was the village nurse and who was rushing off to deliver a baby one hours walk down the track at the next village) would tell her husband to walk a further hour to the next village to get the girl to walk back.

It was made clear that the mother of the girl would also need to come as helper

They would need to be ready to leave this morning at 8-9:00am for the sail to Losolava on Gaua.

Once at Losolava, Richard would arrange for them to catch today’s flight to Santo.  (which the Vanuatu Eye care project would pay for)

Once in Santo, they would present the referral letter from Graeme at the hospital and sometime in the next couple of  weeks the baby will be delivered.

The girl and her mother would stay with relatives in Santo.

As for her return, I don’t think the details have been worked out.

So, to continue the story, we are now three quarters of the way to Gaua (I’m a slow typist) and we have a (very very) pregnant girl called Linda sitting in the cockpit accompanied by her mother, Rose.

The uncle made it to Linda’s village at 12:00 midnight (they are rough tracks, it’s raining and it’s very dark) the two women then packed their few belongings and walked back, (more than 2 hours) arriving sometime in the early morning.  They were ready to get on the yacht at 7:30am.  They breed them tough here!!

I’d better get this message transmitted while I’m able, but there’s more to tell than time allows here.

I think we were meant to stop at Mere Lava.  As an interesting coincidence, the girl has the same name as my darling wife (hullo Linda, luv u, xxx) and her mother has the same name as my grandmother.  As Dame Edna would say … “That’s positively spooky possums”

Smooth sea, fair breeze and we don’t just do eyes.


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