Spiritan Pat Patton operates a flying medical program here in Maasai country. His Cessna with medical staff comes to Olbalbal for a clinic every two weeks and the people welcome the sight of his airplane that promises excellent medical care that day. During the past year, Pat has had two plane accidents that have temporarily left his without an aircraft. This has been very hard on the people here, especially recovering TB patients that need their regular supply of medicine. During the last months, during my monthly shopping trips to Arusha, Pat has given me the needed TB medicine. The much-needed medicine is then distributed by Ndoros, Pat’s man on the ground here at Olbalbal. This situation will soon return to normal as Pat is receiving a new aircraft during the next few weeks.
Our Spiritan web site <Spiritans.org> profiles pat as follows: Pat has spent twenty years as a bush pilot in Tanzania, the only Spiritan and only priest of four Flying Medical Service volunteers. They provide regular preventive, curative, and emergency health care and health education in areas far removed from ordinary medical facilities. The volunteers fly about nine hundred hours a year using two specially modified Cessna 206 aircraft. Last year they treated 17,554 patients and flew eighty-four emergency flights, treating everything from the common cold to injuries by hyenas, lions, and spear wounds.
Pat shares this story: I was flying with the senior staff of one of the bush hospitals in the country, in all six adults and an infant. Weather was stormy. We were flying on instruments. We had a total engine failure at 7,000 feet. No one panicked. We glided down through 6,000 feet of thick cloud till we could just begin to see some patches of earth only a thousand feet below us. We landed in a rice field without any injuries and not a scratch on the airplane. But it took us six weeks to get out. We built a small airstrip and had to drain a swamp to get our makeshift runway dry enough to take off again. We slept in a mud hut, which we shared with a giant monitor lizard and a green snake. Hippos occasionally visited us on the runway. There were crocodiles and pythons in the water around us—through which we had to swim to get to the plane. Ben Wilhelm has some wonderful pictures of the Flying Medical Service at his website: benwilhelmi.typepad.com/benwilhelmi/flying-medical-service