I had been ill for a week, with recurring fevers and general malaise. Usually, when faced with a fever in Papua New Guinea, one took the immediate precaution of taking anti-malarial medication. This time, I chose to put my trust in the medical clinic next door and quickly went off to have a blood test. When I was informed that there was no malaria, I settled down to see what else could be causing the trouble. Only later did we hear that the one who tested my blood was operating under bogus credentials, to the detriment of the health of a number of patients.
A distressed phone call to our doctor at Sopas Hospital suggested that if the problem wasn't malaria, it may be blood poisoning--for which there was no medical help in Papua New Guinea, so I should consider flying back to Australia for expert assistance. A wretched night assured me I must follow the doctor's advice. Sensing time was short, I stipulated that I travel only to Brisbane, the plane's first stop.
George immediately started phoning. There would be no-one at work in the South Pacific Division head office in Wahroonga but he could contact Vern Parmenter, then-under secretary of the Division. Vern was on holiday at the beach with his family but being conscientious, he carried his phone with him in case of just such an emergency. Quickly we had permission for me to fly. But Vern was left with the daunting task of finding a hospital bed, a specialist doctor to see me and an ambulance to meet the plane.
The next task was contacting Qantas in Port Moresby to get seats on the plane leaving that day and permission for me to fly. They stipulated medical permission from a doctor, a medical person to accompany me and for me to have an IV drip. Thankfully, the church's health director was home and able to write the permit for me to travel, and to collect the necessary items for my IV drip.
Probably the most providential happening was that our daughter, Merrilyn, had unexpectedly flown in from Saudi Arabia the day I took ill. As an experienced nurse, she was able to administer the IV and stay with me on the flight. She had been frantically packing two bags and trying to leave the house in some semblance of order.
Meanwhile, the regular commuter plane from Lae had left so we had to contact the mission plane stationed at Goroka. Mollie Rankin took the call and raced to the airport where her son, Paul, was just returning from a flight. "Quick! Refuel and race to Lae to get Maye to Moresby. She's dying!" she shouted, as he taxied to the hangar.
I bade a sad farewell to George, who was still negotiating with Qantas over payment of the fares and a request to hold the plane till I reached it.
By the time we reached the airport, I was almost unconscious, so I was laid on the floor of the Cessna. Then, in the care of Paul and my nurse, we flew over the mountains to Port Moresby. Noticing I was turning blue, Merrilyn had to clamber about and administer the oxygen usually reserved for the pilot.
I knew nothing of the dramas of the trip or the way we taxied under the wing of the Qantas jet but revived briefly as I was carried up the steps, before the plane lifted off half an hour late. It was not an easy trip for Merrilyn. My temperature rose alarmingly. A doctor among the passengers came to check me and could offer no assurance I would make it to Brisbane--but told Merrilyn she was doing all the right things, which was cold comfort.
The plane landed eventually. I was transferred to the waiting ambulance and rushed to the Mater Hospital. The doctor who taught tropical medicine at the medical school was there to treat me. He took blood tests and immediately began treatment for malaria.
Several hours later I woke to hear him say, "What day is it? Where are you?"
Both he and Merrilyn were relieved to hear me reply, "I think it is still Friday and I am in a Brisbane hospital." They had feared I would have brain damage from lack of oxygen. The doctor told me I had arrived just in time. An hour later would have been too late. Every time I relive that episode, I marvel that we have such a
wonderful, caring God! When I think of all the "cogs" that had to be set in motion that day, all the people involved in the drama that unfolded and all the aspects of God's foreknowledge that came into play, I am overwhelmed by the love He demonstrated to one insignificant person in His vast universe. It is wonderfully comforting to know we have access to the vast resources of heaven in our hour of need. But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love. He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine. Psalm 33:18, 19. Maye Porter is a pastor's wife, currently based on Norfolk Island.