Saving lives one flight at a time

Samaritan Aviation helps save lives by bringing emergency medical care to remote areas.

If you or family need medical attention, you simply go to the nearest hospital. But imagine living in a tropical jungle, on a river the size of the Mississippi and the nearest doctor is several days away.

That was the reality for people living on one Pacific Island just north of Australia, until help came in the form of a seaplane. Now additional help is now on the way but not before stopping by Falcon Field in Mesa to help spread the word of "Samaritan Aviation."

"This airplane is going to save lives," said pilot and founder Mark Palm, the president of the faith based medical air relief operation on Papua New Guinea.

The organization's newest plane, which will be in Mesa for the next few days, is on it's way to the far away Pacific island.

"The airplane over there already is saving lives," he said. "We saved over 100 lives last year. Sixty of them were mothers and babies."

Once in Papua New Guinea this ambulance with wings will provide emergency evacuation flights, medical supply runs and disaster relief. In that area there is one hospital for 500,000 people.

Getting to that hospital is nearly impossible. With 700 miles of river to travel, 80 percent of the people are three to five days away from medical care. Samaritan Aviation can get them help within 40 minutes. 

"You're talking breached births and retained placentas and snake bites and tuberculosis. Ninety-eight percent of the people have malaria," Palm said. "To be able to get there quickly and bring them into the one and only hospital is vital."

Director of Administration for Samaritan, Bryan Yeager says a second plane is needed to save additional lives.

"The plane we have over there now was down for two weeks and there were 18 people who died that maybe we could have gone in and saved them," Yeager said. "When you think about it, every time the plane is down somebody is possibly dying."

For Mark and Bryan, they see working for Samaritan as a calling. For the people their helping, and the way their doing it, well that goes beyond explanation.

"These people have never seen cars, electricity, roads, they ocean where we're based. So to bring them in emergency airplane and bring them all the way into Wee Whack, I can't imagine what it must be like for them," Palm said.

The cost of running "Samaritan Aviation" can run as high as $1 million a year. The Papua New Guinea government covers 50 percent. The other half is solely from donations.

If you'd like to learn more about their efforts, and how to donate, you can click on Samaritan Aviation.


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