Thursday, May 03, 2007
Silence At 10,000 Feet
Writing that little bit about the plane, reminded me of... well, let me start at the beginning!
One Saturday morning, about 12 years ago, the kids were outside running around the village playing with their indian friends, when we heard a loud scream. My son Josh was about 6 years old and he came in holding his little sister Jewel by the arm. Jewel was about 4 and she had tears but looked more angry than hurt. Josh gave us his version of what had happened, and Jewel gave us her spin.
What we do know is that, Jewel fell out of a tree and Josh also fell and landed on her arm. She said it hurt, but was not crying much. There was no visible swelling so we gave her some Tylenol and sent them back out to play. She kept her arm hugged close all day but never once complained of pain.
The next morning, when she got up, her arm was red and swollen half way between her wrist and elbow. So it was not a sprain. We immediately got on the radio and contacted the pilot for an emergency flight out to get it checked as it seemed likely that it was a fracture. Jewel was much more vocal about the pain on the second day.
The pilot attempted to get to the village but due to heavy rain, he could not get in for a landing and had to return back to Puerto Ayacucho with out landing in Chajudaña. He would try again the next day.
Jewel was having serious pain and we began to give her Tylenol with codeine. She slept off and on for the next couple of days. On Monday, the pilot headed out to get us again and the day was clear and not a cloud in sight. We had decide I would go out with Jewel and Clint would stay with the other children in the village.
When the plane was about an hour into the two hour flight, we received a radio call from a Sanema village. They had a patient who was critical. She had been mauled by a jaguar and her husband had fought the jaguar off, but her arm was in shreds! She needed medical attention and FAST! So the plane was diverted to get her and headed straight to Caracas as it appeared she would need an amputation.
Jewel is now on her third day of pain and not a happy camper. But she did not complain too much and thank goodness we had the analgesics!
On Tuesday, the plane heads back out to get us for the third day in a row. After flying around bad weather, the plane made it into the village. This is when the airstrip was up river and we had to canoe to the strip to meet the plane.
As Jewel and I buckled up, the two pilots explained they would be stopping at another village on the way, to pick up an out board motor that needed to go to town for repairs. So off we went!
We landed at the base of a beautiful mountain and the two pilots left for the hike to the village a few kliks away from the strip. Jewel was asleep at this time and I waited with her in the plane.
It started to heat up as the tropical sun beat down upon the small plane, I decided to get out and stand under the shade of the wing where it would be cooler than inside the plane. Jewel was still sleeping off the medication.
We were near an indian village where the Joti tribe lived. The Joti are very primitive and hardly wear any clothes and this group rarely saw anyone from outside of the jungle. They had seen a few gringo pilots, all male and that was about it!
They came out of the jungle towards me, a group of about 12 indians all painted red with onoto and not a stitch of clothing on. I tried to smile and look pleased to see them, which I was! They began talking to one another and pointing and saying who knows what, about me. I still smiled. Then they decided they would get a closer look and that they needed to TOUCH the white lady. They had never seen a white female. I was NOT smiling now.
One guy was lifting my skirt and another my top and I was not happy! Jewel decided to wake up and looked out the window and SCREAMED! This scared them as they had not seen or expected anyone to be in the plane and they scattered off a few feet! I took the opportunity to climb into the plane with Jewel!
Thank goodness, they had never had the need to open the door of a Cessna aircraft! They did try! They tried and shoved and left red smudges of onoto on the white plane. The two pilots were back by then and I never did tell them how frightened I had been! Although I do not think they would have harmed us, just that they were too curious for my comfort!
As we took off, I started to relax, but my heart was still pounding! As the plane climbed, Steve, a pilot, turned around and said something to me. You cant hear a word anyone says while in a Cessna! But I figured he was just asking how Jewel was doing so I just smiled and gave the thumbs up sign. He nodded his head and turned back to the flying.
A few minutes later, there was the most terrible sound I have ever heard! It was awful! My heart jumped to my throat! I screamed! For, the motor turned off and there was SILENCE!!!!!
A Cessna has only one motor and it was OFF! And we were IN the air! No more loud roar of the motor, just ...
WHOOSH!!! Whoosh! whoosh! whoosh! whoosh!
I screamed, both pilots jerked around to look at me like I was crazy! And, then they flipped the switch and the motor turned over and started up and we were flying!
I felt a little silly and they grinned! You know, that way guys grin at silly females!
When we landed, they asked me what had frightened me. Like a motor turning off in the air should not be a scary thing. Steve said, "I told you I was letting one of the gas tanks drain and the motor would die for a moment!" Oh, so thats what he was saying when I gave him the thumbs up signal!
We finally got Jewel into the hospital for x-rays, but they wanted to do surgery on her arm the next day, as the bone had already began to knit. I was not comfortable with this being done in Puerto Ayacucho, as the hospital would not suffice for a veterinary clinic in the states. I did not want them to put Jewel to sleep.
I found an elderly orthopedic surgeon who told me he could re-break her arm and do it so quickly, she would feel only a moments pain. I decided to wait till the next day and pray about it. I saw no need to rush anything, since they would need to re-break the arm no matter what.
After a long, sleepless night of prayer, I took Jewel in and she was doused up pretty good with meds. She was singing and goofy! The Dr. grabbed her upper arm and her hand and YANKED! I heard a CRACK! Jewel screamed...once...then looked at her arm and smiled at the guy! We then got the cast put on and headed back home the next day.
The total cost of the broken arm was about $ 25.00, which did not even make a dent in our deductible. The flight was about $400.00 and not covered by insurance!
I think that little adventure cost me about 10 years of my life!