WITHOUT Papua New Guinea’s rural health workers I wouldn't be alive today.
Lavongai Island never had its own doctor during my more than 40 years connection with the place.
The best we had were health extension officers who had to be able to deal with all sort of medical emergencies and were generally as good as a doctor.
Here in far off Wales where I now live, if I ring for an appointment to see a doctor they ask which one. After the PNG years of my life, I always say anyone will do and give thanks. Similarly with dentists.
I can recall lowly aid post orderlies living a long distance from any town who gave their services 24 hours a day if necessary.
I also think of the many nurses who did lifesaving work which elsewhere in the world would be done by doctors. And, sadly, these nurses were working with few facilities nor even the right drugs or equipment.
God bless them all who, even as I type, are facing unimaginably traumatised patients, perhaps by torchlight.
Mind, I knew a few nurses who made me cower when it came to 'kisim sut'. I can still feel the small nodes in my buttocks where one lady at Taskul gave me many jabs over the years.
Babies immediately shrieked whenever she came near them. Thankfully she was one of a few such ‘poor dart' nurses. In his time Masta Bia was perhaps second only to Lapun Darius.
Often this would be done in the dead of night with a monsoon blowing its torrential rain.
A wantok would hold a waterproof torch that Vevien had bought himself and stocked with batteries he also bought with his own money. Holding a drip in the torchlight would be a young nurse or nursing aide.
Sometimes they failed to reach the beach near Kavieng Hospital before the patient died. But, thankfully, often the person would recover thanks to the dedicated rural health team that had braved the elements.
Vevien's overtime cheque was for a meagre 75 toea. I never banked it to reclaim the money but kept it as a memorial to a good man who served his country for a pittance while the spivs were busy ripping off the nation and lining their pockets and when venerable MPs even PMs were lauded for what they did during their time in parliament.
My hero Vevien died too young, driving his outboard in the middle of the night when he apparently collided with another boat possibly navigated by a drunken driver.