By Edmund Samunting
KOTA KINABALU: Ruslina Puyut, 21, was in labour and writhing in pain as she waited for a flying doctor team to arrive at the far-flung Sonsogon Paliu to attend to the delivery of her first baby on Jan 6.
After waiting for nearly two hours, the helicopter carrying the medical team finally arrived, but it could not land as the village was in the midst of a thick forest.
The relief of hearing the sound of the helicopter, which took an hour and 20 minutes to reach the village, had turned to frustration for Ruslina and her husband Ladis Masuti, 28.
Their only option was to seek help from the villagers to immediately clear an area for the helicopter to land or to walk to the nearest school field at Sonsogon Magandai.
With no road access, it would take more than six hours to bring Ruslina on foot to Sonsogon Magandai, where a rural clinic is also located.
Reminded of the several deaths of mothers and babies due to delivery complications at the village in the past, the villagers came together to quickly clear an area for the helicopter.
With Ruslina having endured a prolonged labour and anticipating delivery complications, the medical team led by Dr Low Mei Mei decided to airlift her to the state capital.
Upon arrival at the Layang-Layang aerospace hanger at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, Ruslina was quickly wheeled into a room where she safely delivered a 3.3kg baby boy with the help of a medical team.
The prolonged labour caused the baby to suffer breathing difficulties and had to be given oxygen before being placed in an incubator at the Likas Children Hospital here.
"It was a traumatic experience and I really thought that I was going to die and that my baby would never see the light of day," said Ruslina.
Ruslina, who named the baby Farizi, said had it not been for the flying doctor services which responded promptly to a distress call, she and her baby would not have made it as it would take them three days to walk to the nearest hospital in Kota Marudu town.
Dr Nelbon Agiloi of the State Flying Doctor Services said the prolonged labour could have caused the death of mother and child.
Layang-Layang Aerospace, the contractor for the Flying Doctor Services, has decided to "adopt" the baby as he was born at its hanger.
Yesterday, the company provided a free helicopter ride back to Sonsogon Paliu for the baby and his parents, both of whom are farmers, and also donated baby gifts and essential needs for the family.
"We would be visiting the baby and his parents from time to time," said Layang-Layang Aerospace managing director Johan Poong Abdullah.
Sonsogon Paliu is one of the many remote villages in the Kota Marudu district and the harrowing experience that Ruslina went through tells of the predicament of the folks there.