DRC (MNN/MAF) — The recent natural birth of conjoined twin baby girls in the bush of the Democratic Republic of Congo was a rare occurrence. The closest hospital in Vanga was a two-day drive by motorbike, and even that hospital was not fully equipped to separate conjoined infants. The next closest hospital was in Kinshasa, another 12-14 hours away and with treacherous roads.
The birth of conjoined twins is very rare, accounting for only one out of every 200,000 births according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Conjoined twins have their skin or often even internal organs fused together in the womb. Around 40-60 percent of conjoined twins are stillborn and 35 percent only live one day. Only between 5-25 percent of conjoined twins survive.
Pilot Brett Reierson with Mission Aviation Fellowship in West DRC knew something was up when he saw a crowd some 200-strong headed toward the airplane in Vanga. The doctor ushered a woman aboard with a bundle in her arms.
The doctor explained that the woman had given birth to conjoined twins nine days before, in a village so far away that no one in Vanga knew where it was. The twin girls were joined at the naval and shared some intestines. After reaching a nearby health center, the family then traveled 250 km further on a motorcycle to reach the Vanga Evangelical Hospital. The doctors in Vanga contacted a team of volunteer surgeons in Kinshasa who operate free of charge on children born with deformities.
According to the doctor in Vanga, “The big problem was their transport from Vanga to Kinshasa. The newborns were stable but fragile and could not tolerate another, longer, overland journey over difficult roads to Kinshasa. MAF was contacted and without hesitation agreed to transport these children. The airplane transported these kids the next day from the MAF airport in Vanga to Kinshasa. We sincerely thank the MAF team and their donors for their willingness to assist in transporting these wonderful kids.”
Reierson explains, “After they were separated, they were in observation and recovering here in Kinshasa. They contacted us again and said, ‘Would you be willing to take them back to Vanga?’ And so we were, of course, excited to be a part of their return story as well…. They still have more to go, but they’re going to spend a little time in Vanga before they carry on.”
MAF has three operating bases in the DRC. Reierson and his wife have been with MAF in West DRC for about a year, and he says carrying out medical flights are just one of the many ways they serve in the country.
“We operate and maintain eight small aircraft across the country and we do that to provide flights for missionaries, the local church, and humanitarian aid organizations that are working in the remote areas of the country,” Reierson explains.
“With MAF, we’re just one link in the chain but the transportation link is an important one. Vanga Evangelical Hospital is really there to provide hope and also through medical care to the patients and families. They also provide training for more medical professionals that can be trained and then sent out to various regions within Congo. So medical flights are really a way that MAF is able to provide reliable, fast transportation in situations where sometimes there is no other option or the option makes it extremely difficult for the patients or sometimes in certain situations it can actually save lives.”
As MAF serves the communities and families in the DRC, they are serving as witnesses for Christ.
“We have a really cool role to serve the Church, to serve others. When we fly for humanitarian groups, many of the passengers are not necessarily Christian. So we have a really cool opportunity to interact with these people from all walks of life and [share] why we’re here because we are a little bit of an anomaly. There are [humanitarian] aid workers that come, but it’s usually for very short periods of time and they ask the question, ‘Why are you here?’ It just opens up a great door to share Christ with them.”
As the conjoined twin baby girls rest and recover with their parents in Vanga, please pray for good health and that as they grow in stature, they would come to know their Heavenly Father and grow in spiritual maturity as well.
Reierson also asks, “Prayer requests for our team would just be that we would be able to continue to share the love of Christ in this context. Congo is a very challenging context, it’s a very tiring context, and so sometimes it’s easy to allow the little things to creep in where you have a very negative outlook. So we want to continue to keep a positive, Christ-centered outlook.”
Finally, you can support Mission Aviation Fellowship’s critical ministry to make emergency medical flights like this possible! Please click here to support the life-transforming ministry of MAF.