Self-employed couple Hibi and Cathy Hawa have four children including Jonah. Just like other kids his age, Jonah is fun and energetic and enjoys nothing more than playing with his friends and swimming in the river.
Jonah was enrolled in the local elementary school and was always early for classes until one morning everything changed.
“We heard him crying to us for help as he could not move his legs. I thought he was joking when he told us that he couldn’t stand up,” said dad Hibi as he recalls that morning in March.
Jonah was immediately taken to Kikori hospital and to his family’s dismay, his health deteriorated very quickly.
“The hospital then told us Jonah had a rare health condition known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS),” said Hibi. GBS severely affects muscles in the upper and lower limbs including breathing ability.
“It was a very painful experience, watching our son fighting to live another day,” said mum Cathy. The family remained in the hospital until they were told that a medevac had been arranged for them to seek further medical attention for Jonah in Port Moresby.
“We then found out later it was Santos who came to our rescue. Not only did they organise the medevac, but they also provided ongoing support to our son when we were at the hospital. They then gave Jonah a wheelchair after he was discharged from the Intensive Care Unit.
“We could not give him the medical attention he needed. Santos made it easier for us. All accommodation and flight expenses were taken care of while we were in Port Moresby. Not everyone gets the kind of support that Jonah received, and we feel very blessed.”
The family also extends their gratitude to health workers at the Kikori Hospital, the Port Moresby General Hospital and family members for the care and support.
Jonah celebrated his 9th birthday while in hospital, but the family is excited now that he is in good spirits and ready to return home to Kikori.
“There will be a few changes to our home to provide Jonah with easy accessibility, but we believe he will recover well,” says dad Hibi.
For little Jonah, his education is far from over. “I have a wheelchair to get to school. All I need to do now is regaining the ability to hold a pencil and to write,” says Jonah.
GBS is a disorder of the immune system where the nerves are attacked by immune cells that cause weakness and tingling sensation in arms and legs. There is no known cure and urgent medical assistance is usually recommended in severe cases.
This year Santos has assisted with more than 30 medevacs and medical transferrals in its project impact communities in Southern Highlands, Hela and Gulf provinces.
Other recent medevacs have been done in the remote Bosavi region where health services are non-existent.