Independent couple Hibi and Cathy Hawa have four children including Jonah. Just like other kids his age, Jonah is fun and energetic and loves nothing more than playing with his friends and swimming in the river.
Jonah was enrolled at the local elementary school and was always early for class until one morning everything changed.
“We heard him screaming for help because he couldn’t move his legs. I thought he was joking when he told us he couldn’t stand up,” Dad Hibi said of that March morning.
Jonah was immediately rushed to Kikori Hospital and much to the chagrin of his family, his health deteriorated very quickly.
“We were then told by the hospital that Jonah had a rare condition known as Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS),” Hibi said. GBS severely affects upper and lower extremity muscles, including breathing capacity.
“It was a very painful experience watching our son fight to live another day,” mum Cathy said. The family remained in hospital until they were told a medical evacuation had been arranged for them to seek further medical attention for Jonah in Port Moresby.
“We then found out later that it was Santos who had come to our rescue. Not only did they organize the medical evacuation, but they also provided continuous support for our son when we were in the hospital. then gave Jonah a wheelchair after he was released from the intensive care unit.
“We couldn’t give him the medical care he needed. Santos made it easy for us. All accommodation and flight costs were covered during our stay in Port Moresby. Not everyone gets the kind of support Jonah did, and we feel very blessed.
The family also express their gratitude to the health workers at Kikori Hospital, Port Moresby General Hospital and family members for the care and support.
Jonah celebrated his 9th birthday while he was in hospital, but the family is thrilled now that he is in good spirits and ready to go home to Kikori.
“There will be some changes to our home to give Jonah easy access, but we believe he will recover well,” says dad Hibi.
For little Jonas, his education is far from over. “I have a wheelchair to go to school. Now I just have to regain the ability to hold a pencil and write,” says Jonah.
GBS is an immune system disorder in which nerves are attacked by immune cells which cause weakness and a tingling sensation in the arms and legs. There is no known cure and emergency medical assistance is usually recommended in severe cases.
This year, Santos has participated in more than 30 medical evacuations and medical transfers to his project’s impact communities in the Southern Highlands, Hela and Gulf provinces.
Other recent medical evacuations have been carried out in the remote region of Bosavi where health services are non-existent.