Dr. Jill

A story from AIM AIR

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was new to flying in South Sudan. It was the dry season and most of the runways in the country were dry and landable. I was stationed in Lokichoggio, northern Kenya at the time, and the flight request was from a doctor stationed in far northern South Sudan: a place called Old Fangak. She had requested a load of medicine to be flown up in our “cute little plane”. I asked for a briefing from the other pilot in Loki and he said,

“Oh, you’re going to love Dr. Jill; the flight, not so much.”
My interest was piqued.

The next day, the meds arrived from Nairobi via truck and we stacked all the boxes next to the Cessna 206. “Are you sure we are going to fit all this into the plane?” I asked, a bit dubious. It was really the first time I had jam-packed the 206 with freight. We pulled all the seats out and began loading box after box of medicine and medical supplies.
We opened the last few boxes and took the contents out to fill the nooks and crannies of the cargo pod. But it all fit!

I took off the next morning for Old Fangak. I understood what they meant about not liking the flight. It is a three-hour flight, and most of it is over very flat, partially swampy terrain. Not much to keep the mind entertained.

Upon arriving at the airstrip, I observed a north/south runway with a river and swamp on the south end. Old Fangak is one of the shortest airstrips that we use, so the approach needs to be precise and the landing spot on target. I landed without incident and taxied over to the parking area. I hopped out and was greeted by a bubbly, energetic woman who, by my observation, had the respect of everyone surrounding the plane.

“Welcome to Old Fangak. We are so glad you could come see us here! These meds will supply us for many months. Thank you so much!”

Dr. Jill spends about three months a year in Alaska as an ER doctor. She calls it her recruiting grounds as the rest of her time is spent in Old Fangak. She is one of the world’s foremost experts on a parasitic disease called Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL). People have come from far and wide to study with her and learn what she has developed as cures for such diseases. She came to South Sudan in 1989 as a short-term doctor to fight an epidemic of VL and decided to stay and help. God has used her in many ways these past 30+ years. She is a voice of peace in the often violent environment.

It is our pleasure to serve those who serve, and Dr. Jill is one of the most faithful servants I know. Whenever I see her flight request pop up on email, I always want to be the one to go. She is just one of the reasons that I love being a pilot with AIM AIR, serving in East Africa.

Written By: Pete Young