The Long Night[1]

72 Charlie Uniform was the radio code name for Ukarumpa, the headquarters of the Summer Institute of Linguistics in Papua New Guinea. Loren Baughman, the fifth grade teacher was having a scheduled visit with his students in their various remote locations. He tried to calm me. “I’ll call the director and the doctor to come to the radio to talk with you. Just hang on.”

“Okay, but hurry.” My voice edged with panic.

A minute later, his voice came back. “The telephone line is busy. I’ll have to drive to their houses. I’ll just be a few minutes.”

I rushed back to Robert’s side, then to the bathroom to get supplies, then back to Robert, then back to the bathroom. “I just can’t think clearly. What do I need to do?” I groaned to myself. I filled a bucket with water, thinking that I’d have to wash up the blood. I tied a tourniquet around Robert’s elbow.

Finally, I heard the director’s voice on the radio. “Tell me what happened.”

I explained the whole story. Then Dr. Helen spoke. “First of all check Robert’s pulse.”

I tried and then reported, “His pulse is too erratic to count. I can’t get a reading.”

“You’ll have to apply constant pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding.”

“On the wound? Oh, no.” I groaned. “I put the tourniquet around his elbow, but it’s supposed to be up on the wound?” I quickly removed the incorrect tourniquet.

“Make sure that Robert gets plenty of water with sugar in it to prevent dehydration from such severe blood loss.”

“We’re completely out of sugar.” I lamented.

“Then mix salt in the water.”

“You won’t believe this, but we’re out of salt as well. We’re expecting our supply flight tomorrow morning.”

“Well, just make sure that he gets plenty of water. And keep constant pressure on the wound until the bleeding stops. You can do it,” Dr. Helen urged.

“What happens if the bleeding doesn’t stop?” I inquired. Somehow I felt that Dr. Helen dodged my question as she informed me that they would be standing by during the night in case I needed help. “We’ll be in Sopu at first light,” she promised.

I fought the urge to go lie down myself. I had to figure out a way to put constant pressure on the wound.

[1] This incident happened June 5, 1991.