Posted on 2 September, 2015

What a chaotic 24 hours Saturday was!

It would have been considered an early morning start on any given day, but it seemed especially early given it was a Saturday morning. Despite the early start 23 Open Heart International (OHI) volunteers lined up ready to check in at Sydney International Airport for their flightto Tonga, totally ignorant of what was about to occur.

We soon discovered our plane was still in Auckland due to mechanical difficulties. The flight was going to leave much later, and meant our connecting flight, from Auckland to Tonga, would be missed. With an irregular schedule of flights in Tonga, this meant surgery would be delayed, two cancelled operated days, and less children would be able to receive surgery.

We were told the only solution was to catch a flight on Monday as there was only limited flights to Auckland per day and it was nearly impossible to get 23 people on one flight at this short of notice!


After much wheeling and dealing, many phone calles, and a long period of waiting, the Air New Zealand manager came back with good news. We were rushed over to the LAN Airlines counter. We all checked in chaotically and got ‘fast passes’ through customs. It was cutting it fine! It was with a sigh of relief when we got on the plane with adrenaline pumping! However, when the plane took I realised I hadn’t seen two of our ICU nurse volunteers amongst all the craziness.

When we arrived in Auckland, we greeted an additional seven team members who had flown in from other Australian cities, ready for the second flight to Tonga. Over the next two weeks, 49 people will contribute to our team in some capacity, making it the biggest OHI team this year.

It is my first time travelling with our team to Tonga. I notice instantly the love our volunteer team have for this project. I am certainly enjoying meeting all the volunteers I have been corresponding with over the past few months. The vibe and stories certainly adds to my excitement.

Once in Tonga we joined an additional nine volunteers who arrived earlier last week to begin the patient screening. It was a full day of travelling, and like the rest of the team we were ready for a good Tongan feed and the a sleep!

Stay tuned on the blog for more news from Tonga, I’ll be keeping you up-to-date with everything as it happens.

Oh and yes, we did find those two missing ICU volunteers. They’re joining us on Monday morning in Tonga where I’ll do my best to apologise for losing them in the chaos!


Tags:  Tonga,