ANGEL OF BUTAWENG
28 January 2007
“Mary Guntner was not your ordinary missionary type,” writes Colin Huggins. “She enjoyed club and social life and was my tennis partner in the weekly competitions at Finschhafen. Mary would have been know by Asopians Gil Cook, Stewart Woodger, Rover Leung, Edith Hatt, Bob Davis, Sonia Grainger, Merv Duncan, Val Rivers and Margaret Dwyer to name just a handful.”
And now Mary has written an account of the 12 years she spent as a doctor with the Lutheran Mission in Papua New Guinea. Mary graduated with an MB BS from Adelaide University in 1957. However, with a family background of involvement in missionary work, she was the fourth daughter of Pastor Walter Fritsch and his wife, Mathilde, it wasn't long before she took up the call to be of service to the Lutheran Mission in New Guinea. So in 1958, Mary found herself at Finschhafen at the Buangi and Butaweng hospitals.
Her work revolved around emergencies - caesarean sections, burns, fractures, massive goitres - and constantly waging the continuing fight with malaria, tuberculosis and leprosy. Mary was responsible for scores of patients at any one time - the Butaweng hospital alone had 600 beds - and she also became the region's 'flying doctor'.
The regular, newsy letters Mary wrote home during her time in New Guinea were preserved faithfully by her mother and, together with her own memories, they form the basis of this book. Quotes from her letters interspersed throughout the narrative allow readers to share Mary's enthusiasm and excitement.
Doctor in Paradise: Challenges and Rewards in Medical Service, New Guinea, 1958-1970, Mary W Guntner, Crawford House Publishing, Adelaide, 2006 (paperback), 412 pages.$34.95. ISBN 1863333118.