NAIROBI, Kenya -- Among tribesmen in the remote bush of East Africa, 69-year-old Anne Spoerry -- blue slacks, pilot shirt and a denim cap on her 5-foot frame -- has long been a legend.
For 23 years, the French doctor has piloted her own aircraft untold thousands of miles around Africa to treat lion bites, bullet wounds and cholera.
'I hate paper work,' she says, running a hand through her short-cropped silver hair in her tiny office at the African Medical Research and Education Foundation in Nairobi. Documents are scattered everywhere.
A graduate of the Faculte de Medecine in Paris, Spoerry fought with the French underground during World War II until she was captured by the Germans.
She will not talk about the war. 'It is past, it is gone. There is no point in talking about it,' she says.
Friends say she spent three years in a concentration camp, where she was brutally tortured. Her eyes show the hurt.
'This has produced in her a hardiness, which keeps her pushing out the frontiers of medicine in the most remote part of Africa,' the late director of AMREF, Sir Michael Wood, wrote in his autobiography, 'Different Drums.'
'She's done a lot of hair-raising things on her missions,' said John Mramba, AMREF communications director.
'She once almost landed her plane in North Horr, in northeastern Kenya and realized at the last minute hundreds of goats had occupied the strip. She had to fly up again, circle over the strip to frighten the animals off before landing.
'Recently, on the last trip she did with Sir Michael Wood, she flew through a hell of a storm in northern Kenya and barely managed to find a hole in the storm to get out of it and land,' he said.
'This kind of thing is not at all unusual for her.
'When she flies to (the Kenyan Indian Ocean archipelago of) Lamu, she often has to travel between the islands on flimsy sailing boats, and inland on donkey back.'
After the war, Spoerry worked for a year at the Aden hospital in South Yemen and signed on as a ship's doctor on a vessel carrying pilgrims from southern France to Jeddah before settling in Kenya, where she opened a private practice.
'It was a dream come true. I've wanted to live in Africa since I was a child,' she said.
In 1963, a close friend and Royal Air Force instructor taught her to fly. The next year she was asked to join the airborne doctor service at AMREF.
Her daring rescue missions and regular 'housecalls' in the bush have since become the stuff of folklore.