No fish, but quite a story for Gerald
The fish weren't biting at Louth and it had been a long day when Jack Kelleher's ute became bogged in the sand on a fishing trip with mates. They were heading for the Menindee Lakes, where they hoped for better fishing.
"There were three of us and we were about six kilometres on the Tibooburra side of Packsaddle," explains Gerald Dalton. "I had my ute parked behind Jack's caravan, which was attached to his ute and I got down to put a tow rope in front of his ute."
So far, so good. But as the light faded and the mates attempted to get the vehicles moving again, Ed Kelleher misjudged the vehicle lights and accidentally reversed into Jack.
"He had a bull-bar and I got squashed between," recalls Gerald. "It wasn't real good."
Gerald was helped into Ed's ute and the three headed to Packsaddle, 175kms north of Broken Hill in the far north west of NSW, to find help.
At the Packsaddle Roadhouse, Mia Degoumois was hard at work in the family business when someone came up to tell her that a man had been hurt and was still sitting in his vehicle.
Mia, and her mother-in-law, Vivienne Degoumois, set to work.
"I just talked to him and asked all the questions I needed to ask then got him into our SES shed and treated him there while checking with the RFDS," explains Mia, who, along with her husband and mother-in-law, has trained as an ambulance volunteer.
"I put him on oxygen, gave him pain relief and people were still driving up looking for petrol – it's lucky we have other staff here!"
RFDS Senior Medical Officer Dr John Wenham took Mia's call at the Broken Hill base. "She was pretty switched on," says Dr Wenham. "She described everything and said she didn't think he'd be good for a road trip to Broken Hill." RFDS Flight Nurse James Rozorio was on call and packed the aircraft, unsure from the description as to whether they'd be returning to Broken Hill or flying to Adelaide that night.
New RFDS pilot Elke Hanel prepared the aircraft for departure on what was her first night shift and the team headed off to collect Gerald.
"She did a fantastic job with a night landing onto dirt into Packsaddle," says James.
"It was just an unfortunate accident and they were pretty upset about it", says Gerald of his mates. "I'm still sore round the ribs and chest, but I'm coming good. I had to get my brother and his wife to go out and get my caravan and ute. The RFDS was very good. I don't know what I would have done if it wasn't for them."
He and Dr Wenham were collected from the airstrip by Ed, very anxious about his mate.
"I was relieved when the Flying Doctor got here," says Mia. "You can go through what you've learned in training and hang in there, but once the Flying Doctor gets here it's a huge relief!"
"Packsaddle is pretty well set up and we know the area quite well," says Dr Wenham. "We gave Gerald some intramuscular pain relief and examined him then got him back to Broken Hill Base Hospital where he was scanned and stayed overnight, then we transported him to Adelaide the next day. The surgeon there wanted to see him based on the results of the CT scan but fortunately he didn't need surgery and was discharged."
Gerald is now back and recovering from broken ribs and a lacerated pancreas at his home in West Wyalong.
Back in Packsaddle, Mia also applauds the work of the Flying Doctor for her own family."My husband and used to live at Innamincka and I had prenatal care with them there which was pretty fantastic," she says. "My husband also had his finger cut off and used the Flying Doctor."It's so good for us out here that they're available; we depend on them to help the community."