Graphic: Noe and Marie Matter

Noe and Marie Matter

Rescue flight to save a life

It started as a normal day for Marie Matter, a medical centre Human Resources Manager, until she received a phone call from her husband, Noe, which sent chills down her spine.

Noe with facial injuries

Noe, a painter, had been working nearby in their home town of Mount Gambier.

“I heard the fear in Noe’s voice as soon as I answered the phone,” remembers Marie. “His words were ‘help – I don’t know what’s just happened. I’m covered in blood and I think my eyeball has fallen out.’”

Noe couldn’t remember anything about the events immediately prior to his accident. All he knew was that he’d been painting the exterior of a house on an eight-foot ladder then, suddenly, he was lying in the front yard in excruciating pain.

An ambulance rushed Noe to Mount Gambier Hospital, where medical staff shared their concerns with Marie.

“The look on the doctors’ faces told me everything I needed to know,” recalls Marie.

Noe’s injuries were so critical, he needed to be urgently airlifted to Flinders Medical Centre to save his life.

A Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) aircraft and crew – with a MedSTAR retrieval team on board – was immediately tasked to Mount Gambier. 

“I had never seen Noe so scared. I began to imagine a future without my husband and our little girl Chelsea growing up without her Dad. I sat fighting back tears, unsure if Noe would make it to Adelaide alive.” 

Patient on stretcher being wheeled on to RFDS aeromedical aircraft

The 435-kilometre drive to Adelaide takes nearly five hours, but a RFDS ‘flying intensive care unit’ covers this ground in just 60 minutes.

“We tried to piece together what must have happened. We can only assume that Noe fainted, falling head-first on to a concrete floor.”

Medical staff in Adelaide revealed that Noe had suffered significant frontal and orbital fractures – traumatic injuries to the bones around the sinuses and the eye socket. 

Amazingly, Noe was able to return to Mount Gambier after just 10 days.

Brain scan image showing a large air bubble

However, just one week after being home, a follow-up scan led Noe back to the emergency department. The scan revealed a hole between Noe’s brain and nasal passage, requiring surgery. Worryingly, the hole was causing a cerebrospinal fluid leak – a medical condition in which the fluid surrounding the brain leaks out of the dura mater, a protective membrane around the brain.

Once again, the Flying Doctor was tasked to airlift Noe to Adelaide for specialist treatment.

“Doctors told us there was an air bubble nearly the size of a fist in Noe’s brain cavity. He needed an operation to stop the communication between his sinus and his brain.” Specialists operated to repair the damage, using fat from Noe’s stomach to plug the hole.

The operation lasted nearly 10 hours.

Noe Marie and RFDS Flight Nurse Derani

From there, Noe’s recovery has been promising. Whilst Noe isn’t yet able to drive or return to work, his future looks bright.

“We are so thankful that Noe’s cognitive function doesn’t appear to have been too badly affected,” says Marie. “We are so grateful to the RFDS for everything they have done for Noe. Noe’s accident has been a firm reminder to love those dear to you with everything you have, as you never know what’s around the corner.

Noe is so lucky to be alive.”

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