RFDS celebrates very special patient anniversary 40 years on

On her son’s 40th birthday, Sheryl Clark remembers vividly the frightening experience of her premature labour and the Royal Flying Doctor service coming to her aid.

After going into an emergency labour six weeks early, things took an unexpected turn for the better when Mrs Clark was safely delivered to King Edward Hospital from Norseman by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

The young mum-to-be had arrived at Norseman Hospital earlier that night. She was in severe pain and had started to bleed badly. Back then, particularly in regional hospitals, there wasn’t the technology available to pin-point vital signs of the baby. 

The hospital doctor explained he couldn’t detect a viable heartbeat nor could he could confirm if the baby was alive. The decision was made that Mrs Clark and her baby needed to get to Perth for urgent medical assistance.

“Of course I was extremely distressed at this news. I was in shock. I was told they were going to call in the Flying Doctor and fly me down to Perth to save my life,” Mrs Clark said.

“I still remember being inside the aircraft and being attended by a wonderful RFDS doctor. It was a three-hour flight and to this day I can remember the doctor stroking my forehead and holding my hand to keep me calm.” 

Once Mrs Clark had been safely transferred to King Edward Memorial Hospital, a doctor placed a monitor on her stomach.

“I remember hearing this very fast sound,” Mrs Clark said. “The doctor told me it was my baby’s heartbeat, which I couldn’t believe. It took quite a bit of convincing to believe that my baby was okay, but John was delivered a few hours later by caesarean, a healthy little boy.”

Mrs Clark’s late husband, Les, was unable to accompany her on the RFDS flight due to the passenger limitations of the aircraft at the time. He drove the eight hours to Perth unaware of the happy turn of events that had unfolded.

“It wasn’t until Les saw John with his own eyes that he realised our baby was okay,” Mrs Clark said.

Ten days later, the RFDS flew mum and baby back home to Norseman.

“We flew through a storm all the way. The plane bounced around but the baby slept through it all,” Mrs Clark said.

“If it wasn’t for the Flying Doctor I hate to think what the outcome would have been for John, or me. The staff were just wonderful and I have such a special memory of them."