Graphic: Young boy lies in hospital bed

Young boy lies in hospital bed

Teamwork saves boy in Cooper Basin

It started as an ordinary day for eight-year old Jackson Bendall as he explored his relative’s Cooper Basin cattle station, Epsilon, in South Australia’s Far North by motorbike. But tragedy struck when Jackson looked back over his shoulder towards his cousin – riding straight into a three-wire fence.

Outback cattle station seen as seen from an aircraft window

Jackson’s mother, Nicole remembers the horrifying scene. Jackson’s eyebrows had been scalped by the fence’s top wire, revealing deep gashes. There was a hole in the side of his face and a deep welt on his arm.

What she didn’t realise was that Jackson had suffered critical internal injuries.

“Jackson’s a pretty tough kid and we didn’t realise there was anything seriously wrong with him,” Nicole remembers. “He didn’t even cry.”

Helicopter and aircraft

Fortunately, the family immediately contacted the RFDS, which tasked the Cooper Medivac 24 helicopter based in Moomba, a 40-minute flight away. In consultation with the RFDS, the specialist retrieval service was developed and funded by RFDS corporate partners, Senex Energy and Beach Energy, to cut delivery time of critically-ill patients who live, work and travel in the remote Cooper Basin.

Michelle Vegter, the Moomba-based RFDS Flight Nurse assigned to the Cooper Medivac 24 team, arrived at the scene and quickly suspected internal injuries.

“Jackson was sitting very quietly in an armchair, not talking too much, not moving too much and looking very pale,” Michelle says. “Often when a child is in a lot of pain and doesn’t want to move, you know that something is happening internally. The force was strong enough to knock him off the bike.”

Boy on stretcher in aircraft

After administering morphine, Jackson was cocooned in an air-cushioned mattress called a vac-mat to ensure he remained perfectly still as he was loaded on to the helicopter, bound for Moomba, where a fixed-wing RFDS aircraft was waiting to meet them.

Jackson received ‘care in the air’ on the 90-minute RFDS flight to Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital, where the extent of his injuries was realised.

Alarmingly, his liver had received a Grade 5 laceration, meaning it was utterly shattered. The young boy had to be immobilised for the next three weeks to give his organ time to heal itself without surgery. The revelation of the damage to his liver also proved the necessity of the Cooper Medivac 24 service.

Jackson recovers in hospital bed

“It was a very fortuitous retrieval,” Flight Nurse Michelle says. “The roads at the station are not smooth, and any movement at all would not have been good for him, it would have completely ruptured his liver. He would have been gone.”

Thankfully, Jackson has since made a full recovery. His mother Nicole says: “I’ve been on stations all my life and I’ve always known the RFDS always go above and beyond but, when it’s for your own family, there’s another level of gratitude.”

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