Graphic: Fergus Gunn cattleman

Cattleman's crisis

Date published

10 Jan 2017

A young man's world is literally turned upside down when a tyre blowout leaves him helpless and bleeding on one of Australia's more remote cattle stations. Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) Flight Nurse Fred Hawkins, who flew from the RFDS Alice Springs Base together with a Doctor from the Central Australian Retrieval Service to respond to an emergency call from Brunette Downs in the Northern Territory was among the first on the scene.

Brunette Downs is in the Northern Territory, 350km north of Tennant Creek and 660km north west of Mount Isa, Queensland. Young ringer Fergus Gunn was driving in the late afternoon when a tyre ruptured without
warning, causing his vehicle to turn over and over before finally crunching to a stop.
"At the scene of the accident Fergus needed our help to breathe, and a blood transfusion. His blood pressure was very low, and we were mindful all the time that he could go into cardiac arrest," Fred says.
"Before we took him to the plane, we also needed to secure his body in a special vacuum mat which immobilises his neck and back to reduce the risk of making worse any possible spinal cord damage."
After a painstaking 40-minute drive to the airstrip with Fergus lying on the tray of a station ute, the RFDS aircraft left for Alice Springs, with the medical team continuing to give Fergus critical care in the air.

Fergus and mum

After touching down in the early hours of the morning, scans at Alice Springs Hospital revealed Fergus had suffered two punctured lungs, and fractures to a number of vertebrae. By the time the sun rose again, it was clear that Fergus needed the attention of specialists at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH).
Flight Nurse Fred was again by Fergus's side as they flew to Adelaide. On arrival at the RAH, Fergus was greeted by concerned members of his family who had rushed to his bedside from New Zealand.

All the serious threats which Fergus was facing were urgently investigated. Then, enormous relief, with tests and scans revealing that Fergus had not suffered any serious injury! He has made an amazing recovery and is back at work at Brunette Downs, but he does still sport a few facial scars as a reminder of his "lucky escape".
"I know I've been given a second chance to live the rest of my life, thanks to the RFDS, and I can't thank them enough," says Fergus.

Photo: Fergus and his mum Jessica at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (right).