Graphic: Wilcannia

Flying Doctor rescues regional nurse

Date published

13 Oct 2020
Zoe Schwarz

It may be daunting for most to consider moving to such a remote part of New South Wales, but when the opportunity arose for Zoe Schwarz to undertake her second rotation as a registered nurse in Wilcannia, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I have a huge passion for remote health due to my mum’s family being from the Torres Strait Islands,” Zoe said.

It was a Monday and Zoe was excited to start work on her first day on the job, providing healthcare in Wilcannia. Little did she know, she was about to face a scary health ordeal herself. 

“I became unwell on my first day, with a bad asthma flare-up,” Zoe said. 

One of Zoe’s colleagues called the Royal Flying Doctor Service and a doctor was put on the phone to help Zoe with her rapidly closing airways. After asthma medication was administered by her colleagues, Zoe’s breathing returned to normal – much to everyone’s relief.

The following day, Zoe was excited for her second day on the job. Unfortunately, her asthma again flared up that Tuesday afternoon, and this time the attack was far worse. Zoe says she can only remember bits and pieces of the ordeal, because of the serious condition she was in. 

“I can remember the Royal Flying Doctor Service doctor on the phone talking to me, asking me how I was feeling and reassuring me. I was scared as I was struggling to catch my breath and unable to speak more than one word at a time.”

Being a registered nurse, Zoe knew she wasn’t in a good way and going downhill.

“The nurses here in Wilcannia had to give me an intramuscular injection of magnesium as they were unable to get a cannula in,” Zoe said.

“I was given further magnesium through an IV to help with my breathing and try to bring my heart rate down. The Royal Flying Doctor Service team arrived and I was then asked to transfer over to the Flying Doctor stretcher where they continued to monitor me closely during the flight,” Zoe said.

“Throughout the flight to Broken Hill, RFDS Flight Nurse, Tim, kept checking in with me to see if I was ok. I am usually terrified of landing in a plane but didn’t even know we had landed when we got to Broken Hill,” Zoe said.

“I knew I was in such safe hands. It is great knowing the Flying Doctor is there wherever you are... if they weren’t it might have been a dire outcome.”

Zoe is now on the mend. She enjoys the quiet and peacefulness of the outback and says it allows her the time to read and do other things she enjoys.

“The remoteness is why I love my job, I know that the healthcare I provide here is making a difference,” Zoe said.

Zoe wants to thank everybody who supports the Flying Doctor, whether it be by making a donation, supporting with a regular gift or even holding an event.

“The Flying Doctor is vital for remote area communities as it provides a link to essential medical help, and I am so grateful for every single person who gives to them, they are saving the lives of people just like me,” Zoe said.

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