Christmas might be a time for celebration, relaxing and catching up with friends and family, but for the emergency services - its business as usual. All across the Festive season the pilots, doctors and flight nurses of the Royal Flying Doctor Service South Eastern Section (RFDS SE) will continue to deliver the finest aeromedical healthcare to the furthest corners of Australia, as they have done since the Service began in 1928.
Last year RFDS SE emergency evacuation teams at Dubbo and Broken Hill attended 14 emergencies on Christmas and Boxing Day alone. They dealt with a wide variety of cases, including; acute renal failure, spinal and limb injuries, a perforated bowel, diabetic complications, flesh-eating disease, a serious heart attack, chronic pancreatitis, sepsis, pneumonia and respiratory distress.
Earlier this year, Erin, who lives near Dubbo, discovered just what a vital life-line the Flying Doctor is. She will be celebrating her first Christmas with the latest addition to her family thanks to the RFDS SE.
She was just 19 weeks pregnant with her third child when doctors told her she had a rare complication called Placenta Previa, which would prevent her delivering her child normally. She could not go to full term and the baby would have to be delivered by C-Section. Their prediction was correct and Erin was admitted to Dubbo hospital with severe labour pains at 27 weeks.
“We were warned that the son I was expecting might not make it,” recalls Erin.
“They wanted to get me to a better-equipped neo-natal ICU in Sydney, but were also worried that I might suffer a life-threatening bleed at any moment. That ruled out a five-hour road trip.”
The RFDS SE received the call at 02.30am and took off with Erin shortly afterwards. On duty that night was RFDS SE Flight Nurse, Jamie Corbett.
“Jamie will never know just how much she helped me,” says Erin.
“While looking after me she walked me through what was going to happen, told me I was going to be OK and gave me a big hug.”
It’s a good thing that the Flying Doctor were there to help as Erin started losing blood shortly after arriving at the hospital in Sydney. Thankfully, they brought the situation under control and delivered baby Carter by emergency caesarean.
“Without the Flying Doctor there’s a very good chance that my little boy wouldn’t be here. We never thought something like this would happen to us. You never do. But we were wrong. It can happen to anyone,” said Erin.
“We’ll be spending our first Christmas with Carter and for that we’re eternally grateful.”
“I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I did, but knowing the Flying Doctor will be there to help, even on Christmas Day should be a great comfort to everyone living in regional, rural and remote areas.”
Base Manager at RFDS Broken Hill, Marcus Wilson, is on call right across the Christmas and New Year period.
“This will be my first Christmas with the RFDS SE and I’m hoping it’s not a busy year,” said Marcus.
“On-call staff will just celebrate Christmas a little later, but we’ve hung a few decorations and will be having some Christmas lunch at the Base, unless duty calls.”