Flying Doctor there for Caitlin when baby Hardy decides to arrive early on Mother’s Day

Date published

28 Jun 2024

When 32-week pregnant Caitlin Finne started Mother’s Day in 2023 with breakfast in bed, she had no idea that the day would conclude with a flight in a Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft and the premature birth of her son.

After a relaxing start to the day, the situation quickly turned into an emergency.

Caitlin had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and placenta previa, where the placenta is low in the uterus and can cause bleeding, earlier in her pregnancy. This placed her at a high risk and when she began to experience pain and contractions, she knew something wasn’t right. She went to the local medical facility.


A nurse confirmed Caitlin was in labour and had started to lose blood. Her bleeding became worse, and a transfusion was required. Because the local medical service didn’t have any on site, the blood needed to be transported urgently by police from Walgett, almost an hour away.

With the situation looking serious, a critical care doctor with additional blood was sent from Tamworth while a Newborn and paediatric Emergency Transport Service (NETS) was also dispatched in case the baby was born at Lightning Ridge.

With Caitlin’s condition the goal was to get her to a hospital with a birthing ward as quickly as possible. With Lightning Ridge more than four hours from Dubbo by road, flying was the only option. The Flying Doctor were sent from Dubbo, with Doctor Peter Brendt and flight nurse Fabian Schuelke on board and when they arrived they began to triage Caitlin for transfer.

“It was pretty scary day, but everyone was so comforting. They were all just talking to me and keeping me calm,” Caitlin said.

After receiving medication to delay the labour, Caitlin was then taken by the RFDS team to the airport and prepared for the flight.

Dr Brendt and Flight Nurse Schuelke monitored Caitlin’s condition as the labour was causing agonising back pain that medication wasn’t relieving. Flight Nurse Schuelke remembered something from his training as a midwife which prompted him to recommend Sterile Water Injections for Caitlin’s back pain.

It provided instant relief. “I couldn’t believe how quickly the pain subsided. I knew I was in good hands,” Cailtin shared.

Finne family

With the pain managed, the RFDS crew were able to transfer Caitlin to Dubbo Hospital where she was immediately rushed to theatre for an emergency caesarean.

Little Hardy was born at 9.09pm that night, with some complications for mother and baby, and Hardy was then transferred to Nepean Hospital at Penrith, with Caitlin being flown down by the RFDS to join him soon after.

After two weeks in Sydney, Caitlin and Hardy were transferred back by to Dubbo by the Flying Doctor, where they spent another two weeks, before they finally had the opportunity to go home to Lightning Ridge.

“It was such a difficult and scary time for us, but the Flying Doctor made it possible for us to get the help we needed. Without them, I don’t know what would have happened to me or to Hardy"

Caitlin Finne

All RFDS Flight nurses are trained and qualified midwives so that they are equipped to handle any situation that arises, and when required, have delivered babies in midair. The RFDS aircraft accommodate equipment including humidicribs to transport premature babies.

Twelve months on, Mother’s Day 2024 was a much calmer occasion for Caitlin, husband Jamie, and children Hayden (11), Harrison (8) and Hardy but the family know that the RFDS is there for them if they ever find themselves in need of assistance.

“If the RFDS wasn't around, people would be out here dying. That's the only way to look at it. They were just so good about everything, relaxed, calm. They're just professionals, honestly,” Caitlin said.