picture of Andamooka

Graphic: picture of Andamooka

Heat and dehydration has stopped Richard's heart 8 times...

Date published

19 Mar 2023
Richard Hawkins

Flying Doctor Podcast #64:

Richard is lucky to be alive after his heart stopped five times in the searing summer heat of the South Australian desert, and another three times while fishing off the coast of South Australia.

More than three decades ago, Richard Hawkins moved to the small outback town of Andamooka, switching his allegiance from commercial to small-scale opal mining – and the novelty never wore off.

While mining precious gems has its perks and rewards, Andamooka’s harsh environment, extreme climatic conditions, and isolation pose an ongoing challenge to miners and residents.  A few years ago Richard was operating his excavator on the outskirts of town, when he fell victim to the harsh heat and collapsed.“I had consumed far more water than I was supposed to and apparently what happened was I had flushed all my electrolytes out,” he said.

“My brain stopped talking to my heart and my heart stopped.”

Richard Hawkins

In this podcast interview Richard talks to his life as an opal miner, the challenges of living in a harsh place like Andamooka, and his near death experiences that have changed his views on life.

Exacerbating the challenges associated with the extreme climate is Andamooka’s aging population and high rate of health issues – 2021 census data for the town of 250 residents shows it has more than double the rate of arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and lung conditions than the rest of the country.

Richard said the RFDS Andamooka Remote Area Clinic, which also provides primary healthcare appointments to residents, is the only reason the community can survive and thrive.