Hitting the road to bring healthcare to the outback

Date published

04 Aug 2020
REPCO

Michael Kelly tells: ‘Why I will always support the RFDS’

“On the 26th of August 2001, my then 13-month-old daughter, Emily, fell ill suddenly whilst we were living in a remote outback town called Mungindi, the place I was stationed in the NSW Police Force. We drove Emily to the base hospital, and she deteriorated quickly. We were informed that she needed to be transferred to the Mater Children’s Hospital in Brisbane ASAP, as Emily was displaying symptoms of meningococcal meningitis. 

The Royal Flying Doctor Service arrived in what seemed like no time. Emily, myself, a pilot, a doctor and a nurse all flew out of a darkened, makeshift runway towards Brisbane. Emily spent nearly a week in intensive care, and it was not a certainty that she would survive. But survive she did. Emily was left with learning difficulties, severe epilepsy and has endured several surgeries over the years to remove damaged organs. Fast-forward eighteen years and Emily has now finished school, is learning to live with the restrictions that epilepsy places on her life and is studying to be a Personal Trainer. The Flying Doctor not only saved her life but ensured she received treatment in time to enable her to have a quality of life. My wife and I have financially supported the RDFS since that fateful day and continue to do so every year.

It was at a Christmas Eve party in 2017 that I was given an extra opportunity to raise money for the Flying Doctor. My best friend Chris suggested the idea of being involved in the Repco Reliability Retrial rally. I thought it was a great idea and immediately accepted. The car we took was an Australian beauty, a GTR-XU1 Torana. It was the first car Chris ever bought. The event itself was the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Repco Reliability Trial. Chris and I did a great deal of preparation for the event; getting the car rally-ready, seeking sponsorship, preparing and packing for the month-long trip, organising accommodation, packing swags to reduce costs, sharing the physical driving and any unforeseen costs and budgeting for fuel. Fuel was the biggest expense, but we were insistent that we were to cover the cost of the car and the adventure and that all sponsorship money and donations would go directly to the Flying Doctor. 

Chris and I made a point of actively seeking out and visiting as many RFDS bases as we could along our rally route. I have often reflected upon the highlights of the trip and I would have to say it was the beauty and diversity of our continent’s landscapes, from The Nullarbor through to the Great Australian Bight. In the end, Chris and I travelled over 18,500 kilometres. The friendship forged along those remote, long and dusty roads will last a lifetime. 

We ended up raising $6,000 for the Flying Doctor. The Royal Flying Doctor Service saved our family and we want to provide ongoing support to the Flying Doctor, so that other families across Australia have access to the same positive outcomes we did.” 

* Photos were taken prior to the implementation of social distancing.