Returning to Perth with three friends after a Karijini holiday, Tarryn Vallance was thinking about the nursing graduate program she hopes to enter soon. Instead, she had the Royal Flying Doctor help save her life.
“We were about 25kms south of Cue,” recalls Tarryn. “It’s still unclear what happened but I over corrected when the vehicle left the road, and we rolled three or four times.”
Tarryn had to be cut free from the vehicle to protect her neck and back and was the most severely injured. “I don’t recall anything from the accident, but was told I was talking and screaming, and nearly lost consciousness.” It’s not surprising considering her injuries included being de-scalped, broken back in 14 places, both shoulder blades broken, all three bones in her left arm broken, and a punctured lung.
A short way behind Tarryn that day was a pilot vehicle driver who came upon the accident soon afterwards. He used his satellite phone to call Cue and Meekatharra for emergency services.
“I believe the firies arrived first and gave me oxygen,” says Tarryn. The three passengers did not sustain life threatening injuries, and one was taken to Meekatharra Hospital.
Tarryn’s brother, one of the passengers, described the accident scene to her: “The car was crumpled and my legs were trapped but uninjured. It took two hours to cut me out. The guy who’d stopped for us stood next to my window all that time, holding my head.”
With the Royal Flying Doctor Service alerted, a now unconscious Tarryn was taken to Cue Nursing Station. She’d also suffered strokes as a result of her injuries. Before putting her on the flight, the RFDS flight crew gave her a blood transfusion, re-attached her scalp where possible, and intubated her for the life saving flight.
Tarryn was flown to Royal Perth Hospital, where she regained consciousness five days later.
“It was a traumatic and agonising time for my family who were by my bedside,” explains Tarryn.
“At the time, no-one thought I’d live. And if I did, the possible permanent effects of my injuries were unclear.”
On her long and painful road to recovery, Tarryn has never given up. She completed her final nursing degree exam and shared her story from Narrogin Hospital, where she’s recently taken up a new role.
Tarryn is keen to stress how critical the RFDS is to people travelling in WA, like she was. “Without their amazing medical treatment before and on board the flight, I wouldn’t be here with my family today.”
She’s visited Cue to thank everyone who helped her. “I’ve also seen the RFDS plane I was flown in, and can appreciate even more now that it’s a fully fitted out, flying ICU. I benefitted from an amazing level of professional emergency aero medical care.”
Tarryn looks to the future positively. “I accept my back and shoulders will never be perfect again, but it’s still better than the alternative! An experience like this made me decide that if I’m going to live, I have to do it well!”