Patient Mervyn Bishop with RFDS Doctors in front plane

Stroke doesn’t stop Mervyn from appreciating Flying Doctor flight

Date published

31 Jan 2023

Exhibitions are nothing new for one of Australia’s most acclaimed photojournalists, Mervyn Bishop, but his flight with the Flying Doctor after he suffered a stroke in the middle of an exhibition opening at Brewarrina was a new experience.

Mervyn is an award-winning photographer whose achievements include being the first Aboriginal press photographer, working for the Sydney Morning Herald for 17 years and taking the iconic 1975 image of then-Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pouring red earth into the hand of Vincent Lingiari, a Gurindji Elder and traditional landowner.

In August 2022 he had travelled from his home at Dubbo to the town of his birth Brewarrina with his daughter Rosemary, for an exhibition opening.

Patient Mervyn Bishop in front plane

“During the event my daughter Rosemary noticed something in my actions and my speech and was quite insistent, so urged that we go to the hospital,” he said.  

“When they checked me over it was a shock to hear the nurse say ‘You’ve had a stroke’.”  

“I needed to have a CT scan and an MRI but Brewarrina didn’t have those machines, so the question was how to get me to Dubbo.”  

The trip would have been almost five hours by road ambulance so the Flying Doctor was tasked, and Mervyn was scheduled for a late night flight to Dubbo with Pilot Brett Croker and Flight Nurse Kerry Lee Hassan.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, the aviation enthusiast was able to appreciate the journey and the interaction with nurse Kerry and pilot Brett.

“I’ve always had an interest in all things aviation so I was taking it all in. Kerry came and welcomed me, got me into the plane and strapped me in for take-off, but once we were in the air I was able to sit up so I took the opportunity to get a few happy snaps,” Mervyn said.

“Flying in the King Air B200, being the only person on the plane other than Kerry and the pilot was an experience, and the night landing was something else. Once we parked, they got me into a transport vehicle and took me to the hospital. It was like clockwork.”

Once at Dubbo Hospital, Mervyn was able to get a CT scan and MRI and get the treatment he required. He has gone on to make a full recovery.

“The RFDS is a wonderful organisation and I don’t know what I would have done without them. To be able to see them at work was incredible and I’m grateful to them for being there when I needed them,” Mervyn said.

We are grateful for your support, standing beside us to ensure we are able to be there for people like Mervyn when there is an emergency.