Ange and son

On hand for baby Henry

Date published

06 Aug 2021

Ange MacAlpine’s young son had a serious illness, and needed to get skilled medical attention - fast

When a child falls sick far from medical care, it can be frightening for the whole family. For Ange MacAlpine’s eight-month-old son Henry, having the RFDS on hand was a lifesaver. 

Ange, her husband Will and their two children live on a rural property 90 km from Brewarrina in an area known as ‘The Marra’. Will and his father are merino wool producers, while his mother Cathy is a florist and Ange works from home for a remote training and recruitment company.  

In April this year, baby Henry woke from his morning nap “happy and full of smiles” but around 40 minutes later started to get grizzly. “Alarm bells sounded when he laid still for a nappy change,” says Ange. “This is usually a marathon event for all involved! He then refused food or milk and proceeded to vomit. After vomiting he laid limp, semi-conscious and white.” 

“My husband and I bundled him up and took him to our closest hospital at Brewarrina,” Ange continues. “It is a lovely hospital but lacks the equipment and specialists to cater for such a young child, to the point that a canula or gastric tube could not be inserted successfully.”

Ange and son

Ange admits that she was terrified. “It was a horrible feeling not knowing what was wrong, feeling so helpless and knowing that we were so far from a hospital with any paediatric care.” 

It turned out that Henry had an intussusception – effectively the intestine had folded into itself – and needed expert medical attention fast. 

An RFDS plane was sought and reached Brewarrina airstrip at around midnight. “Once we arrived at the airstrip, the RFDS team and local ambulance service helped get us both on board and secured. All staff involved were exceptional,” says Ange. 

While Flight Nurse Michael Cook cared for Henry and Pilot Darryl Gosper took the controls, Henry’s dad Will chased below in the car. “I felt much better once we were on board heading to Dubbo,” Ange recalls. “Michael monitored Henry and chatted to me which was greatly appreciated in such a scary situation.”

Baby Henry

“Dubbo hospital was amazing, and the most incredible team of nurses and paediatricians took over,” says Ange. However, Henry declined further that morning and began vomiting green and pink. He was flown to Sydney by air ambulance, where the Randwick Children’s Hospital team managed to repair the intussusception.  

Henry is now completely on the mend and back to his cheeky self. Ange sends “a huge thank you to all involved: the medical teams, the RDFS, Grannie and Pa and of course my amazing husband.” 

“I have always been passionate about the RFDS service,” she concludes “but now having had the above experience I am even more so and would love to do a fundraiser to assist.” 

“The RFDS is an integral part of living where we do. Knowing such support is available is a huge relief. We are remote, but there are many more people who live even further from medical care. I really encourage everyone to donate to the RFDS, every dollar helps keep these amazing teams in the air.”