Lightning Ridge

Graphic: Lightning Ridge

Ken’s long journey

Date published

13 Oct 2020
Mary and Ken Hunt

Thanks to our wonderful supporters, Ken could rely on the Flying Doctor to transfer him several times… saving his life in the process.

Mary and Ken have always lived in rural Australia. The pair have been married for 50 years and say they could never live anywhere else. “The best part about living in rural Australia is you’re out in the open and it’s free and peaceful, you don’t have to worry about locking things up all the time,” Mary says. 

Ken was working in the mines in Lightning Ridge when he first became unwell, developing double pneumonia.

Mary took Ken to the small hospital in Lightning Ridge, and they found that his heart was very weak. “Thank goodness for the Flying Doctor, who flew him from Lightning Ridge to Sydney to have a pacemaker put in,” Mary said. 

After the operation, the Royal Flying Doctor Service flew him back home to Lightning Ridge, but for twelve months after that, Ken found that his health was worsening.

“One night we were at home and Ken was incredibly unwell,” recounts Mary. 

“He went stiff and pale because he was in shock; he had chills and difficulty breathing. I don’t know how I got him down the stairs and into the car,” Mary recalls.

Ken was suffering septic shock, which is a symptom of a serious infection and can cause organ failure and dangerously low blood pressure. It can be a life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical attention. 

“I drove him down to the local hospital. They saw that he was deteriorating fast and the Flying Doctor was called again to fly him out to the Dubbo Base Hospital,” Mary says.

When Ken and Mary got to Dubbo it was decided he needed care in Sydney. Once again the Flying Doctor was called and Ken was transferred to the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney. “The doctors in Sydney soon realised that Ken had developed a Golden Staph infection at the site of his pacemaker,” Mary says.

Pacemakers and other implanted heart devices prolong the lives of people with heart rhythm problems. However, if an individual with one of these devices develops a staph infection it can pose
a potentially life-threatening danger.

“They managed to get the pacemaker out, and Ken had to spend two months in hospital in Sydney on strong antibiotics. We have the Flying Doctor and its supporters to thank for the fact that he is alive now. They saved his life because it is a four-hour drive to Dubbo alone from Lightning Ridge and he may not have made that journey,” Mary said.

Mary wants to thank those who donate to the Royal Flying Doctor Service. “The Flying Doctor is a miracle for rural communities,” she says. “I don’t know what we would do without the Flying Doctor. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support, we really need the service out here.”