Graphic: Flight Nurse Jacinta Jones helps outback patients
With darkness approaching, the hunt for an injured station hand on a vast outback property took on new urgency for RFDS Flight Nurse Jacinta Jones.
It was a typical warm and sunny late spring afternoon near Mount Isa. Jacinta and her crew had been called out to a cattle station with news that a station hand had crashed his quad bike.
They weren’t sure what they were about to find. It wasn’t like getting lost in the city. The victim was a long way from anywhere, no one knew exactly where he was and the sun was about to call it a day.
“We were on the back of the ute and I remember the bugs coming towards us in the headlights, hitting us in the face,” she says. Funny, the things you remember in a crisis.
His radio saved him. While he couldn’t tell his rescuers exactly where he was, he could hear their truck crisscrossing the scrub in their desperate search to find him.
“They’re quite savvy, bush people,” says Jacinta.
“We were driving around on the back of the ute and he was like, ‘no no no, you’re driving away from me! Turn around and come back’ because he could just hear the vehicle getting quieter.”
It took a while but they eventually found him.
“He’d been waiting there for hours, badly injured,” she recalls.
The man had injured his legs so badly he was unable to stand and the grass was so high that there could have been a camel hiding in there. There was little chance anyone would spot a lame ringer flat on his back unless they stepped on him. He was in a very lonely predicament and had to find a way to guide his rescuers to him before the ants turned him into a pile of bones.
Jacinta is full of admiration for her outback patients, who refuse to waste time on useless sentiments such as self-pity.
“They make them tough out west. They wait for help because they have to.”
Jacinta’s first posting was at Mount Isa, where she spent a couple of years delivering the only available salvation to people living in an uncompromising land.
She tells a great tale about the time she flew up to Mornington Island to pick up a woman who had had a heart attack. With the patient and her husband on board they were returning to Mount Isa when they received a call to divert to Normanton to collect a pregnant woman whose baby was on its way, way too soon.
“We picked her up and she cracked on through her labour and it ended up being a little bit of an urgent situation on the tarmac.”
Talk about understatement. Jacinta was only 26 at the time and she was thrust into a situation which would have tested her most experienced counterparts.
“Just as we landed the mother decided she needed to have the baby. I mean … when they’re coming, they’re coming.”
At this point you’ve got to spare a thought for the husband. This poor bloke is wedged between his wife who’s having a heart attack and a woman he doesn’t know who is having a baby. It’s a miracle he didn’t become Jacinta’s third patient.
The only solution was to throw down a blanket on the tarmac and prepare to make that baby welcome. And that’s where a little baby girl came into the world, at Mount Isa Airport under the wings of an RFDS aircraft.
How’s that for a memorable day at the office?