Graphic: Baby brody
Sarah Carty lives with her partner Brad in the south west Queensland town of Yowah, more than 950 kilometres from Brisbane.
At 30 weeks and 6 days pregnant, Sarah still had more than a month before they planned to go to Charleville in preparation for Sarah to give birth.
But in the early hours of a cool Monday morning in the outback town, Sarah began to experience what felt like indigestion.
“I got up to go to the bathroom and get a quickeze tablet, but as I was walking to the bathroom, I felt liquid running down my leg,” Sarah said.
“I thought maybe my water had broken, but when I turned the light on, I saw it was a trail of blood. I woke my partner Brad, and he called the Royal Flying Doctor Service while I sat in the shower doing my best to stay calm.”
RFDS Flight Nurse’s Courtney and Alex made a phone call to Sarah’s partner Brad, and at this moment the severity of Sarah’s situation was realised.
The decision by the crew was made for an urgent retrieval with two flight nurses and a doctor on board due to the potential imminent birth of a premature baby in a very isolated location.
RFDS Charleville-based crew Doctor Charles Ellis-Hallett, Flight Nurses (Midwifery) Courtney Bylett and Alex Deane and Pilot Ben Hower were quickly in the air on their way to help.
Sarah was transported in the Yowah Emergency Vehicle to the local airstrip to meet the Flying Doctor crew.
The Yowah Emergency Vehicle is a non- clinical vehicle purchased with funds raised by the community and from winnings from the RFDS Local Hero Award in 2018.
Sarah was well known to the RFDS crew as she had been receiving her antenatal care with the team via their weekly primary health care clinic in Yowah.
On arrival to Yowah, the crew noted that despite the urgency and severity of the situation, Sarah was incredibly calm.
Upon assessment, it was noted that Sarah’s blood pressure was dangerously high, her uterus was very tender, and she was actively bleeding.
These are all concerning signs of placental abruption and severe pre-eclampsia.
On top of this, it was also found that baby Brody’s heart rate was critically low.
“Even in a major hospital, this would be a life-threatening emergency for both the mum and baby,” Flight Nurses Courtney and Alex said.
“In Sarah’s case, she was over 1000km’s from the nearest tertiary hospital.”
Due to Sarah’s condition, Dr Ellis-Hallett knew he had to have a serious conversation with the couple.
“Due to Sarah’s condition, and the condition of her unborn child, a serious discussion was had with both Sarah and her partner Brad about the risk to both her and her baby’s life,” Dr Ellis-Hallett said.
“Sarah was, in that moment, possibly the most unwell patient I have ever seen in my 18 years with RFDS.”
The RFDS crew immediately started life-saving treatments that prevented Sarah’s condition from worsening while a destination was being determined.
Ordinarily, babies under 32 weeks, would be born in Brisbane to have access to specialised neonatal units.
However, with every minute proving critical, and urgent birth was required, and a closer hospital needed to be found.
With their comprehensive knowledge of local services available in the area, the Charleville team identified that Roma hospital would the best option.
“We spoke to Roma Hospital, and they were very obliging and said no problems, bring her here,” Dr Ellis-Hallett said.
“To go to Brisbane would have just taken too long.”
Roma Hospital had an obstetrician, anaesthetic and operating services available.
Once on the ground in Roma, Sarah and the RFDS crew were transported by Queensland Ambulance Service to Roma Hospital.
"The co-ordination centre and staff at Roma Hospital were amazing and had everything prepared so the transfer could run as smoothly as possible and an emergency caesarean could be performed immediately,” Courtney said.
Sarah was taken to theatre, accompanied by Flight Nurses Courtney and Alex, shortly after arriving at the hospital.
Both Courtney and Alex didn’t leave Sarah’s side until the baby was born and she was stabilised.
“When we arrived at Roma hospital, think it was 9:45am, I was wheeled into a room full of people, and a few minutes later I was breathing in and out and gone,” Sarah said.
Baby Brody was born a short time later, at 10:06am weighing just 1.3 kilograms.
“When I woke, I had an extremely dry mouth, and could hear tiny cries coming from somewhere in the room, hearing the cries I felt relief and thought he had made it so far,” Sarah said.
After Sarah and baby Brody were stabilised, Courtney was able to call Sarah’s partner Brad and tell him that not only was Sarah stable and doing well but also that he was now the proud father of a beautiful and tiny baby boy.
“That was one of the best phone calls I’ve ever made,” Courtney said.
“There were definitely angels looking out for everyone that day,” Courtney said.
The day after Brody was delivered, they were transferred to Brisbane for 10 days before being moved to Toowoomba Hospital.
After spending 37 days in Toowoomba, Sarah and Brody were able to head home to Yowah.
After a few trips back and forth to Charleville and into Brisbane due to hernias, Sarah, Brad and Brody are now back in Yowah and have regular check-ups when required with the RFDS clinic crew.
“It is an incredible privilege to have been present for Brody’s birth, helped him safely into this world and that we now get to watch him grow and see Sarah and Brad thrive as parents,” Alex said.
“This is something that is entirely unique to working with RFDS in remote areas.”