Emergency RFDS transfer in south-west

Date published

31 Jul 2020

One of his best mates is a pilot for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS), but Donald Truss never expected that he’d require an emergency transfer himself.

It was around 6.30am on Mother’s Day when Mr Truss was discovered unconscious by his wife in their family home, near Quilpie, in south west Queensland.

“I remember waking up that morning and having a cup of coffee and feeling fine. The next thing I recall is opening my eyes and seeing myself hooked up to medical equipment and wondering what was going on,” he said.

Rather than face a two-and-a-half hour drive from the property to Charleville, a decision had been made to transfer Mr Truss to hospital by the RFDS.

RFDS Pilot Nick Tully and Donald Truss

RFDS pilot Nick Tully, a good friend of the family, was consulted to ensure the aircraft would be able to land on a dirt airstrip not far from the property.

“It is never a call you want to receive. It’s very hard to put aside your personal feelings and focus on the job at hand,” Mr Tully said.

“I was reassured, however, to know that the property strip was in good condition and that the on-call crew would be able to get to Donald in the shortest possible time.”

Mr Truss said he was fully awake for the flight, which only lasted around 15 to 20 minutes.

“It was a bit unusual as I was hooked up to all these different things and I actually knew the flight nurse,” Mr Truss said.

“I’ve known her for a few years – she’s a top woman. But it was a bit of a shock to wake up and for her to be hovering around me. At least I knew I was in good hands!”

The dirt airstrip which the RFDS landed on to transfer Donald Truss.

Mr Truss recalls the doctor and nurse working to stabilise his condition and the pilot doing an “exceptionally good” job to ensure he arrived in Charleville safely.

Following a couple of nights in hospital in Charleville he was transferred, again by the RFDS, to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, where it was discovered he had an insulinoma.

This small rare tumour produces an excessive amount of insulin, which in turn causes blood sugar levels to drop too low. Encouragingly, surgery late May to treat the tumour was a success and Mr Truss reports that he is feeling much better.

“I go back for a few more tests in December but it’s looking good,” he said.

While in Brisbane for surgery, Mr Truss celebrated a birthday. In lieu of gifts, his wife Laura took to social media to instead encourage donations for the RFDS, raising a couple of thousand dollars in the process.

“She was just feeling incredibly grateful to the RFDS, as am I,” Mr Truss said.

“We are both very appreciative to the Flying Doctor as everything turned out exceptionally well. All of the doctors and nurses and pilots do an extremely good job. They are just a great organisation.”