Over land and over sea

Over land and over sea

Date published

24 Aug 2018

It was on a Saturday morning while John was on the jetty fishing with his mates that his peaceful island life took a turn for the worse.

The island life is a dream for most. But the peaceful tranquillity that comes with such isolation can come at a cost, if not for the Flying Doctor and supporters like you.

John with his catch of the day

John Crozier and his wife Arlene relocated to the picturesque Horn Island in the Torres Strait in 2011. John had recently finished his Master’s degree and was offered a position as a school guidance officer in the Strait. Their new island home was a far stretch from John’s previous role in Mount Isa, however their new lifestyle suited them both. The fishing was great, the locals were friendly, and the work was rewarding. John was 63 years old.

John speaks fondly of his fishing adventures with his newly acquired friendship group. 

“The three of us would fish off the jetty. We would catch 30 jewfish in an hour between us,” he says. “You would catch other interesting fish, but I’ve never caught fish like this anywhere else.”

However, it was on a Saturday morning while John was on the jetty fishing with his mates that his peaceful island life took a turn for the worse.

“I remember it clearly,” he recalls. “It was about six o’clock in the morning, I was bending down to get some live bait in the bucket for my hook when I felt this funny sensation in my head. There was no pain, just a strange sensation.”

John described it as if someone was running their finger around the inside of his head. That feeling, it would soon be discovered, was blood filling the cavity inside his head. John had suffered a brain aneurysm, and the worst was yet to come. 

“About three or four minutes later I started feeling crook as a dog,” he says. “And then the pain started coming, like someone had belted me over the head. First came the headache and then the vomiting, I couldn’t stop it.”

John’s friends acted quickly, and before long he was being helicoptered to the nearby Thursday Island Hospital. 

Hospital staff were unable to properly diagnose John at the time. However, it was clear he had suffered some sort of brain bleed. It was quickly decided to get John on an RFDS flight to the Townsville Hospital neurology unit. 

John can’t remember a lot from that day, but one thing that really stands out in his mind is the quality of care he received on the flight.

“The crew was just amazing; I can’t speak highly of them enough, I just felt really cared for.”

John says he hadn’t even considered how isolation could impact his access to urgent medical care when he and his wife made the decision to move to Horn Island. 

“I guess I’m like a lot of people, you know, I was 63 at the time, but I ate healthy, I wasn’t overweight, I drank on the weekend and have an occasional glass of wine with meal. I was relatively healthy,” he says. “I knew there were services in the Torres Strait, but I also knew they weren’t as extensive as on the mainland. But, it wasn’t really a consideration when we moved. 

“I found out afterwards that I had a 40% chance of survival, but at the time I was just so relieved that I was going to get the best medical help possible at the neuro unit in Townsville. It was such a relief to know that the Flying Doctor was connecting me with the best help that I could get.” 

Every day, the RFDS is there to help people like John who are in desperate need of emergency medical care. This is only possible thanks to supporters like you.

Help us help more people like John by donating today