When he asked her to marry him, the RFDS was there. When they finally tied the knot, the RFDS was there. And now, when anyone staying at their home on the remote Sweers Island needs emergency care, the RFDS is still there.
Tex and Lyn Battle have a long history with the RFDS. Not necessarily through requiring the Service’s needs, but through numerous, significant touch points throughout their life.
Tex, a strong, Aussie lad who grew up in Mount Isa in the state’s north west, and Lyn, a charming, charismatic Irish las, met each other while Lyn was traveling Australia in the mid 1980s.
Tex and a mate had decided to pack up what they had and start a new adventure on Sweers Island. They had a dream of starting up a remote fishing resort for people looking to get away from it all and experience true, wild fishing.
“I had been in Australia for about 6 months, when Tex took me to Sweers,” Lyn says. “The first flight was on New Years day 1987, and I still remember flying in. It was, well it was at the end of the season, but there’s thing called bachelor’s button, its purple, it looks like Irish heather, flat and scrubby. The whole place looked beautiful. It had beaches, and they’d set up a great big project. They had a camp here already and the weather was gorgeous.”
It may have been a strategic play on Tex’s behalf, but the natural beauty of Sweers Island certainly assisted in his attempt to charm Lyn. It may have been the fact that Sweers Island was actually somewhat reminiscent of her home on the Irish, Beara Peninsular. It was actually when she returned home to Ireland that Tex made contact and convinced her to move back to Australia with him.
“During those days, the only way we could phone out from the Island was to call the RFDS Base in Mount Isa or Darwin and get them to connect us via the radio,” Tex says. “However, because it was over the radio, everyone at the Base could just listen in, so all the girls at the Base were listening in when I asked her if she would marry, me. Of course, all the RFDS nurses then asked if they had an invite to the wedding!”
Little did those nurses realise, that they wouldn’t only get an invite, they would actually be hosting the wedding in the Mount Isa Base front garden.
“There used to be a beautiful little garden out the front and we had about 30 people there. It was just a beautiful little spot,” Lyn said. “We even had the Irish flag flying over Mount Isa!”
30 years later, and Lyn and Tex are still living the island life on Sweers. They have seen the RFDS host GP clinics on the island; they are caretakers of an RFDS medical chest; and they are fully trained in first aid and are ready to be called on as first responders in the event of a medical emergency. Something that became a reality only last year.
With a bag full of fish and his mates in tow, Sweers Island guest, Cliff Packham, made his way back to his accommodation on the island. However, as he was resting in his cabin, he began to feel unwell. Cliff’s mates alerted Tex, telling him Cliff was feeling a bit unwell.
Tex decided to monitor Cliff’s blood pressure as a precaution. He also alerted the Flying Doctor.
It was then that Cliff’s heart stopped beating and he went into cardiac arrest. One of Cliff’s mates began performing CPR before Kody, a young worker on Sweers Island, took over carrying out CPR on Cliff for more than 20 minutes. Tex then used the island’s defibrillator, donated to the island by the RFDS almost 10 years ago, to keep Cliff alive until the Flying Doctor arrived.
This heroic act, combined with years of support of the Flying Doctor and the active promotion of the health and wellbeing in their community saw Lyn and Tex battle awarded the Spirit of John Flynn Award during the 2018 RFDS Local Hero Awards.
Tex said receiving the award was extremely humbling.
“We owe them so much more than they ever owe us,” he says. “Look, if we didn’t have the service it would be debatable as to whether we’d be here or not. I’d say we probably wouldn’t have become established if it hadn’t been for the RFDS.”
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Lyn and Tex embody the spirit of the RFDS, and the Service is grateful to have supporters like this all over the country keeping John Flynn’s vision of a mantle of safety alive and well.