Hugh Proud with Narelle

Graphic: Hugh Proud with Narelle

Suffering a stroke at seven

Date published

30 Aug 2023

For Narelle Proud, calling the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) was not uncommon during her time as a Registered Nurse in Western Queensland, but using the RFDS for her own family gave her a new appreciation for the service.

While living over 1,000 kilometers from Brisbane in the Western Queensland town of Eromanga, her seven-year-old son Hugh suffered an Ischemic stroke.

After being sick for three weeks with dizziness and fatigue symptoms, Narelle took Hugh into Quilpie to be checked – but everything seemed okay.

Not long after at school Hugh was far from himself. At the time Narelle was working in administration at the school and was able to be by Hugh’s side straight away.

Hugh Proud

“On the day of the stroke I was working at the school in administration at the time and we noticed that he was very upset, and we couldn’t calm him down which was not like him,” Narelle said.

“At the second lunch break the teacher aide came and got me and told me Hugh had just vomited in the playground.

"I went down and saw him and got him to clean himself up while I went and grabbed my bag so we could head home.”

While Narelle went to quickly collect her things, Hugh’s condition took a turn for the worse.

“By the time I got back to Hugh, he didn’t know where he was,” she said.

“I thought I better run him into Quilpie but minutes later he was slurring his speech.”

Having been a Registered Nurse, Narelle was able to identify that Hugh was suffering from a neurological event and called for help immediately.

“I asked the Principal to call the ambulance and advise we would meet them halfway,” she said.

“The Teacher Aide and I got in the car and drove about 70 kilometers to meet the ambulance which had the nurse in it, who was my friend.

“In that time, I had sent her a text as I knew she was the nurse coming and told her, we’re going to need a plane.”

hugh proud

By the time Narelle and Hugh reached the ambulance, they drove another 30 kilometers with them before arriving at Quilpie Hospital.

“By the time we made it to Quilpie Hospital they noticed Hugh couldn’t walk anymore, he was confused, he couldn’t tell us his name or birthday and he couldn’t identify any of the nurses who are friends of mine,” she said.

“It was lucky that there was a doctor at the hospital at the time and they made the quick decision to contact the RFDS because we needed to get to a bigger center.

“Toowoomba was the closest option, but they advised we would be best at the Children’s Hospital, so straight to Brisbane we went.”

The RFDS crew from Charleville were in the air and on their way to Quilpie to help with Doctor Charles Ellis-Hallett on board.

“Knowing that it is a 12-hour drive to Brisbane and how sick Hugh was but not knowing if it was a stroke or a brain tumor, it was incredible to be able to be in Brisbane within hours,” she said.

“Being able to get answers so quickly is something we are so grateful for as Hugh wasn’t sitting in Quilpie for days, he was straight to Brisbane and got his anti-coagulant therapy.

“It was great to have a good doctor and nurse who were so understanding and were able to provide us both with not only the physical care but also the psychological care and comfort on the trip down to Brisbane."

While Narelle was quick to notice the signs of the stroke, she said first aid knowledge for families living in rural and remote communities is invaluable.

“It is invaluable to have knowledge of basic first aid to be able to act quickly in an emergency,” she said.

“I think the RFDS medical chest program and the first aid information they provide to families living remotely is fantastic.

Narelle and Hugh

“It gives families the autonomy to make contact and look after their children and if they don’t have medication on hand it can be found in the medical chests and can be accessed.”

Narelle said her appreciation for the RFDS has grown immensely over the past year with Hugh needing to use the services since the stroke too.

“Having moved out west from Brisbane, you don’t realise how lucky you are in a metro area to have access to everything,” she said.

“When you are out there with a sick child, you feel so hopeless and helpless.

“We will always be forever grateful for the RFDS.”