Rescue flight to the Flinders

Date published

15 Nov 2019

When Henry became unwell during a holiday in outback SA, the Flying Doctor prescribed antibiotics via telehealth call and airlifted Henry to Adelaide.

A teenage boy lies on a hospital stretcher in a small aircraft. He is wearing a neck brace and glasses.

It was the middle of the night when fourteen year-old Henry Cooper became severely-ill whilst visiting at Arkaroola Wildlife Sanctuary, in the heart of the Flinders Ranges. 

Henry’s mother Astrid, a doctor herself, was faced with treating Henry whilst facing the tyranny of distance – 600 kilometres north of Adelaide.

“Henry had been ill with a sore throat,” says Astrid. “As his illness progressed, he developed a very high fever, accompanied by a rapid heart rate which he sustained for more than twelve hours.”

“It was a frightening experience to be faced with having to treat my own son in a remote area with limited access to drugs and equipment,” she says.

“I dialled the RFDS emergency number in the middle of the night and I was quickly speaking to the on-call Doctor, who was able to direct me to the RFDS Medical Chest located at the Arkaroola Village and prescribe the appropriate drugs.”

Meanwhile, an Operations Coordinator at RFDS Port Augusta Base had tasked an aeromedical crew to airlift Henry and Astrid to Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital for further care.

A woman with long dark hair smiles at the camera. She is wearing a yellow high-vis jacket and a lanyard that says DOCTOR.

RFDS Medical Practitioner, Dr Jo Lene Low (pictured) recalls the telephone call she received that night.

“Henry’s symptoms indicated a peritonsillar abscess, requiring urgent care at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital,” Dr Low says.

“I was able to prescribe antibiotics from the village’s RFDS Medical Chest, which would have begun working quickly start fighting the infection and also provide Henry with some much needed pain relief – before our aeromedical crew arrived,” Dr Low says.

Astrid says Henry made a full recovery.

“The RFDS is a first-class service, and I have only truly come to realise how lucky we are to have the RFDS after experiencing first-hand what they do,” she says. 

Did you know? RFDS Central Operations (serving SA/NT) conducted 5,669 Telehealth consultations in 2018/19.