The RFDS in SA/NT
Every day RFDS Central Operations conducts an average of 20 inter-hospital transfers of patients from a country hospital to a major metropolitan hospital for life-saving treatment or a higher level of care. Once a patient is admitted to a country hospital often their condition can deteriorate or tests reveal an urgent need for specialist treatment at a major hospital.
Urgent transfers can often involve organ transplant patients or a newborn baby requiring heart surgery interstate. Inter-hospital transfers are not just for people living in the country - one in every 20 people transferred has an Adelaide postcode. In 2015/16, RFDS Central Operations conducted 6,990 inter-hospital transfers throughout South and Central Australia.What we do
Crystal Fleming couldn't get to sleep.
Her unborn baby was threatening to arrive far too soon. Port Pirie resident Crystal Fleming went to bed on a normal Monday night, but her body wouldn't let her sleep.
"I was surprised to feel what I thought might be contractions, but I couldn't be certain, and I was only 26 weeks pregnant,"
Crystal says.Then – signs that her waters were breaking, and an urge to push.
Doubts vanished – Crystal knew then that she needed urgent medical attention, so she headed quickly to the Port Pirie Hospital, arriving at 5:00am.
Hospital staff examined Crystal and confirmed that her labour had actually already started.
Graphic: Crystal and baby Lara
Crystal now faced the risk of a premature birth, or infection due to her broken waters.
She was advised she urgently needed the specialist care available at Adelaide's Women's and Children's Hospital.
She would need to be airlifted to Adelaide as soon as possible.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service was alerted and a RFDS aircraft and crew was soon on its way to Adelaide, with Crystal receiving care from the RFDS Flight Nurse during the journey.
"The Flight Nurse was fantastic," Crystal says. "I was so upset – and really scared about losing my baby. But she talked to me a lot and kept me calm."
The drive from Port Pirie to Adelaide takes two and a half hours, but the RFDS aircraft covers this ground in just 50 minutes.
On arrival at the Women's and Children's Hospital, Crystal learnt that she was now in the late stages of labour and her baby was going to be born that morning!
"The baby wasn't in the right position for a natural birth, so I needed an emergency caesarean section," Crystal recalls.
"I'd been on such an emotional roller-coaster, and even when the procedure was happening, I was lying there thinking this can't be real – until I heard a faint little cry.
"My little Miracle baby was born at 26 weeks, weighing just 2lb 4oz (1,020 grams).
"The doctor brought her to meet me. She was just perfect – I gave her a little kiss on her forehead."
later, little Lara began her three-month stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and Crystal was returned to her hospital room. As Crystal settled back into her bed, Ward staff told her she had just missed a visitor.
"The Nurse from the Flying Doctor called in just now to see how you were going," they said."I thought that was so beautiful of her, to come and make sure that my baby and I were OK," Crystal says.
After Lara's very premature start to life, and constant specialist care in her first days to keep her safe, well and growing, she is today an active and healthy two-year-old."
I just can't thank the Royal Flying Doctor Service enough," Crystal says.
"If it wasn't for their help, I might not have my little girl with me today."
Every year the RFDS provides emergency aeromedical and primary health services to more than 283,000 people across Australia – someone every two minutes!