Charles' Story

Date published

04 Apr 2019

86-year-old Esperance man Charles Sanderson was having breakfast with his wife Margaret one morning when he experienced symptoms relating to heart failure. He is ever grateful to the RFDS for keeping his heart beating while enroute to Perth for emergency surgery to install a pacemaker.

Charles with this family

Esperance man Charles Sanderson was enjoying a cup of coffee with his wife Margaret one morning when he experienced what seemed like a scalding sensation on the left side of his chest.  

Charles, whose family has operated large grain and livestock farms in the Esperance shire for generations, said he thought he had spilt his coffee on his shirt and thought nothing of it. 

“I was holding my shirt away from my chest because I thought that would minimise the scald but Marge said I didn’t spill anything and my coffee cup was still on the table,” 86-year-old Charles recalled.

“I dismissed the incident, drank the coffee and went to work in the shed.

“Later that morning, Marge brought me some coffee and biscuits. I was sitting on a camp chair in the shed enjoying my morning break and the company of Marge when I was thrown back against the scrub bar.

“It felt something like a mild convulsion or electric shock, nothing very severe but enough to make me realise I had better act.”

At the Esperance Hospital, doctors conducted tests and diagnosed Charles with Bradycardia, a condition where the heart beats slower than the normal heart rate and doesn’t pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body with each contraction.

RFDS crews were tasked to attend, assess and stabilise Charles’ condition before transporting him to Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth to have a pacemaker installed.

In flight, nurses on board utilised medical equipment on board to administer the necessary medication to keep his heart beating at a normal rate and monitored his vital signs.

“I remember almost all of the treatment I received and the flight with the RFDS and in my opinion, it was the very best treatment anyone could possibly receive,” he said.

“The medical staff on board kept my heart going to keep me alive on the flight to Jandakot where I was conveyed to Fiona Stanley Hospital to get a pacemaker fitted to my heart.”

These days, Charles reports his recovery was very quick, with his blood circulation and pressure now under control and his skin colour is normal again.

“I am now able to work with the cattle, mustering droving, attending to the mills and troughs, feeding and general farm management with help when some jobs get a bit hard,” he said.

“I use a bush buggy these days instead of a horse, easier to catch and mount and also offers a place for Blue, my cattle dog, to ride with when she gets tired or the grass seeds get too bad.

“I am very grateful to the RFDS for coming to my aid. The Flying Doctor is a service that is essential for us people living in the bush.”