A tourist flight of a lifesaving kind

Date published

13 Apr 2020

Bryony Baker of Victoria credits the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) with saving her dad’s life and says she will be forever grateful to the iconic aero medical charity.

In April 2016, while travelling in regional WA, the Baker family experienced their most desperate hour when Bryony’s father, Paul, had a heart attack that demanded urgent specialist care. 

The Melbourne family were enjoying the scenic coastline of WA when Paul experienced a ‘widowmaker’ heart attack – a complete blockage of the left anterior descending artery, responsible for carrying oxygenated blood to the heart. 

It was later discovered that Paul had been unknowingly experiencing the heart attack for more than 6 hours. 

“The local doctor’s clinic advised us how serious dad’s condition was and that it would end in a fatality if he was not airlifted immediately to Perth,” Bryony recalled. 

The Flying Doctor arrived in the remote town of Monkey Mia to transfer Paul to specialist care in Perth as his frightened family watched on hoping for the best. 

Paul’s wife Sue recalled the moment he was loaded into the RFDS aircraft. 

“It was heart breaking seeing my girls say goodbye to their Dad, but we knew that he was in safe hands,” she said. 

Paul was flown at a low altitude to give him a greater chance of survival. His condition deteriorated mid-flight and required thrombolysis to dissolve the dangerous blood clots. 

“Dr Ray’s total professionalism saved Paul’s life without a doubt. Once the plane landed at the Jandakot base, Paul was taken by ambulance to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital,” Sue said. 

“Dr Ray stayed with Paul until he was handed over to the staff at the hospital where Paul later received heart surgery.”

Inspired by the work of the RFDS, Bryony wanted to support the organisation in anyway way she could. 

“That day I made a promise to my 12 year old self that I would do whatever it took to raise money for the lifesaving organisation.”

“Fundraising for the RFDS is my way of giving back to the amazing people that work for the organisation, helping them keep families like mine together.” 

Bryony’s fundraising efforts have gone above and beyond. She created an online fundraising page for the RFDS, encouraging her network to donate and share the page to reach as many people as possible. After reaching her initial goal of $700 in less than a week, she increased it to $1,000. 

However her fundraising efforts did not stop there. Her intention was to increase awareness of the important work of the RFDS. She approached her school and presented to her class, followed by the entire school, sharing her family’s experience with the Flying Doctor and encouraging her peers to donate. 

“The students and staff were moved by my story and how amazing the crew and organisation are.” 

Bryony also created a school fundraiser to further contribute to keeping the Flying Doctor flying. 

“Across five days, at recess and lunchtime, I set up a stall selling hand-made RFDS information cards for one dollar each. 

“Students and teachers were encouraged to write a message of appreciation or love to each other on the card. During this time, I spoke to anyone that would listen about the RFDS, discussing how to donate and why they should. 

“On the last day of the fundraiser my friends and I attached a red chocolate heart to the cards – symbolic of my Dad’s heart attack, and delivered them to all the students and teachers who participated. 

“While attaching the hearts I enjoyed reading the beautiful messages written to the school community. I felt like I was helping to spread the love!” 

Bryony’s fundraising efforts raised a total of $1,532 for the Royal Flying Doctor Service Western Operations which services more than 2.5 million kilometres square across the vast and remote state of Western Australia. 

“The RFDS is so important to my family because they saved my dad’s life. If it wasn’t for them, I would be telling a very different story today!” 

“I would absolutely encourage others to fundraise for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. They are a crucial part of rural Australia, and you might find that you could need the RFDS one day, just like my family did.” 

“I will continue to fundraise for my Flying Doctor to help families, like mine, stay together.” 

Help keep the Flying Doctor in the air by fundraising like Bryony, or donating today:

Paul and his two daughters: Taryn (left) and Bryony (right)