Charlie's Flying Doc story

Urgent RFDS jet retrieval for WA baby Charlie

Date published

17 Jun 2022

Living in remote Western Australia can be challenging especially when faced with a medical emergency - something Broome woman Kim Brown knows all too well.

Keeping warm

Living in Broome and pregnant with her second baby, Kim never expected she would rely on the RFDS to care for her daughter Charlie. 

Arriving five weeks early at Broome Hospital, Charlie was born with a rare medical condition that affects only one in 800,000 babies. 

"Charlie was born with a condition which affects the function of the mouth," Kim said. 

"She was also premature and very small, and her condition meant she had trouble feeding.

"Charlie's medical condition was one that they had never seen in Broome before and it was unknown to myself, my husband or any of the doctors before she was born." 

RFDS jet

Kim and her husband Stu soon found out the rare condition could also affect Charlie's heart and lungs. 

The medical team at Broome Hospital decided Charlie needed to be flown to Perth Children's Hospital as soon as possible for further testing. 

At only three days old, little Charlie was transferred to Perth on the RFDS' Rio Tinto LifeFlight PC-24 jet. The jet is the fastest in the fleet, putting time back on the side of patients. 

A flight from Broome to Perth takes just three hours and each jet is equipped with world-class aeromedical equipment to ensure he best possible medical care. 

baby charlie

On the flight, the RFDS expert clinical team watched over Charlie and used a special monitor to track her heart rate, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation levels. 

"For me, it was difficult flight both emotionally and physically," Kim said.

""Because Charlie was so little, her oxygen levels dropped very quickly a couple of times. She was hooked up to so many different pieces of equipment.

"The flight nurse on board put me at ease straight away though."

charlie and kim

Charlie spent two weeks at Perth Children's Hospital seeing specialists and undergoing many tests. 

"I wouldn't wish this situation upon anyone, but I certainly could not fault the kindness and care of the crew who brought us to Perth," Kim said. 

Fast forward 12 months and Charlie has just celebrated her first birthday. To celebrate, Kim asked their friends and family to donate to the RFDS. 

"It really hit home how crucial the RFDS is for anyone living remotely in WA," she said. 

"The RFDS is a big part of the Broome community, but it's when you actually need the service that you realise how lucky we are to have the RFDS. I think it's really important to give back."