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Doctors in the sky

Monday, 25th December, 2017

Christmas is a time for celebration, relaxing and catching up with friends and family, but for the emergency services like the Flying Doctor it’s business as usual. 

The pilots, doctors and flight nurses of the local Royal Flying Doctor Service’s South Eastern Section (RFDS SE) will continue to deliver their aeromedical healthcare to the furthest corners of Australia, as they have done since in 1928.

Base Manager at RFDS Broken Hill, Marcus Wilson, is on call right over Christmas and New Year.

“This will be my first Christmas with the RFDS SE and I’m hoping it’s not a busy year,” said Marcus.

“On-call staff will just celebrate Christmas a little later, but we’ve hung a few decorations and will be having some Christmas lunch at the Base, unless duty calls.”

Last year RFDS SE emergency evacuation teams at Dubbo and Broken Hill attended 14 emergencies on Christmas and Boxing Day alone. They dealt with a wide variety of cases, including acute renal failure, spinal and limb injuries, a perforated bowel, diabetic complications, flesh-eating disease, a serious heart attack, chronic pancreatitis, sepsis, pneumonia and respiratory distress.  

Earlier this year, Erin, who lives near Dubbo, discovered just what a vital lifeline the Flying Doctor is and now she will be celebrating her first Christmas with the latest addition to her family.

She was just 19 weeks’ pregnant with her third child when doctors told her she had a rare complication called Placenta Previa, which would prevent her delivering her child normally. She could not go to full term and the baby would have to be delivered by C-Section. 

Their prediction was correct and Erin was admitted to Dubbo hospital with severe labour pains at 27 weeks.

“We were warned that the son I was expecting might not make it,” she said.

“They wanted to get me to a better-equipped neo-natal ICU in Sydney, but were also worried that I might suffer a life-threatening bleed at any moment. That ruled out a five-hour road trip.”

The RFDS received the call at 02.30am and took off with Erin shortly afterwards, and it was a good thing that the Flying Doctor were there to help because she started losing blood shortly after arriving at the hospital in Sydney. Thankfully, they brought the situation under control and delivered baby Carter by emergency caesarean.

“Without the Flying Doctor there’s a very good chance that my little boy wouldn’t be here,” said Erin. “We never thought something like this would happen to us. You never do. But we were wrong. It can happen to anyone.

“We’ll be spending our first Christmas with Carter and for that we’re eternally grateful.”

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