Mum’s miracle: ‘I owe everything to the RFDS’

FLYING patients in health emergencies is the norm for the Rockhampton Royal Flying Doctor Service crew, but they approach every flight like it’s their most important - because they know for those in need, it is.

The Rocky crew was the busiest base in all of Queensland with the crew transferring 2,667 patients in the 2018/19 financial year.

Thangool mum Shantell Kennell was just one of the Rocky crews’ patients flown to Brisbane in 2018, to ensure the health of both mother and her newborn, and for that she is forever grateful.

“The pilot and nurse kept me so calm,” Ms Kennell said.

“She was holding my hand and I was just crying, and she just kept smiling and saying ‘It’s okay’,”

A fortnight after being diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, Ms Kennell’s blood pressured spiked while she was 32 weeks pregnant and the doctors at Rockhampton Hospital couldn’t bring it down.

Doctors were faced with the option of either delivering her baby early or flying Ms ­Kennell to Brisbane where she could receive specialist treatment to delay the birth.

“I thought I’d be in hospital, they’d give me some medication and then I’d go home again. But it was not the case at all,” she said.

“We had no idea what to expect so it was quite scary.”

Her doctors spoke to the Royal Flying Doctor Service at 1am and by 8am she was on a plane to Brisbane.

“The nurse just kept saying ‘you know, this is normal’,” she said.

“We had a bit of turbulence and she would just laugh with me.”

Three weeks after arriving in Brisbane, Daisy was born at 35 weeks.

“It’s scary to think if she came any earlier than that. I owe everything to the RFDS, honestly,” she said.

RFDS nurse Carolyn Overy.
RFDS nurse Carolyn Overy.

The Rockhampton crew most commonly flew to Mackay, Longreach, Barcaldine, Emerald, Blackwater, Gladstone, Kingaroy, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay and Brisbane in the past year.

Clinical and Base Operations manager Carolyn Overy said Rocky’s central location explained the high number of patients flown compared to other locations.

“The strategic positioning of the Rockhampton RFDS Base puts us in the prime position for transport of patients between Queensland only tertiary hospitals in Townsville and Brisbane,” Ms Overy said.

“Consistently we see ­cardiac issues including heart attacks and angina as the top reasons for patients requiring transport for treatment.”

Across Queensland, the RFDS recorded its busiest year to date with 98,000 occasions of care delivered, which equates to 269 each day.

Chief executive Meredith Staib said the increase in occasions of care was due to an expanding portfolio of service delivery for the Flying Doctor in Queensland.

“In recent years we’ve actively pursued opportunities to increase our primary health care offerings to meet the needs of people living in regional, rural and remote parts of the state,” Ms Staib said.

“We are always looking at ways we can better serve the people of Queensland.”

She said the service increased its physical presence in drought affected areas through mental health services and expanding the roster and reach of the RFDS Mobile Dental Service.

The service also became more accessible online through the telehealth space.

“Wherever you may live, work or travel in Queensland, everyone deserves the right to access world-class health care,” she said.

“It is our mission to ensure we can continue to provide that care now and well into the future.”

In the 2018/19 financial year period, The Flying Doctor in Queensland helped 27,272 patients through its mobile dental service and 1535 patients through its outback mental health service. About 17,000 patients were also treated through its telehealth service, which is the use of telecommunication techniques to exchange health information and provide health care services.



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