I have a story to tell you about the Flying Doctor in Western Australia.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in West Australia, and the Western Australian State Library is holding an exhibition to mark this.
Some 60 years ago, I witnessed my first Flying Doctor recovery, some 300 miles East of a little town called Wiluna in West Australia.
My dad was the manager of Carnegie Station [cattle property] East of Wiluna, and a stockman had come off a horse and broken his leg pretty badly. The Flying Doctor was called via the pedal radio [ie the radio was actually powered by pedalling the generator to provide power] and a couple of hours later, the doctor appeared in the form of a tiny little Auster two seater plane piloted by a RFDS doctor whose name was Dr Harold Dicks. Now, at the time, I was 4 years old and full of curiosity, so this thing appearing out of the sky was pretty amazing to me. My sister got frightened and disappeared under a bed!!!
Eventually, the plane landed in a cloud of dust-I though it had hit the ground and been destroyed!!!!
Out came the pilot who took the right hand door off the plane and proceeded to strap the patient to a rudimentary stretcher with the aid of the station workers. They then tilted the stretcher on its side and slid it into the plane and tied it to the floor next to the pilot’s seat. While this was going on, my Mother had a fire going on the side of the airstrip with a billy of tea on, so the pilot had a quick drink of tea and then took off for his long flight back to the hospital with the patient.
This was probably an easy job for the pilot/doctor. Sometimes it may well have involved a PT with appendicitis or similar.
After seeing that plane, I made myself a promise, that I would learn to fly one of those things and become a doctor. Well, I did learn to fly, but never became a doctor but I am an Ambulance Officer and a rural nurse.
The upshot of all this is that last week, I won a competition run by the Flying Doctor and the Western Australian State Library to tell a story about early experiences with the Flying Doctor.
I told this story because I think it so important to preserve history.
My prise included a return flight to Perth on Skywest Airlines, two nights at the Hilton in Perth, and tours of the Library and the Flying Doctor facilities at Jandakot Airport, the second busiest in the southern hemisphere.
Also, I won a flight in a Boeing 737 simulator, which is a complete 737 cockpit in a building and enables you to “fly” pretty much anywhere in the world. Suffice to say we didn’t do any “gardening” with it and are still very much alive!!!
In the bush in Australia, the Flying Doctor is our lifeline. We would be hard pressed to survive without them. They provide aeromedical evacuation at no cost plus on call consultations and a full range of high level drugs.
The Flying Doctor has been the longest love of my life, spanning 60 years.