Andrew Bourne was on the second day of a trip with a group of motorbike enthusiasts when he hit an emu.
He was thrown 40 metres onto the dirt. When the accident occurred the group was 50 kilometres out of Brewarrina, in north-western NSW. His mates quickly pulled over to phone for an ambulance and give first aid.
Andrew had been knocked unconscious and had a range of serious injuries, including suspected spinal injuries. His story shows just how vital the Flying Doctor is for people in remote and rural areas who are hundreds of kilometres from the nearest specialist hospital.
“I was knocked out for about five minutes,” explains Andrew. “Fortunately the Brewarrina ambulance arrived pretty quickly and I was taken to Brewarrina Hospital for initial examinations. But because I had suspected spinal injuries they couldn’t scan, they called the RFDS.”
Andrew was airlifted to Dubbo Hospital where he spent the next week being stabilised and treated. “I had a broken neck at the C2 vertebrae, five broken ribs, a torn spleen and a lot of bruising,” says Andrew. “I was fitted with a halo brace around my head to keep the vertebrae and spine from moving while it healed.”
Hitting a kangaroo or emu is always a danger on outback roads. Vehicles can offer some protection to their occupants but motorbike riders can be seriously injured, or worse, in a collision. “I was one of the lucky ones,” says Andrew. “I lived to tell the tale. I can still walk around, I have all my faculties and I have no spinal cord damage.”
Having access to the Flying Doctor to transfer Andrew to a hospital where his injuries could be treated was vital to his recovery. A transfer flight is the safest way to take a patient a long distance to hospital for ongoing treatment and management and then home for the long recuperation. By road the journey from Dubbo to Toowoomba would take around eight hours, too dangerous for a patient with a halo brace.
“Once I was ready to head home to Toowoomba I was transferred by the RFDS,” says Andrew. “They were fantastic every step of the way. Both flight nurses did a great job.”
Andrew, who has a business in Toowoomba, says the experience has made him think about his life and how lucky he was. He and his wife have decided to add the RFDS to the organisations they support. “I’m extremely lucky to be where I am now,” says Andrew, who is recovering well. “I can’t speak highly enough of the service. The RFDS was brilliant.”
Every day RFDS flight nurses, doctors, dentists, chronic disease practitioners, mental health staff and other medical specialists encounter a variety of challenging situations. The need for new healthcare services is always growing and with your support we will continue to be there to meet each challenge and ensure that no matter how remote your location, the RFDS is there for those who need us.