We are very lucky in our country to have the Royal Flying Doctor Service and luckier still to be able to call on them in times of need.
One such time occurred in September 2014 when we were mustering in drought cows and calves, these cattle are very lethargic and slow due to the lack of good protein, and one of our contract musterers and his horse hit the ground.
I had not seen the accident happen although Olly had and later he told me he thought Tom was dead!
Tom’s horse, Whisky, had slipped on a patch of ground where a lick trough had been, the ground was packed hard and like glass and Whisky hadn’t had a chance as he was moving quite fast. Down they went, up got Whisky, up Tom did not get. When he managed to stand Olly could see that he was injured although he wasn’t sure how badly. They took off Tom’s belt and rigged it up like a sling, all the while I am still chasing cows madly out of the dam and Jack was holding the side of the mob (known as the wing) in!
These cows were not playing the game and really not keen at all on going in the yard! In fact they were doing their absolute best not to! I charged up over the dam bank and around to help Jack and as I went I saw Tom walking and Whisky tied to a tree. That’s odd! What’s happening??
I cantered over to Tom and saw as I approached blood trickling down the side of his head and neck and noticed the belt holding his arm to his chest! My heart nearly stopped, how badly was he hurt, should he be walking?? I didn’t know. I asked him if he was alright and did we need to get help and was told very emphatically that those damned cows could be yarded first and then we would get help! OK!
Cows duly yarded to their utter disgust and Tom was taken to the ute where there is a basic first aid box, sat down and assessed. His shoulder was definitely not right but none of us knew exactly what it was, broken, dislocated or just badly jarred. His head injury was only superficial thankfully but he was in a lot of pain so Mum was called over the UHF radio and told to call an ambulance as we had an injured crew member.
Horses, dogs and Tom were loaded in the float and ute respectively and the long drive home began. It was only 10 kms but it felt like 100 kms as I was driving slowly and carefully trying not to jolt the vehicle around too much. When we arrived home it was to find that an RFDS plane had just taken off from Toowoomba and was headed back to the Charleville base and had been diverted to Southampton. Dad, being a pilot himself, was on the phone to RFDS pilot and in deep discussion on what the best way to land was and how much of the airstrip could be used etc…. Tom was taken to the house and an icepack put on his shoulder and kept as still as possible whilst trying to give the doctor on board the plane a description of how he was. Basically he “felt like shite” and really didn’t want to talk!!
The plane landed and Tom was taken aboard after having his shirt cut off on the airstrip for the doctor to see what was what. The verdict was a ruptured A/C joint, painful but not life threatening. They decided that the best course of action was to fly to St George, our closest town & hospital. Whilst this was happening a vehicle appeared in the distance; we were all looking curiously to see who it was and lo and behold it was the local ambulance!!! The Qld Ambulance operator had not communicated with the St George ambulance crew about the plane coming and cancelled their callout. Ooops!! What a balls up! This got a little bit funnier as when the plane landed in St George it was met by one of our local policemen who then transported Tom to the hospital as the ambulance was still en route back to town!
After being x-rayed and kept for a few hours to check for concussion Tom was released and I took him back out to Southampton with strict instructions to be more careful!!
Luckily this was not a very serious accident and it could have been a whole lot worse and I am very thankful that it wasn’t; but it highlights how important having the RFDS is to us in isolated areas of this vast and beautiful country.