My turn in the Careflight air ambulance

Host: Southampton
Written by Kylie Savidge – Owner, Southampton Station.

Let me say that I never wish to go through this experience again and nor, do I think, my family want that to happen again either.

It was my turn to get an emergency flight out on the CareFlight air ambulance. Very similar to the RFDS in its services, CareFlight provides expert medical assistance and retrievals from isolated areas to built up areas. Here is a link for those who are interested in seeing what CareFlight is all about.

On December 20th, Paige (our Canadian backpacker) and I had taken two of our young horses for a ride, and that afternoon had gone to one of the fuller dams to have a swim and cool down as the weather had been a little warm (high 30’s and early 40’s). That night I began experiencing a very sharp, nagging pain in between my shoulder blades. Thinking I had just pulled a muscle I ignored it, took some painkillers, and went to bed to try and sleep it off.

That was just wishful thinking. By early morning the pain had become unbearable and I had come to the realisation that I was in trouble; what sort I wasn’t sure, but I was sure it wasn’t good. I did attempt to make the trip to hospital in the car but that wasn’t possible due to the severe pain I was experiencing. Plan B was the ambulance coming to get me, which is a great plan right up until they can’t find your property because of the directions given to them by the 000 call centre! Fortunately they did ring us via a satellite phone and made their way to Southampton. I was given pain relief, popped in the ambulance and driven slowly to town, 110km away, 60km of rough dirt road and 50km of rather ordinary bitumen, closely followed by three very worried children, one backpacker, and TJ (the man I mentioned earlier).

040 copyDirt road into St George.

After assessment at the hospital I was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis due to a large gallstone, the most pain that I have ever experienced, over and above childbirth by a long shot. As the night progressed I was not getting any better and, in fact I was getting worse. By morning (coincidently my birthday, Dec 21) the decision was made to fly me to Toowoomba Base Hospital ICU, as the level of care required had exceeded what could be provided in St George. A flight was arranged ASAP as I was deteriorating quickly.

Paige (Miss Canada, whom I will introduce properly later this week) stepped up to the mark, and with the help of my family, took over the reins with Jack and my sister Jacquie, who was here to marry her sweetheart in our home town, and looked after wedding plans, Christmas, and New Year. I cannot tell them enough how much it meant to me to know that my children were being looked after and in the best care possible.

The plane landed and I was prepped for the flight down and away we went. TJ followed by car, four hours of driving. I was in and out of consciousness by this stage, and even though the flight was only 20 minutes, I was not in any way aware of time. It felt like I blinked a few times and I was in the plane and then an ambulance and then hospital.

I was still in emergency when TJ arrived and he came to see me just as they were taking me to ICU. So many questions were being asked and I know that they have to ask but it really is impossible to answer when you are not sure where you are or who you are. They were convinced that I was either A) an alcoholic; B) a recreational drug user or option C) both. I can reassure you I am none of those.

After arriving in ICU and being hooked up to numerous machines that made horrendous noises, it was discovered that I did indeed have acute pancreatitis. To add to the mix, I am a Type II diabetic which complicated things. One of the medications I was on for diabetes management had a nasty little side effect of storing all the “bad fats” and it had effectively done this with me, but when my pancreas and gall bladder could no longer handle that, it had spewed all these nasties into my bloodstream creating a poisonous cocktail of ingredients that my body couldn’t cope with. After two blood “cleanings”, my blood was run through a dialysis machine to be cleaned of the bad fats. After five days in ICU plus another seven days in hospital I was finally ready to come home. Through this time TJ hadn’t left my side for anything other than to eat, shower, and grab some sleep. I guess I could say that he is very much serious about me and the feeling is returned.

793 copyJack, Kylie, and Ben during Kylie’s second stay in hospital. It was good to have them visit.

Due to my hospitalisation I missed my birthday, my sister’s wedding, Christmas, and New Year. I was so very sad to miss my sister’s wedding as I had organised it all for her, however it went off without too many hitches. However it should be noted that 5kg of chocolate wedding favours turn into a 5kg chocolatey mess if left in the car for an hour in the hot Queensland summer sun! So many friends helped out with this momentous occasion, from decorating the reception venue to taking plenty of photos for me so I didn’t miss out entirely.

DSC_0556 copyKylie’s sister, Jacquie, Sonya, and Meghan. Photo courtesy of Jacque Hemming.

DSC_0924 copyJack reading for Kylie at the wedding. Photo courtesy of Jacque Hemming.

IMG_0251 copyThe happy couple. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Southern.

I was lucky, very, very lucky to receive the professional care that I did, that in turn enabled me to still be here to write this blog entry. The only negative outcome was that I am now a Type 2 insulin dependent diabetic. This has taken some adjusting to, but we are managing well.

After another small stay in hospital to remove the troublesome gall bladder and plenty of admonitions to stop trying to die (believe me, I wasn’t!) I am relieved to tell you that I am now fighting fit and ready to get on with life.