Ella was 35 weeks pregnant & driving an outback truck when her waters broke!

Ella was 35 weeks pregnant & driving an outback truck when her waters broke!

When transport company owners, Ella Reindler and her husband Dave, set out on ‘one last trucking trip’ from Perth to the remote Kimberley, they knew it would likely be their last road trip together as a couple, before their new baby arrived.

But neither of them expected that, at just 35 weeks pregnant, Ella’s waters would break in the middle of nowhere and hundreds of kilometres away from the nearest hospital.

Both Ella and Dave are extremely experienced outback travellers, regularly driving thousands of kilometres across some of the remotest parts of WA and often camping in isolated outback locations for weeks at a time.

But when this hard-working young couple realised their baby had decided to arrive prematurely on the road between Halls Creek and Warmun, neither of them felt particularly prepared

Ella holding baby Lucas in front of prime mover truck.

In this extraordinary Episode #88 of the Flying Doctor podcast, Ella recounts how – with Dave exhausted after 15 hours of driving – she climbed into the driver’s seat and headed for Kununurra Hospital.

Given the baby’s premature gestation, Ella was soon loaded onto an RFDS flight to Broome.

But Dave (you guessed it) hopped back into their truck and drove another1000km plus, to help welcome a healthy baby Lucas into the world.

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Link to RFDS Podcast – #88 Ella was 35 weeks pregnant & driving an outback truck when her waters broke!

Meet the Flying Doctor’s female pilots

Meet the flying doctor's female pilots

Article supplied by RFDS Every March, Women of Aviation Worldwide Week is held in recognition of French Aviator Raymonde de Laroche becoming the first woman to be issued a flying licence on 8 March 1910.

The RFDS is proud of the women on our aviation team who followed in the footsteps of Raymonde de Laroche.

For the RFDS, Women of Aviation Worldwide Week marks an important opportunity to highlight the valuable contributions made by the women in our aviation teams, and to encourage more women and girls to consider a career in aviation.

To mark the week, we reached out to our five female pilots at RFDS SA/NT to ask them what their job means to them. Here’s what they said...

RFDS Pilot Heather Ford

Heather Ford – Pilot/Training & Checking Coordinator, Adelaide Base

“I know celebrating five female pilots in RFDS SA/NT may sound cheesy or corny, however it is a major achievement for the organisation to be proud of. Aviation can be quite challenging, especially as there have been a lot of opinions and behaviours formed in the 60s and 70s. These industry norms have slowly changed over my career in aviation, and I look forward to seeing it completely change in the not-to-distant future… Given that the industry figure worldwide is approximately five to six per cent, we are a minority. It is essential to promote the number of lady pilots that the RFDS has, for many reasons, but my main one is so that the young girls can see they can be pilots, astronauts, engineers, doctors and they can start imagining themselves in those positions and make it a reality.”

RFDS Pilot Jessica Dettmer

Jessica Dettmer – Pilot, Adelaide Base

“It’s been my childhood dream to come work for the RFDS and I am extremely grateful to now work along such dedicated, knowledgeable, and experienced flight and medical crews. Digging into the aeromedical side has been a fresh yet rewarding challenge for me and I enjoy how every day is something new. I also love the balance of living in the city, but still having chance to venture outback. Each day I am part of a team to improve care and enhance the lives of those who need it most, and that’s incredibly fulfilling.”

RFDS Pilot Kellie Job

Kellie Job – Pilot, Alice Springs Base

“I’ve been an aeromedical pilot for six years and am still privileged to be a part of people’s stories. We only see people for a small part of what in many cases is a long journey to recovery for them and their families, but being part of an amazing team that puts so much care into caring for our patients for that brief period of time to try and make their journey that little bit easier is what being a part of the RFDS means to me.”

RFDS Pilot Laura Koerbin

Laura Koerbin – Pilot, Adelaide Base

“Flying for the RFDS is meaningful to me as it allows me to feel deeply rewarded by the work I do every day. I’m thankful on the daily to be able to work with such a talented and like-minded team of experts, delivering 24/7 care to all corners of the state. Working for the RFDS means I am excited to come to work every day and see first-hand the impact my role can have on someone’s life. I wanted to work for the RFDS as a means of giving back to the community and it’s so rewarding and meaningful to me to be able to see that happening with every job. This is a role that pushes me to keep challenging myself, to be flexible and adaptable, and to always be learning from the people I work with. It’s my dream job and I’m very lucky to love what I do.”

RFDS Pilot Ellie Gray

Ellie Gray – Pilot, Alice Springs Base

“I’m passionate about service to the community, especially rural and remote communities, and I love flying. The RFDS brings everything together in a strong and professional organisation, with an inspiring legacy. I’m proud to serve my community as part of the RFDS.”

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Dan Hamood was opal fossicking when he fell into a mine shaft

Dan Hamood was opal fossicking when he fell into a mineshaft

Article supplied by RFDS

In this gripping episode of The Flying Doctor Podcast, we hear the harrowing tale of Dan Hammoud, an opal miner and concreter from Monash, South Australia, who narrowly escaped death after falling into a 22-meter-deep mine shaft near Coober Pedy.

Despite the odds stacked against him, Dan’s survival story is a testament to resilience, community, and the vital role of services like the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

The story highlights the challenges and dangers of being trapped in a remote location with serious injuries and limited resources.

Dan’s resourcefulness, resilience, and quick thinking played a crucial role in his survival.

Mining site image

For Dan, opal mining is more than just a hobby – it’s a way of life. He describes it as a release, a way to escape the monotony of everyday life and be stimulated by the challenges and excitement of mining.

Despite the dangers of mining in a remote and harsh environment like Coober Pedy, Dan finds solace in the solitude and adventure that comes with the territory.

The incident occurred when Dan, out blacklighting for opals at night, accidentally stepped into a deep mine shaft, plummeting 22 meters into darkness.

With a broken femur and arm, Dan found himself trapped at the bottom of the shaft, alone and without water for nearly 24 hours.

Mining site

The Royal Flying Doctor Service played a crucial role in Dan’s survival, airlifting him to Adelaide for urgent medical care.

Dan’s rescue, however, was not without its challenges, highlighting the difficulties of accessing medical assistance in remote areas.

Dan’s story has prompted discussions within the mining community about the importance of safety protocols and the need for greater awareness of the risks associated with opal mining.

While opal mining is undoubtedly a rewarding pursuit, it also carries inherent dangers that cannot be ignored.

Opals found in SA

One of the key lessons from Dan’s experience is the importance of never becoming complacent when working in high-risk environments.

Dan’s advice to always be aware of one’s surroundings and to avoid taking unnecessary risks resonates strongly with fellow miners, who recognize the need for heightened vigilance in the field.

Moreover, Dan’s emphasis on the value of having a companion when exploring the opal fields underscores the importance of looking out for one another’s safety.

In remote regions where help may be hours away, having a partner can mean the difference between life and death.

Opal Mining

As Dan continues his recovery, his story serves as a cautionary tale for miners everywhere.

While the allure of opal mining may be irresistible, it is essential to prioritize safety above all else.

Dan’s brush with death serves as a sobering reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of taking every precaution to ensure a safe return home.

In conclusion, Dan Hammoud’s near-death experience has sparked important conversations within the mining community about the need for greater safety awareness and precautions.

His story serves as a wake-up call for miners to prioritize safety and vigilance in their pursuit of precious gems.

As the mining community comes together to reflect on Dan’s ordeal, there is hope that his experience will lead to positive changes that prevent similar accidents in the future.

If you haven’t listened to the episode yet, head over to The Flying Doctor Podcast and give it a listen. And don’t forget to share this inspiring story with your friends and family!

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RFDS named Australia’s most reputable charity

RFDS most reputable charity 2023

Article supplied by RFDS

Australia’s Most Reputable Charity. Twelve times.

The RFDS was recently recognised as Australia’s Most Reputable Charity for the 12th time in Reptrak’s annual charity and not-for-profit study (2023).

Reptrak’s independent survey measures key areas such as trust, admiration, respect and overall esteem within the Australian charity sector.

Health and wellbeing remain a clear priority for all Australians with each of the five leading charities focussed on the physical health and wellbeing of Australians.


“A patient’s trust in their medical services is vital – particularly if they are living in locations that don’t have easy access to the services enjoyed in our cities,” RFDS Federation Executive Director, Frank Quinlan said.

“At the RFDS, we are humbled that we continue to earn the public’s trust in the provision of emergency medical and primary healthcare services to rural, regional and remote Australia. It gives us great pride to know that communities and families rely on us – and we are honoured to do such work. Our thanks go to every staff member, volunteer and supporter who is part of the RFDS team.”

This 2023 Charity RepTrak® survey result is testament to RFDS strong partnerships and relationships across the country, as well as the wonderful ongoing efforts of first responders, locals that clear and light dirt airstrips, long-serving custodians of medical chests, rural hosts for clinics, volunteers, fundraisers, sponsors, donors and supporters.

We thank them all for their tireless work to keep Aussies safe.

What is the Australian Charity Reputation (RepTrak®) Index?

For years, RepTrak (formerly known as the Reputation Institute) has published the Australian Charity Reputation Index, which ranks Australia’s 40 largest charities using a scoring system measuring areas such as trust, admiration, respect and overall esteem.

Measuring the perceptions of the community, the RepTrak index is focuses of seven drivers of reputation: Citizenship, Services, Innovation, Conduct, Leadership, Workplace and Cost Management.

This year, the RFDS scored a total of 96.6 points (out of 100), followed by Guide Dogs (93.3), The Fred Hollows Foundation (92.6), St John Ambulance (92.5) and Surf Life Saving Australia (92.3) rounding out the top five.

RFDS celebrates 200 helicopter retrievals

RFDS helicopter retrievals

Article supplied by RFDS

200 patients of all ages have been transferred by the Fortescue Heli-Med Service EC145 helicopters since they joined the RFDS fleet 18 months ago.

baby lexie

The RFDS WA is celebrating 200 patient retrievals in the Fortescue Heli-Med Service EC145 helicopters.

It comes 18 months since the hospital-to-hospital service was launched, with the two helicopters adding versatility to the RFDS aircraft fleet.

The most common retrieval site is Rottnest Island (33) followed by Bunbury (23) and Narrogin (20.) In total, patients have been transferred from 45 different locations, with sportsgrounds often used as a landing pad in regional towns.

The helicopters can land on rooftop heli-pads at Perth tertiary hospitals including Fiona Stanley Hospital, Royal Perth Hospital, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Perth Children’s Hospital and King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, drastically reducing road travel time in an ambulance.

Mostly used for retrievals within a 250 kilometre radius of Jandakot Airport, the Heli-Med service was able to expand its service area when charity Rapid Relief Team (RRT) donated 800L weatherproof fuel bunds to the wheatbelt towns of Cunderdin, Katanning and Dalwallinu in September.

“On certain flights, mainly because of weather, the rotary team need to refuel enroute before arriving at the retrieval destination,” Elaine Cadzow, Rotary Fleet Manager explained.

“The donation of the fuel bunds has allowed the Fortescue Heli-Med Service to carry the additional fuel reserves required on windy days to fly to Katanning, Cunderdin or Dalwallinu, pick up the patient and then onto a Perth tertiary hospital”.

Patients of all ages have used the service, including 13 babies and children aged 9 and under, and four aged in their 90s.

Pictured is Hines Hill mother Jess Silver, whose daughter Lexie was the first baby transferred by the Newborn Emergency Transfer Service (NETS) using the Heli-Med service, flying from Merredin Oval to the rooftop heli-pad at PCH in just 45 minutes.

RFDS Statement – Queensland Section – Nurses EBA

Article supplied by RFDS

Our nurses have voted over the past three days on the proposed RFDS enterprise agreement. They have been highly engaged in the ballot process with a 90% participation rate, and voted 43% in favour and 57% against.

We respect the decision of our nurses and remain committed to working in good faith with them and the union to reach an agreement as soon as we can, so that we can increase our nurses’ pay.

We offered our nurses a 13% increase over three years, backdated to 1 July 2023. We believe it’s a fair offer that compares with the rest of the healthcare sector, including Queensland Health nurses.

The increase we offered would have cost the RFDS more than $3.2 million over three years and was as much as we can afford.

As a charity, we receive critical Federal and State Government funding each year, and despite that, we run at an operational deficit. As a result, we rely on donors and fundraising to cover that gap, and we are extremely grateful to the people who support us and the critical services we provide.

Like everybody, we are also facing increased operational costs like wages, aircraft fuel, parts and equipment, and the cost of maintaining our bases and aircraft. We need to ensure we are sustainable for the communities we serve and continue to provide our services as we have done for the last 95 years.

We are incredibly grateful to our nurses who work tirelessly to provide skilled and compassionate care.

Message from RFDS CEO Greg Sam

Message from RFDS Greg Sam

It’s hard to believe we are almost at the end of another year. As 2023 draws to a close we reflect on what a great period it has been for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Greg Sam

In this edition of the Flyer we hear from Rhonda Vickers, who was in such a severe condition when we picked her up from Broken Hill to take to Adelaide that there were fears she wouldn’t survive the flight. Having suffered a cardiac arrest and multi-organ failure, Rhonda’s family were ready for the worst, but we got her to Royal Adelaide Hospital, and she was able to pull through.

This month is Mental Health Month and the leader of our Mental Health Team Vanessa Latham has provided some top tips for how to overcome the pressure and stress of our busy lives.

We also speak to Brendan Cullen, one of our local advocates or “Champions” in the We’ve Got Your Back program. The Program trained people like Brendan, who lived experience of mental health issues, to enable him to support others in the community. It’s a program we are very proud of, and I’m sure you will moved by Brendan’s experiences.

In addition, you can read about the new world record the RFDS played a role in setting at the Mundi Mundi Bash, and the latest efforts of the incredible Silver City Bush Treadlers, who hold an annual ride to raise money and awareness for the Flying Doctor.

We hope you enjoy the contents of the Flyer this quarter. It’s our small way of saying thank you for your support and to help you keep informed with the latest news from around the service. We couldn’t do it without you.

Warm regards,

Greg Sam

Chief Executive Officer
Royal Flying Doctor Service (South Eastern Section)

Steve’s Story: Stroke strikes behind the wheel

RFDS - Steve's stroke strikes behind the wheel

Article supplied by RFDS

Steve Mogridge was driving on a lonely stretch of the Goldfields Highway when he instantly lost all feeling in the left side of his body. The 66 year old suddenly couldn’t move while behind the wheel of a manual car, travelling at 110 kilometres per hour.

Steve Story YouTube video
Steve's Story

“I was at least 50 kilometres away from Leonora Hospital, and I somehow had to keep driving. What choice did I have? If I had stopped, I certainly wasn’t going to get the help I needed,” he said.

Steve recognised that he was having a stroke. When he arrived at the hospital, he had to let the car stall to a stop in the carpark. He managed to drag himself to the front doors, where he was able to wave down a nurse inside to come over and assist him.

Shortly after, the Kalgoorlie resident was being flown to Perth by the Royal Flying Doctor Service for treatment. 

“It happened so fast. My job that day was going to be to driving a bus full of staff from the Jaguar Mine to Leonora Airport – instead I was at the Airport, being loaded onto a RFDS plane!” Steve said.

“The crew from Meekatharra were so cool, calm and collected. The pilot assured me they were going to make my flight as comfortable as possible.”

Steve spent two weeks recovering in the stroke unit at Fiona Stanley Hospital, and had a stent inserted in his carotid artery.

After three months off, Steve is now back at work as a bus driver and says apart from a bit of instability on his left side, he’s feeling like himself again.

He says knowing the RFDS is there gives peace of mind to those living in regional areas.

“After my stroke, there was no MRI machine (at Leonora Hospital,) no adequate medication available and no neurologists on hand. The only option was to get to all of this help as soon as possible, it wasn’t coming to me,” Steve said.

“My only alternative to being flown to Perth was to be transferred by ambulance to Kalgoorlie and then driven to Perth. That adds up to more than 9 hours of travel time plus any stops along the way.

“Instead, less than one and a half hours after leaving Leonora Hospital, I was being positioned in a MRI machine at a hospital in Perth. The RFDS saved vital time, which ultimately saved my life.”

Cloud powered care: introducing the RFDS electronic health record

Cloud-powered care: Introducing the RFDS Electronic Health Record

Article supplied by RFDS

he Flying Doctor has embarked on a new era of healthcare accessibility, launching the RFDS Electronic Health Record (EHR) to further enhance patient care.


Designed by the RFDS to be compatible with every state and territory health system, the Electronic Health Record allows doctors, nurses and paramedics to share critical medical information in real-time – regardless of whether the patient is in the air and on the ground.

From a laptop or mobile device, RFDS crews can now digitally record a patient’s vital health stats during flight and share the data live with the awaiting receiving team on the ground, meaning life-saving decisions can be made even before the aircraft wheels touch down.

Critically, the EHR works even when offline, making it ideal for emergency health care in the middle of the Australian outback or 10,000 feet above sea level.

RFDS EHR Clinical Lead Dr Mardi Steere said the new technology served as an “extra pair of hands” for a doctor or nurse providing sole care in the back of an aircraft.

“When every second counts, the right information at the right time saves lives,” Dr Steere said.

“The EHR has a live dashboard showing real-time trends and inbuilt safety alerts around allergies and early signs of deterioration as well as guidelines around patient risk factors and medication dosages.

“Before the EHR, crews were committing all of this information on paper, which took more time and was more likely to have errors or be difficult to read.

“Now, our crews can spend more time with the patient rather than with paperwork, building upon the high quality standard of care the RFDS provides.”

RFDS EHR Dr Mardi Steere

Photo: RFDS Executive General Manager, Medical & Retrieval Services, Dr Mardi Steere with Flight Nurse, Jodie Hunter.

RFDS EHR Digital Lead Ryan Klose said the technology was developed using a world-class management platform from global provider Oracle.

“We approached Oracle in the first instance to tap into their data expertise currently used in the defence, banking and elite sport industries,” Mr Klose said.

“The way we are using the technology – in the rural health setting – is truly groundbreaking.

“Take the split-second decision-making of a motor-racing team with the layers of data protection behind every transaction you make at your local ATM. Then apply that to a medical emergency.

“Whether it’s being used in the back of an aircraft or in the back of a road ambulance, the EHR needs to provide information that is accurate and stays private.

“The RFDS employs leaders in their field that truly understand the complexities of working in remote settings and in this project, data experts worked side-by-side with clinicians to come up with a solution tailor-made for the outback environment and for the patients we will help.”

RFDS EHR Ryan Klose

Photo: RFDS SA/NT Chief Information Officer, Ryan Klose.

The RFDS is currently undertaking a staged rollout – SA, NT and NSW are live and Queensland is set to adopt the EHR in coming weeks.

Seed funding for the EHR project was generously provided by Mrs Rinehart and the Rinehart Medical Foundation.