Greek doctor becomes LifeFlight’s longest serving registrar

When Doctor Kostas Fakiris signed on for a six-month rotation as an RACQ LifeFlight Rescue doctor in 2013, he had no idea that four years later he would break a LifeFlight record.

As Kostas hits the milestone four-year mark today (January 20), he goes into the history books as Toowoomba’s longest serving flight doctor and LifeFlight’s longest serving registrar.

Throughout this time, Kostas has been involved in around 500 lifesaving rescue missions across the south west.

Doctors typically sign on for six month rotations, but the Greece native said he kept finding reasons to stay in Toowoomba.

“My wife Klairi and I had an initial plan to work and travel for six months and then return back to Europe, but we didn’t have to look too hard to find motivation to stay longer,” he said.

“Toowoomba is very family oriented, the weather is beautiful and Australia is so multi-cultural.”

Although Doctor Kostas holds a specialty in hospital anaesthetics in the UK, working at LifeFlight was his first air-medical job.

“I came from the safe confines of a hospital, so to suddenly be in really remote locations, in hostile environmental conditions and with limited planning time and resources, it was a real challenge,” he said.

“A major part of the job is managing the scene; to try and organise the chaos by interacting well with the other members of your team.”

One such moment of “chaos” happened in 2013 when Kostas was tasked to save a victim of a helicopter crash.

He’d only been in the job a few short months and recalls feeling anxious when flying to the scene.

“I admit I was scared,” he said. “It’s hard to reassure yourself that helicopter accidents are very rare when you’re about to rescue a helicopter crash victim.”

When Kostas landed, he and the Paramedic ran down the road, medical packs in hand, to face a rather confronting scene.

“We only had to look at the wreckage to see how badly injured he was,” Kostas recalls.

“The pilot was still entrapped inside the helicopter, with a severe head injury, agonal breathing and very low blood pressure due to internal bleeding.

“Despite the extremely hot and humid day, we safely delivered an anaesthetic, took over the patient's ventilation, transfused him with blood and stabilised him before flying him to hospital for emergency surgery.

“The patient made a full recovery and few months later we received a thank you card with a photo of him sitting in front of his new helicopter,” he said.

These positive patient outcomes are what LifeFlight Doctors, like Kostas, live for.

Despite giving up their personal lives to 24/7 on-call rosters and putting their lives on the line to save others, Kostas wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s a huge responsibility but also so satisfying,” he said.

After reaching the record-breaking four year milestone, Kostas will leave LifeFlight in February to return to hospital anaesthetics in Europe.

Toowoomba Base Manager Andrew Riches said Kostas will be missed greatly by his colleagues.

“We will miss his ‘unique’ European dress sense,” Andrew joked.

“Typically, flight doctors stay on for a six month rotations but Doctor Kostas defied the odds because he was one of the hardest working guys at the base. He was certainly a straight talker and his candid communication will be missed.”

Kostas echoes the sentiment, saying his colleagues are what he’ll miss most.

“Over the past four years, we laughed and bantered, we cried, we faced challenges and we grew together not only in our professions but as personalities.

“I will always be thankful to these people for this beautiful experience and they will always remain close to my heart.”

Doctor Kostas was farewelled and his record-breaking achievement was honoured at a special ceremony at the Clive Berghofer LifeFlight Centre on January 20.