Patient Story -

Dreadful cough leads to hospital dash

If you asked Monto local Kellie Fletcher if she ever thought one of her kids would need a lifesaving CareFlight helicopter flight, she would simply reply, “No. But given we’re in a rural town, you never know when we’ll need it.”

On the night of August 20, the mother-of-two experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when her seven-year-old daughter Libby was suddenly struck down with a life-threatening respiratory infection.

“Libby developed an awful barking cough,” Kellie recalled. The cough continued to worsen quickly and Libby struggled to breathe. “She was gasping for air. She couldn’t breathe,” she said.

Kellie and her husband Adam rushed their daughter to Monto Hospital, where doctors gave Libby steroids to help her breathe and settle her persistent cough.

But Libby didn’t respond to the medication and at 7.30am the next day she stopped breathing. Libby was given oxygen, IV steroids and adrenalin in a desperate effort to open her airways and stabilise her condition.

It was crucial to Libby’s survival to get to Bundaberg immediately for specialist paediatric care. Due to Libby’s severe breathing difficulty, RACQ CareFlight Rescue’s medically-configured helicopter was the fastest and safest way for her to be transferred.

Libby was hooked up to vital medical equipment to monitor her condition during the flight, while an oxygen supply was at the ready if needed.

CareFlight Pilot Niels Bunte said Libby was given a CareFlight bear to keep her company on the flight.

“Libby was very unwell, but a CareFlight bear and the helicopter flight seemed to improve her condition significantly,” Niels said.

Libby arrived at Bundaberg Base Hospital within just 30 minutes and was admitted to the Paediatric Ward for round-the-clock care. Tests revealed that Libby was suffering a severe case of croup.

While the effects of croup normally come with cold-like symptoms, the serious viral infection attacked poor Libby very suddenly and with little warning. “It came on so quickly, but Libby didn’t have any symptoms,” Kellie said.

Libby is now back home in Monto recovering well. Kellie said it’s a relief to know that CareFlight is there for people who live in rural areas. “It’s very reassuring, especially when you need to get to hospital fast. We couldn’t have travelled the two-and-a-half hours to Bundaberg to get Libby help, so I don’t know what we would have done without CareFlight.”