Patient Story -

Cancer sufferer in good hands with CareFlight Air Ambulance

In April 2006, Palm Beach resident Judy Gray set out on a five-day bus tour to western Queensland and Lightning Ridge with a group of friends.

When they arrived at St George at the end of day one, Judy felt a little tired, so she sent her husband Neville off to dinner with the rest of the group while she stayed in the motel room to get some rest.

When Neville returned after dinner, Judy’s condition had deteriorated, so he called an ambulance to take her to the hospital at St George.

Judy had been fine leading up to that point, in fact she had been to the gym just two days before the bus trip. She initially thought she was just run down from a recent cough that had been keeping her awake and preventing her from eating properly. But her cough was totally unrelated.

The CareFlight Medical Services lear jet and specialised medical crew were called out to St George the next day to urgently transport Judy to the John Flynn Hospital at Coolangatta. Judy was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She had felt physically fine all along, but massive blood loss caused by the cancer’s pressure on blood vessels caused her to deteriorate rapidly.

She was later transferred to the Pindara Hospital, undergoing surgery to remove her stomach, spleen and pancreas.

Doctors told her this rare condition affected just seven people in 1 million, and it mainly affected men. Judy had always been very healthy, taking no medications or tablets. In fact, she says she felt no pain at all through the entire ordeal.

“I felt no pain at all, I was just very, very tired. And I was weak because of loss of blood, and off colour because of loss of blood. But I was not in pain at all,” Judy said.

Flight nurse Trish Nepia met with Judy at the CareFlight hangar a few months later, and couldn’t believe she was meeting the same person.

“When we transported her, Judy was extremely ill from the cancer and blood loss,” Trish said.

Although Judy has lost a bit of weight from her illness, she is already back on her feet and back at the gym. Judy said it was a huge shock being diagnosed with such a serious illness.

“It was strange because I only realised something was wrong when I collapsed at St George,” Judy said.

“I’m normally fit and healthy, I go to the gym three times a week. It took me so long to understand what had happened. I just kept thinking - is this really me, am I really going through this. It was so hard to believe it.”