It started with her feeling faint – which prompted quick-thinking action from her 16-year old grandson who made the emergency call to Triple-0 and ended with a life-and-death airlift to Brisbane.
“After not feeling well for a couple of days, I remember saying to my husband John – ‘I’ve never felt so funny’ – I think I’m going to faint,” Christine recalled, just before she passed out at her Pialba home.
The events that followed were all very hazy for Christine, as her family and emergency services sprang into action to save her life.
After grandson Connor called Triple-0 on behalf of his 72-year-old grandmother, Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) paramedics arrived at the house within minutes.
The paramedics administered initial treatment and rushed Christine to Hervey Bay Hospital, where doctors performed CT scans to try and find the reason for Christine’s rapidly declining condition.
Hours later they diagnosed Christine with a leaking aorta, a complicated and life-threatening medical condition.
That’s when the Bundaberg-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue was called to airlift the critically ill patient to Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH).
“I remember the doctors speaking to each other urgently as they wheeled me out on the trolley at Hervey Bay Hospital,” said Christine.
“I could hear the helicopter arriving and I knew something must be seriously wrong with me since they’d decided to take me to Brisbane.”
It was when the Hervey Bay Hospital medical team reached the helipad that the Hospital Doctor warned her that with a ruptured aorta, “You may not survive the flight due to the vibrations,’ Christine recalled.
He also warned me that “If anything happens during the flight, we won’t be able to resuscitate you.”
“I recall the LifeFlight doctor saying to the pilot – ‘I know you always do this anyway, but can you please try and avoid any bumps as best you can because the vibrations won’t be good for her’,” Christine explained.
“The doctor sat in the back of the helicopter with me, and although I couldn’t hear much over the noise of the rotor blades, I remember he kept giving me a thumbs-up to let me know everything was okay – and I kept doing it back to him too.
“The flight took about an hour and I saw the Brisbane skyline as we approached the hospital.
“When we landed on the hospital helipad, I didn’t even realise we’d touched down. That’s how careful the pilot had been to take care of me.”
As soon as the aeromedical team landed at RBWH, Christine was immediately taken into the operating theatre.
After more than 4 hours in theatre, doctors later explained to her that they had used a 14cm x 10cm patch to repair the leaking Aorta.
Christine remained in the hospital’s intensive care unit for two weeks following her emergency surgery, with another week on a General Ward before she was able to be discharged.
On her first six-week outpatient visit, a CT scan showed that there was a “collection” over the graft. The danger now lay in whether the ‘collection’ became infected and destroyed the graft. If this happened then there were no second chances, it would be irreparable.
Despite having to now return to the hospital every six weeks to check the condition of the ‘collection’ and make sure it hasn’t grown in size, Christine is thankful to have survived the ordeal.
Because she had access to immediate critical care, Christine was able to return home and be reunited with her family. Her husband, John, has also had a positive medical outcome recently, having been given the ‘all clear’ by his doctors from prostate cancer.
“I really can’t speak highly enough of the medical teams that helped save my life that day. I’m so thankful and lucky to have survived,” said Christine.
LifeFlight is a community-based charity that relies on donations from the public and community support.
To support LifeFlight visit:https://www.lifeflight.org.au/page/support-us/