Anthea Brotherton

Six-week old Anthea suffered colic, so when she awoke upset after an afternoon sleep, her mother Karli gave her Panadol and a bath to settle her.

It soon became clear to Karli and her partner Dan that something was not right about their daughter’s crying, and when they noticed that Anthea’s body temperature was a dangerously low 32.8 degrees, they took her straight to the emergency department of the local hospital.

Karli and Dan are both studying, soon to be qualified in nursing and paramedicine respectively.

As Karli and Dan discovered, a sick baby can be a moment of helplessness and overwhelming emotion even for those in the medical profession.

“It’s such a horrible moment to know that your baby’s in trouble but not know what it is or how to help,” Karli said.

The paediatricians at Toowoomba’s St Vincent’s Hospital ran a series of tests before they decided that the nature of Anthea’s condition was untreatable with their resources, and called for an emergency airlift to Brisbane.

Anthea was airlifted by the Brisbane-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter with a neonatal intensive care team from Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital on-board.

The extra aeromedical crew meant there was no room for Karli and Dan on-board the helicopter, so they had to leave Anthea and make their way to Brisbane on road.

The nervous parents said goodbye to their daughter, not knowing when they’d see her again, or in what condition.

“I felt very anxious and upset leaving my daughter in their care, but we knew she was in the right hands,” Karli said.

When Karli and her partner arrived in Brisbane in the middle of the night, Anthea had already undergone extensive testing including blood and urine tests, ultrasounds and MRIs. 

Six-week-old Anthea had suffered a stroke in the cerebellum and a major brain bleed which required immediate surgery to remove the blood clot and drain the blood – a lifesaving surgery that lasted over six hours. She then required three bags of blood to be stabilised.

Young Anthea has since returned home to her parents but makes regular visits to Brisbane for various specialist appointments including neurosurgery, ophthalmology, genetic testing, occupational therapy, speech therapy and physiotherapy. 

Karli admits that she finds it difficult to put her daughter down without worrying. 

“The times when she gets unexplainably upset, it’s on our mind ‘what if it’s another stroke?’ as we haven’t learned yet why it happened,” Karli said.

Despite the uncertainty of the future Karli is optimistic, and forever grateful for the service that kept her daughter alive.

“She’s doing very well. Lots of small steps but every day is an improvement. She loves to surprise us!” Karli said.

“If she hadn’t had access to the LifeFlight Rescue helicopter, she most likely wouldn’t have made the ambulance trip to Brisbane. We were told they operated with less than an hour to spare.

“We are so thankful for everything they did for her so that we still have our little girl with us today. We could never express how grateful we truly are,” Karli said.

Karli and Dan made a special trip to Brisbane to meet the crew that airlifted their baby girl to life saving surgery. 

LifeFlight co-pilot, Alex Door and Flight Nurse Renee Bolot showed the family around the helicopter and shared cuddles with a now six month old Anthea.