Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

{Saving Lives on } {a Wing and a Prayer }; {Former Royal Flying Doctor Service Nurses Still} {Happy to Help}

Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

{Saving Lives on } {a Wing and a Prayer }; {Former Royal Flying Doctor Service Nurses Still} {Happy to Help}

Article excerpt

Byline: {Cherie Curtis} {Cherie Curtis}

CARMEL Roden braved a DeHavilland Drover aeroplane in bumpy skies to help save lives in the 1960s, whether it was a girl wounded by a bullet or a ringer thrown from his horse.

"The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) was very different back then," Carmel, 71, recalls.

"I worked at the Charleville Hospital and anyone off-duty could be called on to fly.

"It was a very humbling experience to see the gratitude in people's eyes."

Nearly 50 years later, Carmel is back helping the RFDS, but this time it's to raise money to keep the Australian icon in the air.

The Bundaberg Wide Bay Burnett RFDS auxiliary's first official fundraiser is the opening night Australia at Reading Cinemas on Wednesday.

Also helping with the event is Paula Gallagher, who worked as a radio operator for the RFDS's outpost radio in the 1960s, co-ordinating everything from medical emergencies to the famous galah sessions.

"I used to help with a lot of RFDS fundraisers in the old days - balls, race days, afternoon teas and raffles," Paula said.

Little did she realise that she would one day call on the service herself.

"Two years ago, I fractured my arm in 13 places so the RFDS flew me to Brisbane for surgery," Paula said.

"I never dreamt they would fly me somewhere after all those years."

Elaine Meldrum's first glimpse of an RFDS plane was on the Nullabor Highway after a quadruple-fatality crash in 1955.

"In the midst of this carnage and desolation, to see a small plane arrive on the highway was like a miracle," Elaine, now 80, said.

"I wanted to be a nurse in the outback and started with the Cloncurry RFDS in 1960.

"Accidents from cars, horses, guns and knives seemed to fill the hospital beds.

"I was coming back from the Gulf one time with four or five patients in the plane and one woman went into labour.

"There was no doctor and the pilot quipped, 'Don't ask me - I'm staying at the wheel'.

"Whenever we called in at stations, there was a truck to meet you and a cup of tea on the table.

"I was very lucky because I never got air sick so I got to do a lot of flights. …

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