In an odd twist of fate Eliza Middleton was running to raise money for the Flying Doctor just as her sister Adelaide was being airlifted from a paddock near Tilpa, almost 900 km away.
Unknown to Eliza, Adelaide had been crushed by a stampeding bull.
The sisters grew up on the family property in far western NSW. Adelaide still lives in the area and Eliza has since moved to Canberra.
“Now that I live in a city I have a profound appreciation of the accessibility and ease with which I can see a doctor,” says Eliza. “Living out in the bush, it’s not so easy.”
Twenty-eight-year-old Adelaide knows that only too well. She was helping her father muster cattle outside Tilpa on the day her sister, Eliza, was completing her ninth fun run for the RFDS.
“We were drafting, separating the calves from the cows,” says Adelaide.
“Dad asked me to do a head count so I climbed onto a fence to get a better look.” That action may well have saved her life.
“I heard a ruckus behind me and I turned around to see two bulls heading straight for me.”
The massive creatures were fighting and in their fury they were charging towards the fence. Adelaide scrambled up the steel bars just as a tonne and a half of solid flesh slammed against her, crushing her leg between the bulls and the steel fence.
“I knew I couldn’t let go, I had to hang on. I just clung onto the top of the fence and screamed.”
Adelaide’s father and her husband Matt raced over from the adjoining yard. By the time they reached her Adelaide was close to collapse.
“I could hear what they were saying but I couldn’t see anything.”
Matt cradled his wife on his motorbike and he raced to their nearby vehicle, where he rang the RFDS and spoke to the on-call RFDS medical officer, Dr Fabian Schwarz.
Fabian assessed the extent of Adelaide’s crush injury over the phone and told them to head for Tilpa, the closest landing strip.
“It was a 60 km journey and I was in a lot of pain,” recalls Adelaide. “Matt was trying to brace me as he drove.”
Fabian told them to stop at the pub at Tilpa to obtain pain relief medication from the Medical Chest then head straight for the landing strip.
“I can’t tell you how glad I was to see that plane land,” says Adelaide. “It was the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard.”
Adelaide’s thick work boots saved her ankle from snapping and although she won’t know the extent of her crush injuries until after the swelling subsides she’s simply glad to have escaped with her life.
“It’s a reminder of how easily accidents can happen out here, and how important it is that the Flying Doctor can reach us.
“The Flying Doctor is a big part of our lives out here. If I need to see a GP I go to the RFDS clinics at Tilpa and Wilcannia. You always hope you won’t need to call them but if something happens, you know they’ll be there.”
Eliza is relieved to know her big sister is safe and well.
“I am so grateful to the RFDS for all they did while we were kids out on the station and even more appreciative after Adelaide’s accident. It is such an incredible service for people who work in the places so many of us wouldn’t. The Royal Flying Doctor Service makes a difference to the lives of every Australian farming family and I’m just trying to do what I can to pay you back.”