One Week Earlier
Dubbo – NSW
I hurried across the tarmac to the offices of the Flying Doctor Service and when I pushed the door open and entered the building, a welcome cold gust of air greeted me. I figured it must have been at least a thousand degrees in the shade outside.
Rachel, one of the radio operators, glanced up from her computer and smiled before handing me the bug spray to kill off the zillion flies which had hitched a lift into the building via my back. I sprayed it around liberally, causing a couple of other staff members to let out a curse and start coughing. The looks directed my way were enough to melt icebergs.
“What?” I spun around.
“Ignore them, Andrew, we all know it’s non-allergenic. It doesn’t even have an odour. They do it just to get under your skin. You’ve been coming here long enough to know it.”
“I know, Rachel, but I still hate the thought that one of them might be affected by it even if we aren’t. Team here?”
“In the back enjoying a cold drink.”
“Who’s our pilot?”
I nodded before striding towards the back room which was in fact a kitchen. When I entered I found James Rigon - a fully qualified doctor in emergency medicine, paramedic and pilot with the RFDS. The other occupants were Cameron O’Brien who was a playboy but an extremely talented and serious anaesthetist, and nurse Allison Sykes - who we were to lose in a week’s time due to her advancing pregnancy.
My favorite person on Earth – aboriginal nurse – Ruby Waters would meet us at our first stop. Ruby was as round as she was high with a belly laugh I couldn’t get enough of. She didn’t know her age, it wasn’t important to the people she’d grown up with in a settlement on the outskirts of Bourke. We figured she was probably in her early thirties but it was anyone’s guess. Her chestnut colored skin was flawless, her eyes as bright as the night stars shining in the outback sky. She wasn’t married, and from the way she spoke – had no intentions of ever doing so. All men were wamba (stupid) as far as she was concerned.
Ruby had trained in Sydney to be a Nurse but wasn’t content with just a degree as she put it, she’d gone on to obtain a Doctorate with Honors. When her training was done, she’d turned up at the Flying Doctor offices and demanded a job helping ‘her’ people in the outback. I’d been in the office on that day two years ago and instantly taken her on as one of my team. She’d proven invaluable. While Ruby was one to call things as she saw them, her caring, compassionate nature broke down the barriers when patients from an isolated community came to us for the first time. She was able to reassure the indigenous parents, we were there to help their children, not harm them.
I’d only been doing the work for around six months when I met Ruby and had been struggling to break down the walls of suspicion and distrust we’d encountered in the isolated communities. From the first time Ruby joined us, around ten months ago, everything changed. Parents now walked kilometres with their young ones, who were suffering vision problems, when they heard we would be at a nearby cattle station. We treated babies through to the very old, it didn’t make any difference to me. If they had a vision problem and were living in darkness, my goal was to bring them back into the light.
Together, the four of us had done more eye surgeries and consults than I could count. We’d treated hundreds of eye problems, which if left, would have caused blindness and I felt a deep satisfaction in the work we were doing. It was life changing for the indigenous people and other severely underprivileged children and adults.
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