Mum recalls LifeFlight rescue: 'I was an absolute mess'

11th July 2017 5:13 PM
Rhys Hammermeister being airlifted after he came off his motorbike in April this year. Rhys Hammermeister being airlifted after he came off his motorbike in April this year. Contributed

RHYS Hammermeister is living, breathing proof of Toowoomba RACQ LifeFlight's work giving a record number of people a second chance.

Rhys was rescued in April following an off-road motorbike accident - one of 609 missions the Toowoomba-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter performed for the 2016-17 year at a cost of $7.6 million.

"No one saw Rhys crash. He hit a washout and went over the handlebars," said Rhys's mother Dianne Hammermeister, who was at home when she got the phone call from her husband.

As no one had witnessed Rhys crash, a trailing rider didn't see him lying on the ground until it was too late and tragically ran over him, adding to the severity of his injuries.

A local firefighter with first aid experience was riding with the group and immediately stabilised Rhys' neck until Queensland Ambulance Service paramedics arrived on the scene.

The Toowoomba-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter was called to airlift Rhys to the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane for treatment and tests, which showed he had injuries to his spleen, a bruised lung and ligament damage in his right foot.

"I was an absolute mess with what had happened, trying to hold it together for my child, but the LifeFlight doctor and nurse put my mind at ease," said Mrs Hammermeister.

Rhys, who has made almost a complete recovery, yesterday met with LifeFlight pilots at the organisation's Toowoomba base to say thank you.

He remains unable to play contact sports until he gets the all-clear from doctors in September, when it's hoped the blood clots on his spleen will have fully healed.

The sight of an iconic blue-and-yellow RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter overhead brings welcome relief to many families in the south-west, where distance and time can be the difference between life and death.

"It felt like in an hour we would be safe. If it wasn't for LifeFlight, we would be looking at a four-hour drive to Brisbane.

"It just makes such a huge difference," said Mrs Hammermeister.

The end of the financial year marked the charity's busiest year in its 36-year history, with its doctors, community rescue helicopters and Air Ambulance jets performing a record 5,252 missions around Queensland and overseas.

A little more than 600 of those took place in the south-west region, with the rescue team flying from the Toowoomba base.

Those rescues cost $7.6 million but patients are not responsible for paying for their rescues which on average cost $12,500.

 

Rhys Hammerstein is rescued by LifeFlight
Rhys Hammermeister. Contributed

LifeFlight chairman Rob Borbidge said LifeFlight was proud to continue helping so many in the community by providing a world class aeromedical service.

LifeFlight chief operations officer Brian Guthrie said the record year was due to several factors, including the introduction of three new AW139 rescue helicopters, which has given the organisation increased capacity.

LifeFlight has announced the formation of the LifeFlight Foundation, whose core purpose is to fund and support the efforts of LifeFlight Australia's aeromedical services.

The LifeFlight Foundation relies on donations to raise 30 per cent of operating costs.

Each mission on average costs $12,500.