It’s the stomach-dropping, panic-inducing words no mother ever wants to hear: “Meet us at the hospital, there’s been an accident.” But these words were the unfortunate reality for Queensland mother Dianne Hammermeister when her husband called and told her to rush to their local hospital in Chinchilla.
Dianne’s oldest son, 12-year-old Rhys – who had been riding on some neighbouring dirt bike tracks with their father and a group of riders – was injured in a freak dirt bike accident after he hit a ditch and flipped over his handlebars in March.
No one saw young Rhys crash, and with his body shielded behind long grass, it only took a split-second for another rider following close behind, to tragically run over the top of him.
"No one saw Rhys crash. He hit a washout and went over the handlebars," said Dianne, who was at home when she received the call.
Rhys was lying on the ground in agony and there were grave concerns that he had suffered neck and spinal damage.
A local firefighter with first aid experience was riding with the group and immediately stabilised Rhys' neck until Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) paramedics arrived on the scene and raced him to hospital.
"Despite what had happened, when Rhys arrived at Chinchilla Hospital he was very calm. He had some trouble breathing and they could see he had a broken collarbone, but they couldn't see the internal damage which had been done," said Dianne.
The Toowoomba-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Helicopter was called to airlift Rhys to the Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane for further tests and treatment, which showed he had injuries to his spleen, a bruised lung and ligament damage in his right foot, but thankfully no neck or spinal injuries.
"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 Dianne.
Listen: I Don't Know How She Does It discuss the ways you can help parents who have a child in hospital. Post continues...
While Rhys has made an almost complete recovery, he frustratingly remains unable to play contact sports until he gets the all-clear from doctors in September. It's hoped the blood clots on his spleen will have fully healed by then, allowing him to resume playing sport.
The sight of an iconic blue-and-yellow RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter overhead brings welcome relief to many families in rural Queensland, where distance and time can be the difference between life and death.