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.
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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.
"When the chopper arrived, 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 from Brisbane. It just makes such a huge difference," said Dianne.
Rhys Hammermeister was just one child saved by RACQ LifeFlight Rescue between 2016 and 2017, with 333 patients aged 18 and under rescued last financial year. That comprised 20% of all missions flown by the charity organisation. To help community members give back, the inaugural LifeFlight bears
To help community members give back, the inaugural LifeFlight Bears Picnic was established to help the LifeFlight Foundation fund lifesaving aeromedical flights in Queensland.
The LifeFlight Bears Picnic is a chance for friends, family, and colleagues to get together and bring their favourite childhood friends to life.
Picnics can be held on National Teddy Bear Day on September 9 or any date in September.
All money raised will go to the LifeFlight Foundation, a community-based organisation which supports the iconic RACQ LifeFlight Helicopter service.