Getting to the Heart of the Matter

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Oceania » Australia » South Australia » Leigh Creek
June 30th 2013
Published: July 3rd 2013
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Last night I said that sometimes decisions are made for us and today was probably one of those days. Although we knew we wanted to head to Leigh Creek to stock up on provisions, I was thinking to myself that staying another day might be nice and we could pootle down toward Leigh Creek tomorrow and overnight camp somewhere along the way in the Gammon Ranges.

It was about 7.30am when Andy told me he had a pain just below his ribcage and he had been awake since 5am. I was concerned as this is where the pain started for me 4 days before I ended up having emergency surgery for acute appendicitis. We went through the possibilities of what it could be, even thinking that perhaps it was a chill from the night before when we were standing around in the observatory.

I suggested that perhaps we stay another day and not travel anywhere as Andy may not feel up to it, but on the other hand Andy suggested we do what we said and head to Leigh Creek so that he could get medical attention. Not that he couldn't get it at Arkaroola, on the contrary of course there is access to RFDS etc. In Andy's mind though he was thinking that if it was any more serious then it would put a lot of people out, I don't disagree with that but that is what they are there for.

Andy's concern was if a RFDS flight was called, it would maroon me as they would possibly not put me on the flight and if they took him to Broken Hill or Adelaide, it would mean me bring the truck all that way on my own and this is what concerned Andy, if the weather broke the journey would be treacherous.

So Understanding Andy's wishes, we packed up to head off, on the way out we said our goodbyes to everybody, spoke to Doug and Marg Sprigg, thanking them for a great time and off we set.

It took me around 30 kilometres to persuade Andy to let me drive, he was thinking that driving would take his mind off the pain, but I was thinking what would happen if it got worse. I won that point and took over the 2 1/2 hour drive to Leigh Creek.

On the way the pain did get worse so Andy wanted to go straight round to see a doctor, we knew that there would be a medical centre as I had checked the map for information.

We were on a dirt track for the journey bar 6 kilometres, so we had to be very mindful of track conditions, some floodways were also very damp and muddy. The Gammon Ranges were stunning and we did wish that we could stop, but another time.

Arriving in Leigh Creek I drove straight round to the medical facility, which is in fact a small hospital it all seems to be contained in the "town centre" next to Foodland and the tourist information centre. It seemed quiet, there was barely a soul around.

We went up to the door of the hospital which was locked so pressed the little red button and waited for someone to answer. In the meantime a lady had turned up holding a baby, we let her go ahead of us and heard her ask "if she could take the baby on the plane". It sounded as
Reception at ArkaroolaReception at ArkaroolaReception at Arkaroola

But we were saying goodbye today
if her husband was being flown to Adelaide for treatment and she was heading to accompany him on the plane.

That was a scenario that I had been preparing myself for, in the last few years, I have been doing all my off road driver training, practising changing tyres, reversing the trailer and making sure I could take the trailer of the hitch etc.

It wasn't long before Andy was in an examination room, although he explained about the stomach pain, all attention then focused on his heart. We knew what would happen next, as soon as they did the ECG, they said they would keep him in overnight.

Andy Expected to be kept in over night, as he is a bit of a rarity in the Cardiac world, he was born with quite a rare anomaly called a Tetralogy of Fallots, which means he has four heart defects, which was rectified in 1969, the earliest Fallots repair was in 1954.

As Andy has scar tissue on his heart it shows up as an inverted wave on his ECG which always get people excited.

There was no need to panic, at this stage, everything was under control and we were both feeling confident that everything would be ok. That said, I left Andy to it and drove round to the only caravan park in Leigh Creek to book in. No point in taking the easy option and booking a cabin, I had somewhere to sleep with everything I needed so booked a powered site.

Peter, the caravan park caretaker, was surprised when he saw me alone and I explained that I had left "my husband" at the hospital. He was very good and made sure I had a good site and a drive through one just so I did not have to faff around with reversing. He even helped me get Gypsy off the hitch. He asked if the hospital would fly him to Adelaide, I said not if everything was ok and if that happened then we would cross that bridge if and when.

All sorted I went back to the hospital to see what was happening. Except that I tried to get food on the way and being a Saturday afternoon, everything was closed until Monday! I could not even get anything from the supermarket it all closed at 12.30.

When I got back to the hospital I found Andy on the cardiac ward which consisted of one bed in a room fitted out with all the necessary gear for cardiac patients. There were only 7 beds in the whole hospital and 3 of those were for permanent patients.

Andy's doctor was originally from England and he came out here to work with the RFDS (Royal Flying Doctor Service), which he did for a number of years including acting as advisor on the television program "flying doctors". He was Chief Flying Doctor, what an awesome title.

Amazingly, the hospital staff made us both some toasted sandwiches and got us some coffee! This was very welcome indeed and not only that when they served Andy his evening meal they gave me an evening meal too! Which in fact was quite delicious.

Throughout the afternoon, they took blood and did all their various checks and everything was looking ok, but of course they still wanted to be sure. I left Andy at around 7.30 to let him rest and I went back to camp that I had set up earlier.

Peter heard me come back and came round to check that everything was ok, which was appreciated and to check that I had something to eat. We chatted for a short while and then I headed indoors to get the heater on and settle down for the rest of the evening.

I was really comfy in Gypsy and had the whole bed to myself, what bliss! It did seem weird being on my own though, I read for a while and then lights out.

The next thing I knew It was Sunday morning, I got out of bed made a cup of tea, switched the heater on and got back into bed. Well, who wouldn't? I read for a while until the sun was up enough to give a little warmth and then I headed off for a shower and to get ready to go to the hospital. I had not heard anything overnight so in my mind no news is good news.

It was about 9.30 when I went in, met by Wayne, one of the nurses, he said "Andy's waiting for you, he is all good to go!" Excellent news, he was feeling better and there was no further concern, we would be staying around for another night just in case and of course I could not do any shopping until Monday morning anyway.

Andy was feeling better and the pain had gone, we were both very relieved that all was tickety boo. I have to say that the staff at Leigh Creek Hospital were all pretty amazing, they were attentive and could not have been more caring to both Andy and me.

The rest of the day passed in a bit of a blur really, we topped up the tanks with water, I did a bit of laundry and we took a short drive down to the Aroona Dam, which holds the water supply for Leigh Creek, an amazing fact here, the dam is actually full of water and must be one of the only dams we have seen full in quite a while.

There is a program at the Aroona Dam to reintroduce the Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby, they put 10 in place to start with and thankfully it is working and the population is increasing.
Leigh Creek is famous for resourcing the only brown coal in Australia and is the sole provider to the power station in Port Augusta. It is a very tidy looking town and from what we can see very quiet, but it is the weekend and perhaps there is nothing to do at the weekends.
There was not a lot else to look at around town although we had a quick drive around, but the important thing was to rest up for the rest of the day.

That evening after dinner we head into the camp kitchen, there was a heater in there along with sofa's and a tv, we made ourselves comfortable for the evening before heading out into the cold night air and bed.


3rd July 2013

All's well that ends well
Glad everything turned out ok at the hospital. Oh, and hospital food being 'quite delicious'??! You must have been 'quite starving' Caroline :-)
3rd July 2013

Hello from Lee & Marilyn
So very glad to hear that Andy is alright! it must have been a worry for you both. We're thinking of you and looking in from time to see where you are and what you've been up to. Take care! Love Lee & Marilyn xoxo :o)
3rd July 2013

Take care, Andy!
What a scare! Hope all is well now and there will be lots of good experiences ahead. Thanks to KangarooJack I am learning more and more about fascinating places in Australia.
4th July 2013

Heart Flutter
So glad to hear that all ended well and you were both well looked after at Leigh Creek. Could have been a worse place for such a health concern. Where we travelled recently there were no hospitals, doctors, pharmacies or nursing stations for weeks. Even then nursing stations were manned for only an hour or two once a week! Made us realise what the outback really is! Take care. Keep well. Love Keith & Jan

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