While the world grapples with the current COVID-19 pandemic, The Alfred continues to play a significant role in responding to this crisis, working collaboratively to help lead the way in diagnosis, treatment and research. However, even in pandemics critical care for other patients doesn't stop and neither does The Alfred.
When Ken Bathurst, 74, and his pilot grandson Andrew took off from an East Gippsland airfield in June, they had no idea their scenic flight would turn into an unexpected air transfer to The Alfred’s Emergency and Trauma Centre.
On a return flight home from Yarram, heading back to the Latrobe Valley, the pair decided to take the scenic route along the coastline when the coolant warning went off. Ken, who learned to fly when he was only 16 and built the aircraft himself, decided to head back to Yarram while the engine grew progressively hotter.
At this stage the cockpit began to fill with smoke. Ken tried desperately to hold the canopy open so Andrew could see, while he looked for a potential place to land. ‘We thought about landing in a paddock, but it looked too soft and wet, which we knew could cause the plane to flip,' Ken said. 'At this stage, it became about risk assessment.'
Around two kilometres from the airport, the engine started to completely die out. There was little space to land and Andrew and Ken were surrounded by trees. The cockpit began to fill with smoke when Andrew said “Pop, we’re not going to make it!"
The plane nosedived, landing nine metres above the ground where it lodged vertically into a gum tree. Fortunately, Andrew only sustained minor scratches however Ken, who was entangled in his seatbelt, made the decision to try and free himself, not realising how high up the plane was. He sustained soft tissue injuries from the fall and was taken to Yarram airfield where a helicopter was waiting to airlift him to The Alfred. He was classified as critically ill due to the nature of the accident and his age.
While being cared for at The Alfred, Ken said it was the nursing staff that really stood out. 'Nothing was too much trouble, they were always going out of their way for me,' he said. 'They knew that I lived on my own and were reluctant to let me go until they were certain I was okay - I even enjoyed the food.'
Ken believes it was divine intervention that saved his life, he is currently rebuilding the plane that crashed which was meant to be a gift to his grandson. The pair both continue to enjoy flying to this day.
The Alfred Emergency and Trauma Centre operates 24 hours a day, providing a statewide emergency medical service for adult trauma, hyperbaric medicine, burns, heart and lung transplant and critical neurosurgery. Every day we provide timely, quality care to acutely unwell and injured Victorians. To find out how you can support critical care at The Alfred, visit alfredappeal.org.au
Your donation today will help The Alfred continue saving the lives of patients who are desperately in need of critical care.