The Alfred’s helipad provides a lifesaving service for all Victorians. For over 30 years it has received more than 10,000 patients requiring critical lifesaving care, including from the Bali bombings, the Longford gas explosion, Black Summer and Black Saturday bushfires and more recently the White Island volcano eruption in New Zealand.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of our community, this vital piece of infrastructure received significant improvements to safeguard landings and provide faster, safer transfers for some of our most critically injured patients. The $250,000 upgrade includes the installation of new lighting, illuminated wind direction indicator, surface upgrades and implementation of a new Pilot Activated Airport Lighting Control (PAALC) system allowing pilots to control the helipad lights via remote radio control on approach. These improvements all contributing to more efficient patient transfers into our Trauma Centre, where the next phase of their lifesaving care begins.
In June 2020, while supporters were generously donating to upgrade our helipad, 54-year-old Andrew Mackay was up a ladder at his Rushworth property in central Victoria, trying to remove a 20-foot-long dead branch from a tree. Things took a tragic turn and Andrew ended up being pinned to the ground by the branch. Andrew remembers looking down at his “shattered” legs and realising he was in considerable trouble.
‘Andrew presented with significant injuries to both his legs but the most time critical was his compound left ankle injury which paramedics at the scene described as a near complete amputation,’ said Alfred Orthopaedic Surgeon, Andrew Hughes. ‘With an injury like this it is imperative that we stabilise the ankle and re-vascularise the limb as soon as possible in order to have a chance of salvaging it. With the rapid helicopter transfer we were able to achieve this within six hours from the time of injury.’
Following surgery, Andrew spent two weeks recovering in ICU and a further three weeks in rehabilitation. Thanks to The Alfred's extensive experience in these types of complex injuries and the plastic surgical skills of Edmund Ek and Eugene Lim, Andrew had a successful free tissue transfer to cover the soft tissue defect in his left leg.
The Alfred Emergency and Trauma Centre operates 24 hours a day to provide the community with timely, quality care for people who are acutely ill and injured. In the year 2019-20, the centre received almost 70,000 patients, around 1500 of these were considered major traumas.Director of Trauma Services at The Alfred, Professor Mark Fitzgerald said airlifting patients from more remote parts of the state was critical. ‘Rapid helicopter access to The Alfred from the scene has helped halve the death rate from serious injuries in Victoria,’ he said.
Meanhwile Andrew has made incredible progress with his recovery and remains grateful to The Alfred for helping him get back on his feet. ‘I was in a wheelchair for three weeks and the staff were unbelievable – from the surgeons, to the occupational therapists, to assessing my home and supporting my day-to-day living,' he said. Andrew’s parents were so appreciative of his lifesaving care they made the decision to donate to upgrade the helipad, ensuring it continues to serve future generations of families just like their own.
On December 22 Andrew and Kim were able to see out the year on a positive note by celebrating their wedding, with Andrew proposing to Kim while recovering at The Alfred.