The Sunday Times
How a doctor almost 300km away helped save baby Chloe
NOT knowing if her sick baby was still conscious and breathing in her back-seat capsule, the 25 minutes it took to race her five-week-old daughter Chloe to the nearest hospital was the scariest drive of Pip Gooding’s life.
“I can remember saying aloud, ‘Please God, don’t let anything happen to our beautiful girl, we’ll do anything’,” the mother of two recalled of that awful day in February when her daughter, who had been struggling with a cough for a few days, went rapidly downhill.
“And I just continued to sing her nursery rhymes, PlaySchool and Wiggles songs just to make sure she was comforted and could hear something.”
With her baby in respiratory distress, Ms Gooding had to stop twice on the way from the family farm near Kukerin in the Wheatbelt to Dumbleyung Hospital 30km away, just to make sure Chloe was still breathing.
Chloe’s life-threatening emergency had a happy ending but there’s every chance she wouldn’t be here today without the Emergency Telehealth Service, a Perth-based video-conferencing service that provides regional areas with immediate expert advice for emergencies.
The ETS enabled a nurse at Dumbleyung to link up with Peter Leman, a paediatric emergency specialist based in Perth almost 300km away. Dr Leman was the ETS doctor on shift who quickly diagnosed Chloe with bronchiolitis and guided the nurse to provide emergency treatment and administer crucial antibiotics.
Ms Gooding already knew about the ETS and called Dumbleyung Hospital in advance of her arrival. A short time later, Chloe was stabilised and taken to Narrogin Hospital where the Royal Flying Doctor Service and a member of the Newborn Emergency Transport Service were waiting to fly her to Princess Margaret Hospital. She then spent 24 hours in intensive care and another two days in the recovery ward.
Dr Leman said Chloe “could easily have died” if she had not received the treatment she did at Dumbleyung.
“ETS was a vital part of the chain of survival,” he said. “The combined services of the ETS, local registered nurse, volunteer St John Ambulance, Narrogin Hospital team, RFDS and NETS prevented a potentially fatal event.”
Ms Gooding said she dreaded to think what would have happened if the ETS was not available at Dumbleyung and she had to drive a further 70km to Narrogin.
“This could have been tragic, it just shows you how time critical it is to be able to present to an emergency department to be able to get the best course of action,” she said.
She said Chloe, now five months old, returned to her normal bubbly and bright self in no time.
Last month, the State Government announced funding for the ETS would continue for two years.
Every week, ETS doctors conduct about 300 consultations at 76 sites across WA.