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Medical Drug Transfer a lifeline for Noeleen of Brewarrina

Angel Flight flies medical drugs from Sydney to Brewarrina for Noeleen to receive immunotherapy at the Brewarrina Hospital just two streets from her home.

Noeleen Shearer is an indigenous woman residing in the historic and tranquil town of Brewarrina, NSW. Noeleen has been battling cancer since 2019 and has been in and out of remission. In 2019, she was referred to Angel Flight for help as she required regular specialist treatment in Sydney and the nine-hour drive was completely unsustainable for Noeleen’s family. We were happy to help with some of our stalwart pilots Jeffery Hutchinson and David Campbell stepping up to fly Noeleen and her daughter Lily from Brewarrina to Bankstown and return. Part of what makes the Angel Flight service so special is the friendly and personal service provided by our community minded Earth Angels who greet passengers at the airport with a smile on their dial and drive them to their medical appointments. For this mission, and many others in NSW, it was Dennis Knighton and Douglas Horne.  

Fast forward a year and the world was sent into a spin as the pandemic swept the globe, spinning its evil web of destruction and lock downs, and travel restrictions ensued. During these ‘unprecedented times’ (possibly the most over used phrase of 2020) businesses and organisations had to think outside the box to continue operations and Angel Flight was no exception.

So, we asked ourselves -how do we continue to help our rural friends like Noeleen access the health care they need when they can’t travel due to these restrictions thrust upon us?  

The solution was clear- we fly and drive the medical supplies, drugs, bloods, and necessary health products to the patient’s local hospital to be administered! Medical drug transfer is a service Angel Flight has always offered, however during COVID this service became a lifeline for people like Noeleen.

As it turns out, receiving treatment locally was far more convenient and less taxing for Noeleen who with age has become more frail and less able to travel. Angel Flight continues to fly the medical drugs from Sydney to Brewarrina for Noeleen to receive immunotherapy at the Brewarrina Hospital, conveniently located two streets from home.

Noeleen’s daughter Lily is relieved her Mum is able to receive treatment locally saying; “The immunotherapy always makes Mum more tired so it’s much better for her to be at home. She is so much more relaxed and it’s better for her spiritually and emotionally to be on country with her family when she is going through treatment.” 

During those dreaded COVID times, Angel Flight stayed true to its philosophy, ‘help where help is needed’ and saw other ways in which we could help rural people. We reunited loved ones stranded by border restriction and flew health professionals into rural areas to help address the rural health crisis. This sparked food for thought as we observed the increasing gap in rural health, undoubtedly worsened by the pandemic.

In 2021, we jumped into action by beginning to transport health professionals in and out of rural and remote areas. Over the past three years we have seen an increase in demand for this service and have responded by launching a dedicated Rural-Medi-flight service. Our first service took flight in February 2024 flying medics from Cunnamulla home to Brisbane, turning multiple days of travel into a 2.5-hour direct flight. For the first time in 21 years, Angel Flight will be seeking government support to assist in rolling out the service out across other states and territories to help close the gap in rural health across our country.