Read Medical Mission Online

Authors: George Ivanoff

Medical Mission

BOOK: Medical Mission
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About the Book

A high-octane adventure series for children written in partnership with the Royal Flying Doctor Service

The challenges of outback life create a double mission for the RFDS!

In the middle of the night Josh watches as a Royal Flying Doctor Service plane lands on his family's cattle station, just outside Coober Pedy. The RFDS are there to help his mother deliver her baby, but after the birth they are rushed off to hospital. Josh stays with his dad to tend to their property and Josh starts organising a fundraiser for the RFDS. His efforts are cut short when he is bitten by a deadly snake – time is now ticking to get Josh the antivenom he needs.

 

For Phil Moran and the staff of the RFDS Port Augusta Base. Thanks for the tour and for all the invaluable info
– G. I.

Josh peered into the darkness. A light winked. He positioned his own lantern and switched it on, turning away so that the flare of brightness wouldn't blind him. He picked up the remaining three lanterns and moved ahead.

Again, he stopped and waited for a spot of illumination in the night, before positioning another lantern and switching it on.

His final lantern flickered alive, glowed briefly, then extinguished. He picked it up and shook it – maybe it was a loose wire and he could get it to work.

No luck. It refused to cooperate. He sighed, hoping Dad wouldn't blame him. He knew it wasn't his fault … but Dad was edgy. When he was in this sort of mood, he tended to lay blame on whoever was closest. Josh wanted Dad to be proud of him, not critical. At twelve years of age, it was a big deal for Josh to be asked to help with the lights – he and Dad out in the night together, while Aunty Karen looked after Mum and waited for them to return with help.

‘Dad!' he called towards the spot of light. ‘This lantern won't turn on.'

Dad stomped across the track of
compacted earth and stone to where Josh stood waiting. ‘Let me see,' he demanded.

Josh passed him the lantern. Dad flicked the switch on and off a few times, then shook the whole thing. He muttered something under his breath then strode off. Josh followed him down the track to the far end.

Dad tossed the lantern into the ute and rummaged around behind the seats, continuing to mumble to himself. ‘Damn!' he growled, as he finally emerged. ‘Don't have anything to replace it. And we don't have time to drive back to the homestead to get another. This'll just have to do.'

Josh looked out at the nine lights – a row of five and a parallel row of four, evenly spaced, marking out the edges of the track. He was
relieved that Dad hadn't blamed him. He sighed and looked up into the night sky.

Dad began to pace.

The two of them didn't speak.

Josh wasn't sure exactly how much time had passed, but thought that it would have been more than enough to go back for another lantern.

Eventually he spotted something.

‘Look!' he called, pointing up.

Dad stopped pacing and came to stand by his side.

They watched as the lights moved across the night sky, cutting their way through the darkness. As they got closer and lower, Josh could make out a distant droning sound.

‘Almost here,' said Dad, his voice tight with anxiety.

Josh looked at Dad. The pale moonlight made his face seem older – the wrinkles deeper, the bags under the eyes saggier, the receding hairline more prominent.

Josh looked along the track – the dirt airstrip – outlined by the portable lights he and Dad had positioned. Most of the big cattle stations had their own airstrips. They were used mostly for planes that did spraying and seeding … and sometimes for emergencies! His family's cattle station wasn't all that big, only about 4000 hectares, but luckily it did have a place to land a plane.

Josh looked back up into the sky. He could definitely hear the aeroplane now.

The lights continued to descend until the plane itself became visible, a shadowy outline in the dark. Standing off to the
side, at the far end of the makeshift runway, Josh watched in awe as the plane landed. It seemed to bounce a little as it touched down, kicking up clouds of dust. And then it sped along the track towards him, Dad and the ute.

Josh couldn't help but wonder what would happen if the plane couldn't stop in time. After all, it wasn't a very long runway. Would it speed off the end, into the grass? Would it swerve and crash into them? Would it leap back into the sky?

As the aircraft slowed to a stop, Josh realised that he had been holding his breath. He let it out with a little chuckle.

‘This is no laughing matter,' Dad snapped, before heading towards the now stationary plane.

Josh sighed. It seemed that he was really good at doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. He had been laughing at his own silliness … not at the situation as a whole. He knew that things were serious. He knew that lives hung in the balance.

Dad had never been a great talker, but he had been more distant these last few weeks. There had been a tension in the air as everyone waited. He wasn't sure why everyone was so worried, but it had something to do with Mum's age. And now that things had gone wrong, Dad was like a coiled spring wound super tight.

Josh sighed again. He wished that Dad would talk to him.

Dad melted into the shadows of the plane as if he had been devoured by some monster.
Josh held his breath. But then the monster released him, spitting shapes from the gloom – shapes that became three figures, walking towards him.

Dad was talking intently to them as they strode quickly across to the ute. Josh watched as Dad opened the passenger door. The man and woman climbed in, then Dad went round to the driver's side.

Josh raced to the back of the ute and jumped up, just as the engine roared to life. He wondered if Dad would have left him behind if he hadn't been quick enough.

Holding on to the side of the ute, Josh was bounced about as the vehicle made its way through the night, across the cattle station towards the homestead.

He gazed through the rear window at
his dad and the two strangers – the people from the Royal Flying Doctor Service. He couldn't see their faces. The man had close-cropped dark hair and he was quite tall. The woman's hair was lighter and in a bob that swished about as the ute went over bumps. Josh figured that she was the something-or-other wife who Dad had been talking about. Which meant that the man must be the pilot.

Josh looked up at the sky. It was a clear night and the moon and stars shone down on him. A pinprick of light flared across the darkness before disappearing. A shooting star!

They grant wishes, don't they?
thought Josh. He wasn't sure but decided to give it a try anyway.

‘I wish …' he whispered. ‘I wish for a brother.'

The ute ground to a halt. Josh lost his grip and slammed into the back of the cabin. The two passengers' heads snapped around to stare at him through the window. He smiled at them. But Dad hadn't noticed – he was already out of the vehicle, heading for the house. The RFDS people followed him, disappearing inside.

Josh hopped down from the ute, then stopped to think. He decided to stay outside. He didn't want to get in the way. The RFDS people knew what they were doing. And they had Dad and Aunty Karen to help. Besides, he didn't want to accidentally see any part of this. After all, there would be blood, wouldn't there? There was always blood in these situations. He shook his head clear of the images. He really didn't want to think about it.

He paced about in the chilly night air until he was too tired. Sitting down on the porch, he knew that he should go to bed. But he didn't want to. Not until he knew that Mum was okay. So he sat there and eventually nodded off.

‘What in the world are you doing out here?'

Josh woke with a start, the voice cutting through his confused dreams. It was Aunty Karen, her head poking through an open window.

‘Oh,' he said, still slightly dazed. ‘I didn't want to be in the way.'

‘Don't be ridiculous.' Aunty Karen shook her head. ‘Get inside.'

Josh got to his feet and came into the homestead.

‘Right.' Aunty Karen had her hands on her hips and a determined look on her face. ‘How about helping?'

‘What?' Josh gulped as he looked down the corridor to his parents' bedroom. ‘Um … I'm not sure I …'

‘Don't worry, I'm not going to make you go in there.' She was smiling now. ‘But you can help by getting into the kitchen and making some tea. Your dad could probably do with a cup. I know I certainly could.'

Tea! That was Aunty Karen's solution to everything. There was not a problem large enough that could not be solved with a good cup of tea. Not teabags, mind you. She wouldn't touch those with a ten-foot pole. Proper tea was made in a pot with loose leaves.

‘I can do that,' said Josh, relieved.

‘Good boy.' Aunty Karen headed back down the corridor. ‘Just sing out when you're done,' she called over her shoulder, ‘so you don't have to come in here.' Then she disappeared into the bedroom.

Josh heard the murmur of voices and then a groan of pain from his mother.

He quickly scurried off to the kitchen, not wanting to hear anything else, and put the kettle on. He got the teapot and the loose leaf tea from the back of the pantry, a proper china cup for Aunty Karen and a ‘World's Greatest Farmer' mug for Dad. Then he got a couple of ordinary cups in case the RFDS people wanted some.

He carefully spooned the leaves into the pot and added the hot water (not boiling) just like Aunty Karen had taught him. He waited exactly three minutes and then poured.

Taking the mug and china cup, he walked out into the corridor.

He stopped, listening. There was a strange sound. He wasn't sure what it was at first.

Was it …? A baby crying? Croaky. Weak.

Josh smiled. He was a big brother at last. Twelve years was a long time to wait. Not that a baby would be all that much fun at first. They pooed and vomited and cried a lot. But they eventually got bigger and more fun. It wouldn't be too long before he had someone to play with … and boss around.

That's what big brothers are supposed to do
, thought Josh.

He continued a little further down the corridor.

The cry was cut short, replaced by urgent, anxious voices and the sound of frantic movement.

Josh froze. His heart skipped a beat.
What's going on?
he wondered.

He stood and waited, tea in hand,
listening intently for some clue as to what was happening. A combination of the chilly night air through the window his aunt had left open and his own worry made him shiver. He wasn't sure how long he waited there. It could have been mere minutes, but it might have been a lot longer. His sense of time had disappeared, replaced by fear.

The bedroom door burst open and Aunty Karen came rushing out. She went straight for the storage closet, retrieved a small travel bag and disappeared into the room.

Josh stepped back and leaned on the wall, legs feeling weak, and held his breath.

Dad came stumbling out of the room, weighed down by something in his arms.

That's Mum!
Josh realised.

Mum looked like she was awake, arms around her husband's neck, face buried in his shoulder. She was sobbing. Josh suppressed the urge to run to her. He would just be in the way.

Aunty Karen was following, carrying the bag, which looked like it had been hurriedly stuffed with clothes. They rushed past, paying him no attention.

Dad kicked the screen door open. The bang as it hit the old weatherboards made Josh jump. Tea sloshed onto the floor. He edged down the corridor to the open window and peered out.

Dad carried Mum into the ute and then waited by the door. Aunty Karen put the bag on the back of the ute.

Moments later the RFDS people came
rushing out of the bedroom and down the corridor. The woman carried a bundle, some sort of mask with tubes pressed against it. They hurried out to the ute and squeezed in. Dad jumped into the driver's seat and the vehicle roared to life, the noise cutting through the silent night.

The wheels spun in the dirt and the ute took off into the dark at top speed. Josh continued to stare into the night as Aunty Karen came back inside.

‘Let me have those,' she said, taking the mug and cup.

‘What's going on?' Josh's voice was barely more than a frightened whisper.

‘Well,' began Aunty Karen with a long sigh, ‘baby's arrived a little early.' She paused, staring at the tea. ‘And his lungs aren't too
good. He's having trouble breathing.' She paused again. ‘So they're taking him and your mum to hospital.'

‘Is Mum okay?' asked Josh.

‘Oh, yes.' Aunty Karen was still staring at the cup and mug. ‘She'll be fine. This tea is cold. I think I'll make some more.' She wandered off in the direction of the kitchen. ‘You should go to bed.'

But Josh didn't want to. He wanted to wait up for Dad.

He went outside and sat down on the porch. He brought his knees up to his chest and hugged them. His heart was pounding and he was shivering more than ever. But he stayed where he was.

And waited.

BOOK: Medical Mission
7.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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