Classic TV show motivates British nurse to save lives in the outback

 abc.net.au  12/8/2018 9:30:00 PM   ABC Radio Brisbane By Jessica Hinchliffe

Posted December 09, 2018 08:30:00

The red dirt and blue skies of the outback shown in a 1980s television program prompted one British nurse to move across the world to help save lives.

Leanne Loryman first heard about the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) while living in Germany as a child.

"My parents were in the [armed] forces and I actually started watching The Flying Doctors ... it was one of the only programs in English," she said.

"There I was watching it and all I could see was this beautiful blue sky and orange dirt and kangaroos bouncing across this dusty track.

"I couldn't believe such a place really existed."

The popular Australian television drama The Flying Doctors ran from 1986 to 1993 and revolved around the everyday workings of the RFDS.

It was successfully broadcast in the UK on BBC 1 and also aired in other parts of Europe including the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden.

Ms Loryman said seeing the landscape on the small screen was not the only thing that attracted her to Australia.

"There was sweat pouring off these little nurses and really cute pilots with white shirts on and I kept thinking what a good job it would be," she told ABC Radio Brisbane's Steve Austin.

Far from the gloomy UK skies

Twenty-five years later and Ms Loryman is based in Mount Isa serving remote communities, a far cry from the dreary weather of England.

"I really wanted to be on that dusty track and I didn't actually think it existed, but it does," she said.

"I learnt quickly that duct tape holds many things together and that people have broad accents which I found hard to understand at first."

She said the culture shock after first arriving in north-west Queensland was surreal.

"It wasn't just that there were places without tarmac on roads, but the heat was phenomenal.

"I had never worked in 45-degree heat before and then to combat that with being dusty and dirty is mind-blowing."

She had also never flown in small planes before and found the experience nerve-racking.

"I had to hold a poker face ... I was petrified the first few times going through the clouds," she said.

"It took me a while to get used to landing on next to nothing too, but I quickly learnt our pilots are phenomenal and have to go through so much training to be a RFDS pilot.

"They also have to have so many thousands of hours, so I trust them implicitly.

"If they say they can land somewhere, they can land somewhere."

Delivering a baby at 22,000 feet

There had been tough times though, especially when attending farm and road accidents.

"There has been a lot of painful things that we see, but you have to be there for the people that need help and that's your priority," she said.

"The most amazing for me was when I delivered a baby at 22,000 feet.

"That was such a pleasure to be part of — it was wonderful and a really lovely moment."

Ms Loryman's parents recently visited from the UK and were stunned at the four-tonne aircraft Ms Loryman travelled in daily.

"I took them to see the aircraft, and when they saw it they said: 'Is that it? Is there more?'

"My parents laughed at me when I was younger, and would say, 'it's never going to happen, you're so far away from Australia and the outback'.

"They're so chuffed now — they tell everyone in the UK what I do."

She hopes to stay in the outback for years to come, even if it does affect her British accent.

"Many of my English friends tell me I have a really funny accent now," she said.

"Sometimes I still pinch myself and go this is really surreal as I can still remember watching the TV show and now I'm actually doing that.

"Especially when we've landed on those beautiful outback surrounds and the dirt runway and a few cows in the background and big blue sky and I stand there and go 'wow'."

ABC Radio Brisbane has partnered with not-for-profit RFDS Queensland for the annual Queensland Gives Christmas Appeal to raise money for vital lifesaving equipment.

To donate, visit the Queensland Gives website or phone 07 3852 7515.

Topics: doctors-and-medical-professionals, health, regional, family-and-children, people, human-interest, brisbane-4000, mount-isa-4825

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