Two years after a motorcycle accident left a Nambour-based police officer and mother-of-two with a life-threatening brain injury, she has finally met the helicopter team who helped save her life.
Ellie Jupp was riding home from a shift on January 24, 2019 when a four-wheel drive pulled out in front of her at a Maroochydore intersection.
“Fortunately, I don’t remember it. I never ever want to remember it,” Ms Jupp says. “[Queensland Ambulance Service] took me to Sunshine Coast University Hospital. I was there for a few hours and it was not going well.
“Then LifeFlight came in and gave me a lift down to Royal Brisbane Hospital.”
Although she has no recollection of the 20-minute flight, Ms Jupp now knows without the RACQ LifeFlight chopper, the outcome may have been very different.
“My situation was so critical that to get me to Royal Brisbane any other way would not have been a viable, healthy option,” she says. “It has probably saved a lot more damage and it got me the help that I needed quickly.”
She spent two days in a coma and eight days in the intensive care unit undergoing treatment for two brain bleeds, nerve damage, collapsed lungs and broken bones, before her long recovery began.
“For a brain injury, the initial healing period is two years. It sounded like a long time to me at the time, but in brain injury terms it is only just the beginning.”
Chronic neuro fatigue has made day-to-day life very difficult for Ms Jupp as her recovery continues. “I am tired a lot more than I have ever been before.
“The brain injuries will never heal. The brain will just build new pathways around it and that takes a lot of energy.“It’s a bit of an ongoing journey but I am happy to be alive.”
It was a joyous but emotional moment as Ms Jupp recently met with Sunshine Coast LifeFlight pilot Andrew Caton, who was on duty that fateful day.
Mr Caton says he and his team, including an aircrewman, doctor and paramedic, had just begun their shift when they were called to SCUH to transport Ms Jupp from hospital to hospital.
“That rooftop-to-rooftop flight is very important because it shortens that period of time the patient is actually away from the hospital care,” he says.
Mr Caton has been at the LifeFlight base for 12 years and says some jobs remain with him forever. “There are certain jobs that happen every year that most of us do hold onto where you do feel like you are actually making a significant difference to that patient.”
Ms Jupp will be the feature patient at this year’s Sunshine Coast LifeFlight gala dinner on March 27.
“I went to the LifeFlight gala dinner quite a number of years ago, but I never ever thought I would be a patient.
“I’m from a family of pilots. There has always been an appreciation for aviation in our family; it’s just more so than ever now.”
Each RACQ LifeFlight callout is estimated to cost $25,000 and come at no cost to the patient. In 2020 Sunshine Coast crews completed 502 critical missions worth more than $12.5 million.
Donations can be made at lifeflight.org.au.