The Australian Veterans' Accounts
Interview with Grace Halstead
“And the sister, in this case me and this other sister, would receive them into the plane in their litters. And that was highly organised because they had to go according to their injuries. In fact the fractures were on the upper litters so the fractured limb would be out of the way. And they came right down four litters either side so that’s eight, plus walkers and psychos and so on. And the ones most seriously ill would be right on the bottom litter and right up near the bulkhead so that the sister would be, on take-off and landing, sitting between the two seriously ill patients.
And then once we took off we then started to, on each pannier, which was the litter, was a little message about each patient so we knew exactly what was wrong with them and what they needed on the journey, which was three and a half hours. And if it was calm it was wonderful and if it wasn’t calm it wasn’t so wonderful particularly when we had to hop over the mountains. Of course we didn’t have, it wasn’t, we needed oxygen in the plane if we went above 10,000 feet and quite often we gave oxygen during the trip.
However when I actually graduated I did a couple [of trips] on my own, we were the only medical people on board of course. The pilot and the navigator and the whole crew were marvellous because they would ask what sort of patients we had on, and how we wanted them to fly and if they were colostomies, which would of course have a colostomy bag that needed attention and they needed to fly as low as they possibly could. If they had to go up really high we had to have oxygen cylinders ready, well I did because I was the only one there this particular flight.”
[Find out more about the role of Australian nurses in the Korean War.]