It seems some people are hard-wired to chase after extraordinarily different life-and-work experiences – and Nadja Kutschke is certainly one of them.
Bright-eyed and with a clear plan for her life, Nadja is a proud Berliner who has just completed an internship helping to staff the Heart of Australia mobile clinic on its fortnightly cardiology circuits through western, southwestern and central Queensland.
She worked fitting heart-monitoring halters, running blood pressure and respiratory tests and – a special first for her – helping with the preparation and setup of the semi-trailer to welcome patients at each of the dozen towns on the clinic circuits.
The whole bush clinic circuits experience was new, but Nadja already knew the country she was covering because she travelled the Outback widely on earlier tourist visits.
However, this “working” trip came hard on the heels of a wildly different experience – a month’s internship deep in the Amazonas region of Peru in South America.
The physical contrast was amazing. In the jungle of the Amazonas, the only way to travel was by boat; a far, far cry from the seemingly endless road travel of our Far West.
“I was based in a village of just 30 residents, but we were serving 3,000 Urarinas people – everyone and everything travelling by boat – in the Rio Chambira area,” Nadja explains. “We were bringing a general medical service, including checking the nutrition of the local people”.
Nadja was just 16 when she began her continuing Australian experience as an exchange student at the Gold Coast’s Robina High School – and she has maintained close contact with her host family from that time.
“Really, it’s just like coming home to be in Queensland,” she says.
Nadja is in her fourth year of six years studying at Berlin’s Charitḗ University that she describes as the “biggest hospital with an attached university in Europe”. She hopes to specialise in gynaecology and obstetrics when she graduates.
She’s taking home an appreciation of, as she describes it, how much more in medicine General Practitioner doctors are entrusted here than in Germany and, although it might seem strange, Nadja believes that the model of the Heart of Australia travelling clinics could be a big plus for Germany where, she says, rural and remote area citizens often have no local access to doctors.
So, ending her fourth visit to Australia, Nadja says with determination that she’ll be back – because she “is fascinated” by the ideal of “bringing specialist medicine to remote areas”.
Queensland’s largest Club has jumped on board the Heart of Australia, donating $300,000 to help keep the service on the road.
RACQ will sponsor Heart of Australia for the next three years as part of the organisation’s ongoing commitment to regional Queensland.
Providing assistance on the roadside for more than a century and more recently in the air with RACQ LifeFlight Rescue, the partnership is another way RACQ is making a difference in the community.
“The Heart of Australia sponsorship is a really natural fit with the assistance pillar of our organisation,” RACQ Head of Community and Education David Contarini said.
“Let’s face it, people in regional areas do it tough and they are a long way from help if things go bad.
“What better way to provide value back to them than by giving them the same type of critical care and treatment that we take for granted in the cities.”
Mr Contarini said being able to provide assistance to people broken down on the roadside, to people in critical care situations in the air and now with a state-of-the-art service like Heart of Australia, was completing a full circle.
“This (Heart of Australia) is a bit of a spin on what we already do, because we are now helping to prevent these critical care situations from occurring, as well as responding to them,” he said.
“Not only do we have helicopters in the air as a critical response, we also have this wonderful service on the ground which is providing diagnosis for people who may have some type of lurking heart condition,” he said.
Heart of Australia founder, cardiologist Dr Rolf Gomes, said RACQ’s ethos of supporting people in their day-to-day lives was similar to what he hoped to achieve with his mobile cardiology service.
“Having them come on board is fantastic,” Dr Gomes said.
“So many people relate to the RACQ as being there when you need them and, similarly for our service, the sentiment building within these regional communities is that we’re looking after them, too.”