Insights from an Australian humanitarian nurse on the pandemic frontlineApril 16, 2020
Flu Vaccination Requirements for Entry into Aged Care FacilitiesApril 28, 2020
Military nurse & mother-of-two chosen to address the nation in Anzac Day service
A nurse who narrowly escaped death after a helicopter crash will ask Australians to summon the Anzac Spirit in a national address to commemorate Anzac Day.
Sharon Bown was in her early twenties when she left her family in Tasmania to join the Royal Australian Air Force before being sent to East Timor as an aeromedical evacuation nurse.
“There were people who had spent their entire careers in uniform but hadn’t been deployed,” she told The Sunday Telegraph.
“I’d been there since morning tea time. But it was in East Timor I fell in love with my job.”
But in 2004 her life changed forever when she flew to a remote area of East Timor to evacuate a woman experiencing birth complications.
A severe storm and pelting rain caused the helicopter she was travelling in to plummet to the ground as it tried to land near the remote village of Same.
Strapped in, she had little chance to protect her body as the helicopter smashed into the ground leaving her with a spinal injury, a shattered jaw and burns from the aviation fuel.
“It almost took my life. Immediately it eroded my career and my ability to fulfil that dream. But I survived,” Ms Bown said.
It’s that fighting spirit and passion for nursing that saw Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester pick the mother-of-two to address the nation in a scaled-back Anzac Day service at the Australian War Memorial next weekend.
“The request for me to speak was a surprise but an incredible honour,” Ms Bown said.
As Ms Bown was recovering from the brutal consequences of her service, she lost her mother to breast cancer and three of her colleagues in a separate helicopter crash.
Her father, a policeman, was also the victim of an attempted murder which culminated in her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis.
Her advice: “Don’t underestimate injured veterans.”
The road to recovery was long but Ms Bown exceeded expectations and in 2008 she commanded a combat surgical team in Afghanistan – Australia’s longest running military engagement.
While coronavirus restrictions will keep people away from the Australian War Memorial next weekend, Ms Bown will join the Prime Minister in Canberra for a televised national service where she will speak on behalf of veterans, serving members and their families. She said the pandemic has reminded Australians of the importance of our healthcare providers and what we are capable of as a nation.
“It’s important for Australian to understand that we have what is necessary to overcome this challenge,” she said.
“Military nurses and doctors have always been put in clinical situations were the resources didn’t meet the demand. It’s a reminder of what we are capable of. While we hold the Anzacs in honour, we are their descendants. Even if you are Australian by choice, our way of life is built on those foundations. This is the year we need to reflect on what that means and how does that take us forward to deal with the current crisis.”
Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester said Ms Bown was “uniquely placed” to speak on Anzac Day as we face new challenges as a nation.
The Anzac Day commemorative service will be broadcast from 5.30am on April 25.
This article was originally published on the Daily Telegraph on 19/4/2020 by Annika Smethurst.