Great-grandson of hospital pioneer the first air ambulance arrival at the Victorian Heart Hospital

Within a few days of opening its helipad, the Victorian Heart Hospital welcomed its first patient via air ambulance. John Carmichael was relaxing at home in Foster, South Gippsland, when he felt the onset of chest pain. Having suffered a heart attack two years ago, John was quick to recognise the signs and call 000, and within minutes was in the care of his local ambulance crew.

Having assessed John’s condition as critical, the crew decided to call in their airborne colleagues and John was transported to the local footy ground where he transferred to the awaiting air ambulance.

John remained conscious throughout the 45-minute trip and remembers the excitement of the crew as they prepared to arrive at the VHH. “I got amazing care from the crew, who were definitely excited about creating history,” he said. “We had 50km/h headwinds, but it was a smooth trip, and they were super-impressed with the set up at the Heart Hospital. We could see it from a way out – it was lit up like a nightclub!”

John’s next stop was Cardiac Emergency where he was assessed, the cath lab team was activated and John was prepared for an afterhours emergency coronary angiogram.

Situated in a room overlooking the Monash University playing fields, John marvelled at the facilities in Australia’s first dedicated cardiac hospital.

“The facilities are great, and I really feel I’ve been looked after,” he said. 

John and nurse Gurleen have a chat and a laugh while John recovers in his room at the Victorian Heart Hospital.

John and Monash Heart Private nurse Gurleen Kaur have a chat and a laugh while John recovers in his room at the Victorian Heart Hospital.

John’s great-grandmother Sr Margaret McClure established the first hospital in Foster in 1904, so he said he feels a familial connection with hospitals and healthcare workers. “I know it’s a far cry from what she worked in – she would be blown away by the Victorian Heart Hospital,” he said.

“She was a local midwife who used to go out to local farms in Gippsland by horse and cart and help with the delivery of babies in the region. Sometimes she’d be out for days on end waiting for the ladies to give birth,” he said. “That inspired her to start up the hospital, and have the women come to her – she was quite a trailblazer. Things have clearly changed a lot since then,” he said, before describing with a chuckle how they would treat pneumonia patients by rolling them up in a wet sheet!

John is one of more than 1,500 Victorians who have been admitted to the VHH since it opened its inpatient wards in mid-March.

Monash Heart Private nurse Gurleen Kaur looks after John as he recovers from a heart attack.

Monash Heart Private nurse Gurleen Kaur looks after John as he recovers from a heart attack.

The Victorian Heart Hospital is operated by Monash Health and built on the grounds of Monash University. It will play a leading role in training Australia’s future cardiac care medicine, nursing, and allied health professionals, with more than 300 undergraduate students, 260 postgraduate students and 20 PhD students to undertake training each year.

Every 12 minutes an Australian dies of cardiovascular disease, and this month the Monash Health Foundation is fundraising to support vital cardiac care at Monash Health. To support cardiac care, please donate here monashhealthfoundation.org/2023tax. 

Approved by Louise Kanis, Executive Director, Communication and Engagement