A MOTHER who went into labour more than three months early experienced one of the scariest moments of her life when her waters broke just 26 weeks into her pregnancy.
This nightmare is what Lea-Anne Williams was forced to go through several years ago for the birth of her sixth child.
But despite the horrific experience, it was the following weeks that became her toughest battle.
Lea-Anne is one of many Gladstone women whose pre-term labour sends them in a mad rush to Brisbane each year.
Due to flight costs, the distance between Gladstone and Brisbane, and the logistics that come with having a pre-term baby, families can be separated for weeks or months on end while the mother and baby recover.
During her own stressful episode, Lea-Anne's circumstances were so urgent she didn't even get to say goodbye to her children before being airlifted out by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
"Not saying goodbye was tough, you get that fear in your mind, that panic that you're going to have this baby alone," Lea-Anne said.
"Seven weeks after the birth, I was still down there. I was really struggling not getting to see my kids."
Due to the roller-coaster of emotions mothers who give birth prematurely go through, it is common for a social worker to be allocated.
And in the weeks Lea-Anne went without seeing her children and her husband, her internal pain became more obvious with each passing day.
"My social worker could see how much I was struggling," Lea-Anne said.
"We were all so far away from each other.
"My children didn't meet their baby sister until she was three months old because financially it's too much and too hard to arrange a visit."
To heal some of the wounds, Lea-Anne's social worker recruited the charity organisation Angel Flight.
Lea-Anne said prior to her "amazing" experience with Angel Flight, she had never heard of the organisation.
"They really were angels. They brought me home to see my kids at a time when we all needed to see each other," she said.
The reunion was made possible by a number of Angel Flight volunteers who offered their invaluable help.
"One person had a private plane, another came to the intensive care unit and drove me to the airstrip," Lea-Anne said.
"It's not just like buying a plane ticket. It's amazing people who provide their time and their services."
Lea-Anne's social worker believed it was extremely important she see her family after the long separation.
"It it wasn't for what they did, I would've emotionally fallen apart at that point," Lea-Anne confessed.
"It was really wonderful how they came through for us. I couldn't praise or thank them enough."
From Gladstone, the charity organised another person to fly her back and another to drive her to the ward.
She said the kindness of people's hearts is what helped bring her family back together when they needed each other the most.
"They are able to bring struggling families together," Lea-Anne said.
Angel Flight is a charity that coordinates non-
emergency flights to help regionally located people dealing with bad health, poor finances and distance.
Angel Flight coordinates free flights for people travelling to their city medical appointments as well as ground transport to and from the airport.
All flights are conducted by volunteer pilots in their own aircraft.
Registered health professionals make the referrals on behalf of the patients and the health professional can register with Angel Flight quickly and easily online.
For information, visit the Angel Flight website www.angelflight.org.au or call Angel Flight on 1300 726 567.
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